Yes, tacos in Texas are as ubiquitous as sunny days, but what about tacos that are fresh, local, organic and made by happy employees?
That my friends, is the mission of Tacodeli. Founder Robert Espinosa was born and raised in Mexico City and loved Mexican street tacos. As an adult, he decided to turn his love for high quality food and tacos into the first Tacodeli restaurant in Austin, back in 1999. Fast forward nearly two decades and Tacodeli is still going strong, with 10 restaurants located in the Austin, Dallas and Houston areas.
One of the founding principles of Tacodeli is to source from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen. You can rest assured that what you are eating in your taco is as local and fresh as possible. The whole menu at Tacodeli is gluten free and much of it is organic. The chips you will want to devour with the made-from-scratch salsas (more on that later) are gluten-free, organic and made from non-hydrogenated oil. Quite simply, they are a unicorn in the world of taco joints; crispy, crunchy and delicious without being greasy.
Although Tacodeli does not serve alcohol, I can almost guarantee that you won’t miss it. The drink menu consists of several varieties of fresh brewed, organic and fair-trade beverages, but what you want to pay attention to are the Aguas Frescas and the Horchata. Both are made in-house from local, organic fruit and sweetened with the right amount of organic evaporated cane juice. The flavors rotate on a seasonal basis, so what you are drinking is as fresh as possible.
Don’t be intimidated by the Tacodeli menu, which is robust. It is broken up into different sections, labeled by their protein to make things easier. I highly recommend getting some queso to start with – it is melted cheese with the tiniest bit of heat to spice things up. Also, check out the daily specials. There are some daily favorites that never go out of style, but also some tacos that rotate out weekly.
During my visit I tried three tacos. First, the Banh Mi, with organic pork shoulder, chili tomatillo sweet-and-sour sauce, and carrot-daikon escabeche (a cousin to ceviche). The meat was tender, and the spices and seasonings all worked together to make each bite flavorful. My favorite taco happened to be one of the vegetarian options on the menu, the Heather, with grilled queso fresco, organic black beans, guacamole, lettuce and tomato. The grilled queso fresco is what sets the taco apart – it adds a delicious creaminess. Last was Tacodeli’s signature taco, the Frontera Fundido Chicken taco which is a classic mix of grilled chicken, jack cheese and rajas. There isn’t much to be said aside from that it was darn good.
Tacodeli is just as famous for its salsas as it is for its tacos. There are three to choose from: Salsa Verde, Salsa Doña and Salsa Roja. The award-winning salsas range from mild to hot and are the perfect addition to any taco on the menu or a great starter with chips. One taste and you’ll want to have them around all the time. Good news! That is now possible because Tacodeli salsas are sold at Whole Foods Markets throughout Texas and Royal Blue Grocery in Austin.
If you haven’t tried Tacodeli yet, you might be missing out on your next favorite taco joint. Don’t take my word for it, just ask one of the happy employees who works there. (They all get off work at 3 pm, so they aren’t over worked.) Fresh, local tacos, menu items made from scratch, and happy employees – what more could you ask for? But don’t go at night; Tacodeli is only open for breakfast and lunch.
Cover photo Kathy Tran
Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family. Visit her on Instagram @gabioftheroses_htx