500 Tacos: Torchy’s Tacos | South Congress

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Torchy’s Tacos | South Congress
1822 S. Congress Ave., Austin (map), 512-916-9025, www.torchystacos.com
Hours: 7am-10pm Mon-Thu; 7am-11pm Fri; 8am-11pm Sat; 8am-10pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.31.15
JANUARY 2016 UPDATE: Torchy's South Congress is open.
I’ve waited all year for Torchy’s flagship store on South Congress to open, to complete my tour of all 12 area Torchy’s and write a fitting sendoff for this yearlong 500 Tacos series. But it wasn’t meant to be. Construction’s still going on, and the shop’s not projected to open until mid-January. But we get the idea. Towering red X struts evoke the pole-and-awning structure of the landmark Fran’s Hamburgers they tore down to build here. Torchy’s name is spelled out in big block letters across the open sky for almost a full block. The little red devil hovers in the foyer, evoking the old fiberglass statuette of Fran, holding up a guitar over her hamburger stand. When it opens, this Torchy’s will represent how far Austin’s taco culture has come. And I hope this series has provided a strong sense of where it came from.
Taco A: Trailer Park Hillbilly Style from the Secret Menu
We can say we knew Torchy’s when it was just a trailer on South First, and so the food for this report came from that trailer. And because we’re from here, we know about Torchy’s Secret Menu. The Ace of Spades, the Matador, the Hipster, Green Chile Missionary, the Jack of Clubs. And this one, the monster truck version of Torchy’s Trailer Park taco, which itself already has fried chicken and green chiles, even queso if you order it “Trashy.” Hillbilly Style throws all of it in there: bacon, chorizo, queso, pico, roasted chiles — and the fried chicken that Torchy’s always seems to get right. It’s a mess, really, a midseason episode of “Hoarders,” and just like those bewildered schlubs, we want to keep it all. ($4.25)
Taco B: No. 2 breakfast taco
Yes, Torchy’s can do the $4 and $5 tacos, but this simple breakfast taco shows what they can do at half the price. The eggs are scrambled omelet-style, folded around nuggets of potato seasoned with salsa like papas rancheras, then finished with good colby-jack cheese. If Torchy’s is sometimes all signal and noise, this is the unplugged version, and it sounds just fine. ($2.25)
Taco C: The South Pole, December’s Taco of the Month
Like it or not, December is the season for roasted lamb, still a disquieting thing for me, given that Christmas is all about the Lamb of God. And don’t get me started on bread and wine. Transubstantiation notwithstanding, this is one of 2015’s best Tacos of the Month, a leg of lamb celebration that preserves the animal’s meadowy grassiness even when it’s spiced and ground and besieged. French fried onions add textural spark, and a charming sweet-hot jam with cranberries and habanero counters the lamb’s low-level funk. Cotija cheese, cilantro, avocado and a mischievous streak of Diablo sauce complete the package, for a taco that Torchy’s likens to Christmas dinner. I’ll join that hallelujah chorus. ($5.50)
 Tortillas: Instead of these plain bagged flour and corn tortillas, wouldn’t it be something if the flagship of all the Torchy’s in the whole wide world made its own tortillas? Don’t hold your breath.
 Salsa: In 12 of these reports from Torchy’s, I’ve covered roja, tomatillo, poblano ranch, chipotle ranch, avocado and Diablo sauces individually. Collectively, this is one of the best salsa portfolios in town, a solid ambassador for Austin tacos no matter where Torchy’s winds up next.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
More Torchy’s in this series
► Round Rock  ► South First  ► Spicewood