There will not be a scrawny guy with neck tattoos making your tacos for you at Papalote Taco House.
Although that business model has been zealously embraced across Austin at such venues as Torchy’s Tacos and Taco Deli, it’s not in effect at Papalote.
This is Mexican food from the skilled hands of La Raza, it is not a commodity. It’s a labor of love, the fruits of which are abundant in this kitchen.
I’ve eaten good Tex Mex and Interior Mexican cuisine for years at newcomer Papalote’s sister restaurant, Azul Tequila, so when a waitress informs me that owner Sergio Varela has opened a new taqueria embracing the homecooking of the state of Mexico interpreted through his mother’s recipes, I’m intrigued for I’ve been on a mission the past two months documenting the state of desebrada in Austin Texas.
A mission that has been difficult due to the exoticism of the shredded beef that I dearly love.
Papalote is tiny, conscientiously clean and busy, busy, busy, at lunchtime. Four workers are hustling out the food for the crowd and the scene is full-on beehive. The two chefs, Domitila and Roberto have their hands full but are knocking out the plates with aplomb. While a taco here is outrageously expensive at $3.52 it’s also gigantic.
A double fistful of shredded beef ranges across two commercial, corn tortillas. The beef is reminiscent of machacado in that it’s dry but the flavor is breaking just right.
Two salsas accompany the meal, a red and a white that’s billed as being a verde. As always, I paint the meat divorceado style. Both are good with plenty up front heat carrying along to a mild finish.
I inquire as to why, in a taqueria that clearly prizes the flavors of homemade food, the tortillas aren’t homemade and the counter girl informs me that that was the initial premise but they just couldn’t keep up due to the mammoth flow of business.