When you're an Austinite abroad (anywhere outside of Texas), there are a few holes that can't be filled: After-school snow cones at Sno-Beach, South Congress Avenue strolls with Jo's Coffee in hand, and summertime picnics in Zilker Park. But the one thing that brings a visceral, stabbing pain in the stomach when you're hungry and cold in New York? Tacos. Tacos aren't just a complex and delicate science of stuffing-to-tortilla ratio (although they are that, too), they are a full-sensory culinary experience. A taco is the feeling of sunshine on your skin as you sit in a food-trailer park in South Austin. It's the smell of warm tortillas and slow-roasted carnitas. It's the taste of creamy avocado topped with tomatillo salsa. It's the sound of crisp lettuce crunching in your own mouth while it simultaneously giggles in delight. It's the burst of colors you see behind your eyelids as you temporarily black out from happiness.
No, we Austinites don't take our taco-eating lightly.
Now, there are many fine establishments around the great city of Austin to get your taco fix—this is the land of Tex-Mex, after all! To name a few: Tacodeli, Taco Shack, Juan in a Million—can we all just...Juan in a Million—and Veracruz. But the Strasburger family favorite? Torchy's Tacos.
Some of my happiest memories are double-fisting tacos with my sisters and arguing over whether The Democrat, The Republican, or The Independent is better. Spoiler alert, it's The Democrat. Avocados + shredded beef barbacoa + queso fresco = heaven. President Obama himself stopped by Torchy's and ordered all three tacos ("because I'm bipartisan") right before his SXSW speech this past Friday—and I'm pretty sure he would agree with me. So there!
A brief history: Torchy's Tacos was started by Michael Rypka in 2006 with just a food trailer, a red Vespa, and, a dream. By scootering around Austin and personally handing out his delicious tacos, Rypka quickly spread the word and the trailer began drawing crowds. Fast forward ten years, and in addition to the trailer park, Torchy's Tacos now has 30 stores around Texas (and one in Denver, Colorado!).
So why is Torchy's so great? I can wax poetic all day long about the tender tortillas and the bold salsas, the fried avocados, and the portobello mushroom strips—but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), it's a truth that has to be tasted to be understood. Something you can now do at Torchy's beautiful, brand new brick-and-mortar on my favorite street in Austin, South Congress! When you've exhausted yourself from cowboy boot shopping at Allens Boots, antique-hunting at Uncommon Objects, and clothes-thrifting at Feathers Boutique, you can re-fuel with the food of the gods and a side of chips and guac. I was so excited to try the new location when I visited home last weekend, that I made my family pregame my cousin's wedding brunch with a few tacos. No regrets!
Next time you visit the Live Music Capital of the World (South by Southwest, anyone?), you'll be armed with the only two words your Uber driver needs to hear: Torchy's Tacos. As Texan hero Davy Crockett famously said, "You can all go to hell, I'm going to Torchy's." Or something like that.
What to Order:
Scrambled eggs and potatoes topped with smoked beef brisket and jack cheese.
Hand-battered fresh avocados fried and served with vegetarian refried beans, topped with pico, lettuce, and cheese.
Shredded beef barbacoa topped with fresh avocado, queso fresco, cilantro, onions, and a wedge of lime.