This past weekend, my parents and I decided to take the short trip out to Austin for lunch. Score! I was super excited, and made plans to visit Adoo’s BBQ trailer, a food cart that my friend said I had to check out.
Upon arrival, I realized that I was facing a repeat of the last time I made plans to go to a specific trailer for lunch. Yep, I was having a Wholly Kabob style fail AGAIN! Adoo’s wasn’t open, and it didn’t appear that they had been open for several days.
Totally deflated, I slunk back, oh so sullenly to the car. Luckily, I have a couple of very motivated and forward thinking parents to pick me back up out of my sudden sadness and suggested we regroup, and not call it a day just yet. After all, it was under this similar situation that I found one of the single best restaurants in all of Austin, El Naranjo.
So with a renewed sense of hope and a bit more pep in my step, I hopped into the car with a new attitude. We were GOING to have an awesome lunch. But where? East Side Kings trailers and their new brick and mortar location at The Hole in the Wall were closed until the sun goes down, and we were really far away from some of the other spots that fill my long to-do list.
But as we were driving down S. 1st street debating this place or that, we spotted the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery. It was as if choreographed, but all three of us looked at the trailer park then back at each other. Yep. We’d go here. My dad expertly dodged other traffic and landed one of the few parking spots available. This place was hoppin’!
The trailers at South Austin Trailer Park brought a large Saturday lunch crowd, and the line coming from Torchy’s Tacos original location was long, but seemed to be steadily moving. More people just kept coming, making the line appear like it wasn’t going anywhere, when in fact it was, and pretty quickly at that. Torchy’s was definitely the favorite among the three available offerings.
Confession time: I’ve never been to Torchy’s. Yep. Here I am, a food consumer in Austin, TX, a self-professed trailer food lover and big fan of Mexican street cuisine and I had never been to one of the most renowned Mexican food trailers… ever.
HORRORS! I know. I can’t believe it either, but needless to say, this Torchy’s encounter had to have been divinely planned. Once again a closed door opened another fantastic culinary window of opportunity.
Torchy's Tacos chef/owner, Mike Rypka, opened his first food trailer for business in 2006, and has since become the fastest-growing taco joint in town. Torchy’s really is the quintessential "word of mouth" success story, and now there's more than just one lone trailer on S. 1st street. In fact, all nine locations in Austin, and the one in Dallas are constantly busy. Rypka is even about to open another store in Houston. Impressive, isn’t it?
Anyway, I scanned the vast taco menu as I stood in line and couldn’t decide between three different ones, but suddenly it was my turn to order. This line moved quick! So I panic-ordered and asked for all three: The Republican (Grilled jalapeño, shredded cheese & pico de gallo. Served with poblano sauce on corn tortillas), the Mr. Pink (Guajillo (gua-hee-yo) seared Ahi tuna, cabbage fresca, cilantro, queso fresco with a wedge of lime. Served with chipotle sauce on corn tortillas), and the Baja Shrimp (hand battered fried shrimp with cooked cabbage slaw topped with pickled jalapeños and onions, queso fresco, cilantro and a wedge of lime. Served with chipotle sauce on corn tortillas).
What we have here is real-life example of panic-ordering at its finest. THIS is why I like to prepare before I go somewhere. I mean, who needs three tacos? Well, this girl apparently.
My mom selected the Chicken Fajita taco (tender marinated and grilled chicken breast with grilled onions and peppers, cheese & pico de gallo) and my dad picked the Grande Burrito (beef with rice, black beans, cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole, wrapped in a 12” flour tortilla). We also decided to get some chips with salsa, guacamole and queso. Yep, we went to chow-town.
We found ourselves a nice picnic table, and settled in. During the short wait for our order to be fired and served, my mom broke our silent ponderings by saying, “Where else could you think of, besides L.A., where you can order excellent Mexican food, eat at picnic tables outside on December 15th, just in your shirtsleeves?” We all laughed and marveled that though the sky threatened (yet hasn’t yet produced) rain, it was truly a wonderfully pleasant day.
But being me, I had to ask about “shirtsleeves.” Did I miss-hear? Did she mean “short sleeves?” I couldn’t leave it alone… Turns out, “shirtsleeves” is a real term… Huh. You learn something new every day, right?
Anyway, after about 10 minutes, our food was delivered to our picnic table and I was super excited. I was ready to go from being a Torchy’s virgin to a Torchy’s fan. First things first, I couldn’t help myself but to dig right into the chips and all of the accoutrements. The smells from the various dips melded to make one hugely enticing, majorly drool-worthy scent and I couldn’t hold back any longer.
The chips were warm, and obviously homemade. They were perfectly salted and ultra crunchy. The first dip I tried was the salsa roja (fire-roasted roma tomatoes, chilies, grilled onions, garlic, cilantro and poquito lime) and I fell in love. I could really pick out each of the ingredients, and the grill taste came through nicely. It was smoky, refreshing, tart, tangy and perfectly spicy. The heat from the chilies played nicely against the freshness of the rest of ingredients. It was simply put, awesome.
Next up was the queso. WHAM this was good queso. As my dad noted as he put some more yummy cheese dip into his face, “It’s thin, but its REALLY good.” The thin queso dip was packed with flavor. It was hot and yummy and cheesy and smoky and spicy and… I can keep going. Basically, Torchy’s queso is possibly the single best queso dip I’ve ever tried. My parents agree that this was primo queso, and way more than just a run of the mill cheese dip. It is flat out special.
The guacamole screamed freshness. “OH HI! I’M MADE OF REAL AVOCADOS. THAT’S PROBABLY IT. THAT AND CILANTRO. MAYBE SALT. PROBABLY SO. ESSENTIALLY, I’M SUPER FRESH.” That’s what I heard when I bit into my first chip with this yummy green side.
Time to (finally) try the tacos. My first bite of the Baja Shrimp was mind blowing. The shrimp was crunchy, slightly sweet and extremely succulent. The batter had some yummy seasonings in it, causing my brain to fire synapses, begging for more. The pickled onions and jalapeños added a bite that my mouth craved. The slaw added that textural element that kept things interesting. But that chipotle sauce (ranch, smoked chipotle peppers, adobe and roasted tomatoes) was something delightfully insane. It added a cool smoky taste that cannot be topped. It made the shrimp stand out somehow against the pickled elements and the crunchy and sweet slaw. It was one of those sauces that enhances rather than covers.
The Republican taco wasn’t half bad, although I wished that my cheese had been more melted than it was. The butterflied sausage was strong and spicy. The smoke taste came through softly and played well with the sharp notes from the fresh pico. I really enjoyed this taco. I didn’t add the poblano sauce that came with it, because frankly, it didn’t need it.
Mr. Pink could be renamed Mr. Awesome as far as I’m concerned. This was a fun take on a traditional fish taco. The fish was seared quickly and achieved a crispy, crunchy crust from the quick-cook process and seasonings. That chipotle sauce was back in full effect here too, accentuating the fish in ways that would be missed, without. Dang… these tacos were so good.
They were bigger than I anticipated, so three was more than a touch too much for me to finish. Luckily, they hand out foil and bags to make traveling easier. I had to bring home half of the Republican and half of the Mr. Pink, however I was unable to resist finishing the Baja Taco. That was a taco diamond in the rough.
My mom’s chicken fajita was full to the brim with beautifully grilled, golden and tender chicken. It was flavorful and didn’t skip on juiciness. The queso fresco was more noticeable in this taco than the others. It added a salty creaminess that gave that extra somethin’ somethin’ that would surely be missed.
My dad’s Burrito Grande was not what he expected. What, you ask, did he expect? Something more on the lines of what you’d get when you order at Chipotle: an enormous burrito, stuffed with lots of rice, lots of beans, a teeny bit of meat, some seasoning and way too much salt. He was more than pleasantly surprised when he broke into the burrito behemoth. It was mostly meat! Unheard of!
Needless to say, all three of us were more than satisfied. But that’s not all. You thought that was all? That’s not all.
Suddenly, my dad was missing. Poof! Gone! Vanished! My mom and I didn’t need to wonder too long though, once we noticed that the Holy Cacao trailer was directly ahead. As was my father. Holy Cacao is Austin's home for "Sweet Tooth Satisfaction," as I’ve been told. And according to some bits of press on the trailer, apparently Rachel Ray and other super famous chef celebrities think so too.
Well, my dad came back to the picnic table, smile plastered on, with a Velvet Cake Ball: red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting, white chocolate and toasted cake crumbs.
I had heard of cake balls before, but I had never tasted one. I had been apprehensive of the super close cousin of cupcakes, but it was time to finally try one.
But not my dad’s. Nope. He wouldn’t let me try his. FINE! I had to go get my own. After scanning the menu of the various balls, I decided on the Diablo ball: chocolate cake with ancho/cayenne cream cheese frosting, dark chocolate, cayenne and cocoa toasted walnuts. This. Is. Amazing.
The exterior was crunchy and beautiful. The inside was gooey and fudgy. It was less like cake but more like a really delectable truffle. Then came the heat. It was surprising and ultra complimentary to the sweet and bitter chocolate.
The crunchy walnuts added the perfect textural element and a little bit more heat. I can’t tell you how good and how sinful and decadent this was. I actually closed my eyes and went to a happy place. Yes. That good.
Once seeing my dad’s and my reactions to our cake balls, my mom decided she had to have one too. She decided on the Wedding Ball: white cake, butter cream frosting, white chocolate and hard rock sugar crystals.
|This isn't a fancy studio picture as it might appear.|
I took this in the car on the way home, and the seats are black
She was more generous with her cake ball than my dad, and allowed me to take a bite. I’m more than grateful she did because this cake ball was to die for. The white chocolate was deep and smooth and velvety and gorgeous. The first bite through the crisp shell into the creamy and smooth core is what had me. The interior was super fudgy, chewy and rich. The whole thing was full of different textures, and fun and exciting flavor. I fell in love. If I ever find someone to get married to, these wedding cake balls will for sure be a nice inspiration for the dessert option.
I couldn’t be happier or more satisfied with how the afternoon turned out. Yeah, we set out for a BBQ adventure, but instead of crying and being babies, we ended up at one of the most iconic food trailers in all of Austin by total chance. I couldn’t be more thrilled and hooray! I finally can say that I’ve enjoyed a Torchy’s taco and yummy Holy Cacao cake balls. A total success in my book.