Restaurant Review: Restaurant Review

Tacos your abuela would be proud of

Tortilleria Rio Grande #2

500 W. William Cannon Drive, 512/326-1341,
Restaurant Review
Photo by John Anderson

Tortilleria Rio Grande No. 2

500 W. William Cannon #402, 326-1341
Monday-Saturday, 6am-7pm; Sunday, 6am-5pm

I recently challenged myself to find the best taco in Austin. I sampled dozens of tacos in a quest to find the one. To my dismay, I realized I am a profligate taco addict; I never could commit my love to just one.

However, in this process I stumbled on this gem of a cafe tucked away in South Austin. First impressions are deceiving: The banal storefront in a nondescript strip center is nothing special. Inside, dingy tile floors, white walls, institutional tables, and a pair of refrigerators fill a space that bespeaks function over form. Tortilleria Rio Grande is first and foremost a tortilla factory. Corn and flour tortillas come out fresh in the mornings and evenings as customers line up to take them home – along with some of the best chips and salsas to be found anywhere.

Almost as an afterthought, the owners of this tortilleria added a menu of tacos, gorditas, and platos especiales. Talk about authentic: This place is a slice of rural Mexico.

I am completely hooked on the pork and nopales taco stewed in blood-red chile sauce ($1.50). I love the siren simplicity of the poblano and cheese taco, topped with fiery, roasted chile salsa ($1.50). The cheese chile relleno ($6) is minimalism itself. No sauces cover it, but the light egg batter is spongy and crisp. The plate comes with rice and refried beans the way I like them – that is, thick and lardy, not like the tasteless soup at many restaurants. On one occasion, the kitchen offered a special dish of nopales stewed with onions and tomatoes ($6). It was the kind of dish you'd find in your abuela's kitchen – bursting with matronly love. Who knew cactus could be so tasty?

There's a Tortilleria Rio Grande No. 1 located on Braker Lane, but I admit I have not yet tried that location. If it's anywhere near as good as the food at TRG No. 2, you cannot lose by going.

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Tortilleria Rio Grande #2, tacos, Mexican

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