Salsa Town

Meet Austin's civic leaders in mouth burn

Salsa Town
Photo by John Anderson

The Powerful Punch of Salsa Doña

Tacodeli's Salsa Doña is Austin's favorite food puzzle. From its very name, foreign in construct, appearance, and pronunciation, to the presumptively simple list of ingredients that combine to create a complex palate of flavors, many loyal admirers have tried in vain to crack the sauce's secret code. Is it the ratio of oil to salt that is key? Are the jalapeños and garlic roasted before they are pureed? Is there an unknown, alien fifth element?

Arguably our city's most famous condiment yet to be sold in a grocery store, part of Salsa Doña's appeal is that it is so universally complimentary. Fresh batches are made daily and served cold in Tacodeli's three restaurants, where the bright green salsa illuminates nearly any item on the menu that isn't already dressed in red sauce. Regulars know to fill up their plastic ramekins at self-serve salsa pumps or snag a packaged-to-order pint for $7.50. The best pairings include the marinated portobellos of the Space Cowboy, shredded pork of El Conquistador, chunks of white meat in the Frontera Fundido Chicken, and crisp slices of bacon in the Otto (especially when enhanced with an egg, an off-menu breakfast creation dubbed "The Craig"). 

One word of caution: Though it deserves world-class admiration, this creamy, grassy elixir is not meant to be sampled like a fine wine, gently slurped between the lips and gargled for a fine examination of its hidden aromas. For, even in small doses, Doña delivers her goods in a clenched fist, swinging like an uppercut from jaw to nose, leaving behind tears and a sweating face flush with pulsing capillaries. Every taste is a searing and delicious reminder that she does what only the best hot sauces manage to do: feature the intricate flavors of ripe chiles without stripping them of the capsaicin that makes them so unique; and so very, very addicting. – Kenny Pailes

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