the spot: Cuantos Tacos 108 E 12th St, Austin, TX 78702
the eats: Lengua, Buche, Cachete, Suadero, Carnitas, Longaniza, Champioñes – basically all the tacos but in that order
the bucks: $2.50 a taco – 5 will do you right so plan on $10 a person
the full nelson: the best “street tacos” in Austin TX
*Cuantos Tacos has moved since I first wrote this story. Updated address is listed above
Tacos in Austin are different.
When I moved to Austin in the summer of 2015 from LA, my first late night tipsy thought was “where the cheap street tacos at?” Sure you have spots like Las Trancas and if you start looking up north or down south, you start to find the spots where “La Gente” be at. You know, where everyone orders in Spanish. But street tacos are not what Austin is known for, especially for those who dwell outside of Austin’s city limits. For better and for worse, it’s the breakfast tacos of Torchy’s and Taco Deli, the diner style Tex Mex barbacoa at Mi Madres and the loose interpretations of tacos you find at Tyson’s Tacos, like the Pork Belly with Mandarin orange, that define Austin’s taco scene. And as for the oh so celebrated taco truck turned brick and mortar, Veracruz All Natural? While they hit the right notes of an Abuela making tacos for you when come you home after school, they most certainly miss the mark when it comes to getting late night street tacos on the cheap.
Then I discovered Cuantos Tacos and the Austin taco scene changed.
And it was on accident.
Situated in a parking lot in East Austin, along Airport Blvd and Manor road is the little yellow truck that believed Austin deserved real street tacos like you would find in Mexico City. Inside, an insanely tall man named Luis Alberto Robledo does the honest Taquero’s work. Between driving an Uber in the mornings and driving down to San Antonio to get just the right tortillas, the Le Cordon Bleu graduate simmers the funky cuts in a convex comal, often called a fritanga. He pulls no punches with the menu and he isn’t shy with cooking meats in the authentic Mexican style of confit. All the meats at Cuantos Tacos are simmered in lard.
You won’t find steak or chicken here my friends. Expect the nasty bits like tongue, stomach, and cheek. Tamer offerings include sausage(longaniza) and carnitas. The real key here is that all these glorious meats are simmered in glorious lard. Tacos like these are heavy enough that when you go back to a standard issue taco stand and order carne asada, you feel like you are eating a salad.
What really blew me away was the lengua aka tongue, pictured left. Sliced vs diced, the lengua has a look of sea urchin and like a good piece of Uni sushi, it just melts in your mouth. Follow that up with buche, the pork stomach(3rd from left) and you have probably the best one-two taco punch in Austin. After the buche, I would suggest the cachete(beef cheek, 2nd from left), followed up by the suadero(far right) and then the carnitas(3rd from left) and lastly the longaniza(not pictured).
These tacos are as juicy as they look and are about as hard core as anything I have had in Mexico or Los Angeles. Cuantos Tacos joins the ranks of Taco More as a straight up authentic taco experience in Austin, and at $2 a pop, I would say these tacos definitely do it when it comes to Bang for your Taco Buck.
Cuantos tacos was an accidental find that happened because I hit a Shell station on my way home and decided to roll the dice on a random taco. What happened after that was legendary deliciousness. Beyond that deliciousness was meeting the man behind the comal: Luis Alberto Robledo, who is busting his as* to serve up a street taco experience straight out of Mexico. Please support this little taco truck because I can’t do it all alone. If I did, I’d be dead.
But I’d die with a smile on my face.