the spot: Trill Foods 415 E. St. Elmo road Austin TX 78745 @vacancy brewing
the eats: rotating menu but get meat and veg dishes, think fine dining you can mostly eat with hands
the bucks: $8-$12 a person
the full nelson: one of my all time fav chefs making fine dining for the masses
Nick Belloni can’t quit tortillas. His first food trailer, Trill Taqueria filled a niche of farm to table tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner until Covid-19 shut him down. With an opportunity to rethink the big picture, he launched Trill Foods, offering more of his Southern Roots to the menu. He still has tacos and tostadas though, because he just can’t quit tortillas. And neither can I.
I’ve eaten countless tacos from Chef Nick and if there is one thing I’ve learned is that his vegetarian offerings are where it’s at. That’s not to say he can’t cook meat. It’s just that his eye and creativity with vegetables is a pure stand out. Restaurants like Odd Duck get deserved credit for being inventive with produce. Nick is just as inventive and Trill is like a quarter of the price.
Right, back to the carnitas . . . locally sourced pork, Texas Citrus, bright green cilantro and house made salsas. The star of the show as always is the tortillas he nixtamilizes himself(i.e. grind the corn and turns it into dough).
Those same great tortillas make for great tostadas too. This is sushi grade ahi tuna on display here on a bed whipped avocado, grilled peaches, togarashi(Japanese spice blend), and cilantro. I tagged this post “fine dining” because of this dish right here. This is the kind of quality level you would expect to find at a place on Resy with a two week wait. Literally as delicious as it is gorgeous.
One will not go hungry if one has lentils. It’s the food of my people(shout out to my Bengali/South Asian peeps) and it sticks to your ribs. Chef Nick cooks them in the style of chorizo and adds Oaxacan cheese, serrano chili and cilantro. This is a shareable tostada for sure so I’d order this for a group.
The Tostada train continues with this charred broccoli tostada. Chef Nick brings out more whipped avocado along with Oaxacan cheese and chili oil. He demanded I get this and he was of course right. Like I said he rocks vegetables and this is the dish that stands out the most. And that’s coming from a bonafide carnivore.
More than a few recipes as of late suggest to cook vegetables like steak: charring, searing etc. The technique creates that Maillard reaction, a savory crust, and adds umami, elevating what could be have been a side dish to a main dish. I’ve toyed with this at home and have enjoyed the results. In Nick’s hands you have a new go to meatless Monday meal.
All of this goes down at Vacancy Brewing and the beers are on point too. Austin might be crowded when it comes to craft beer and tacos but good is good. And Trill? It’s the best.
Pre pandemic times I used to take food tours to Trill Tacos. Some people loved it, some not so much. I think those that didn’t thought they knew what they were getting. A taco at a truck? Not exactly a game changing notion. Then you take a bite and realize that you’re being taken out of your comfort zone.
Fine dining is about new experiences and challenging expectations. That’s what you get at Trill minus the formality and price. Bending the rules and raising the bar is what an ambitious chef lives for. And that’s what happens at Trill . . . for like a quarter of the price of his closest competitors.