the spot: El Norteño Pollos Asados 4925 Craigwood Drive Austin TX 78725
the eats: tacos, carnitas by the pound, chicken and ribs grilled over hardwood charcoal
the bucks: $2 a taco, carnitas $10/lb, whole chicken $17, ribs $18 a rack
the full nelson: a real deal cheap taco truck that smokes up chicken and ribs + carnitas by the pound
El Norteño Pollos Asados is the kind of Cheap Eats find you want to keep to yourself but you just can’t because good food always tastes better when you brag about it. At $2 a taco, you have a legit Cheap Eats find in Austin where far too many tacos are nestling around the $3-$4 mark. Though sized like street tacos, you will find 4 tacos will cover your craving. My instincts told me to graze away at a few of the meaty offerings but one taco stood out by a mile . . .
the spot: Tacos El Gordo 3049 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
the eats: Cabeza, Al Pastor, Buche, Suadero
the bucks: $2.40 – $2.60 per taco
the full nelson: celebrated San Diego taco joint serving up Baja California/Tijuana style street tacos in Las Vegas
Vegas baby, Vegas.
One expects to come to Las Vegas and drop some coin. The usual M.O. for Sin City taking your money is of course, gambling, though strip clubs and steakhouses seem to fit well with playing $500 hands of Texas Hold ‘Em. In the last 20 years Las Vegas has become a foodie destination with world class chefs and their Michelin stars dotting the strip. Hell, I went to a Starbucks and dropped $17 on a coffee, a yogurt, a banana and a bottle of water. But just off the strip is a well celebrated taqueria that is slinging some Bang for your Taco Buck . . .
the spot: Birrieria Gonzalez multiple locations in Los Angeles, tested and approved in Compton CA
the eats: everything, tacos de birria de res, dorado tacos, mulitas, basically whatever you feel with birria de res
the bucks: $2 a taco and the tacos are fat(for LA street tacos), plan on spending $7-$10 to be stuffed
the full nelson: my first run at birria de res and it lived up to the hype
There is a movement happening in Texas to declare tacos the official state food. I see a good case for that, although brisket is a strong contender as well. In California, I think making the taco the official state food would be nothing short of a slam dunk. Sure, Southern California is the birthplace of the fast food burger and up in San Francisco, a whole style of burrito awaits you. Still, North or South, big city or quiet surf side town, tacos rule in California and the Santa Barbara Taco scene is no exception.
recipe: Al Pastor tacos
time: 1 hour + marinade time
<scroll down for ingredients and instructions>
As much as I love scouring the country for Cheap Eats, I love grilling at home just as much. My preference is to cook over a “live fire”, which for me is hardwood charcoal. These days I have a backyard, so lighting up a grill is pretty easy but back when I lived in a loft, I had to deal with a shared gas grill. And that is where I learned the importance and power of marinades.
If you have ever had Al Pastor, the Mexican cousin to Shawarma and Gyros, you know it is one of the tastiest taco fillings there is. Now traditionally, like Shawarma and Gyros, the meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Like most of you, I don’t have one of those, so the notion of cooking Al Pastor at home seemed like a smokey daydream. Then Cheap Eats went to Las Vegas and I was taught the method marinating and grilling al pastor. And believe me, this Al Pastor taco recipe is worth trying at home.