Review: Torchy’s, Rudy’s and TacoDeli

Tweetreview: Pretentious meets bad customer service meets… who cares. You can do better in Austin!

I’ve eaten here. A few times, in time for the morning rush and between breakfast and lunch. I’m a bit… geezer… as my kids put it, so I’ve got arms way too short for some menus. Torchy’s included, it turns out. Who ever heard of 8pt italic serif fonts on a menu? On a black background? Yeesh.

I don’t mind surly people: we need them, so we special folks can feel superior to them. But if they’re surly to me and fun and prancy with their co-workers, that’s just stupid. I mean, by definition we’re having a better life than they are: we’re not up at 5:30 making tacos for folks, and swabbing bathrooms in our copious spare time? No need to rub your relative serfdom in; we understand your passive aggression just fine.

Right, food review. I’ve had five tacos. Like at McCoffee-type places, I don’t use their corporate lingo. A taco is a taco is a taco. I ordered a barbacoa taco (those and napolitos, in my opinion, quickly define the mettle of a taco place).

“Barbacoa taco,” I said.

“What do you want on it?”

I considered that for a a moment; some people do want to contaminate their barbacoa with ingredients. “Nothing else,” I said after a moment.

“Like, um, a Democrat?” life-reject said. She pointed to aforementioned black page with italic, small-fonted text.

I looked down on it, trying to make sense of the haze that befalls people pushing 50, much to denial of their younger ilk. “No,” I said, trying for a little respect. “Just barbacoa.”

“On corn or wheat?”

Do they even serve barbacoa on corn? Sounds even more messy than it otherwise might be. “Flour,” I said shortly.

The meat was good. The taco was industrial. The service was marginal and the salsa was entirely forgettable.

And given the cost, not worth the time to purchase, let alone ingest.

It’s sometimes hard to grump about a taco place. After all, there are taquerias that are described with a number rather than a name (#17 is pretty good, if you can find it). There are showy ones like Maria’s Taco Xpress, pedestrian yet utilitarian places like Taco Shack, and wildly smiley ones like Rudy’s BBQ, which has GREAT breakfast crews; folks that really smile and really enjoy their jobs (especially with taskmasters — I mean, managers — close by). (Kidding: the folks and management there are efficient and VERY customer focused).

So Torchy’s has got to have more than snooty waitstaff and incomprehensible-to-folks-with-theoretical-disposable-income-customers menus.

Couldn’t find it. Pretty sad.

On the other end of the scale, however, aside from praising Rudy’s yet again — but they’re mainly a BBQ place, so they need to amscray from the limelight of this post — we have Tacodeli. I’ve known these folks for… uh…. too long? Ten years? Wow. They’ve got some fanatic employee loyalty, with managers who started as servers nine years ago. They make kick-ass tacos, and there’s not a thing they won’t do to make the customer happy. I’ve seen a customer return two tacos before being satisfied with the third, even if it was their… obtuseness… that was the source of the miscommunication.

Three dishes worth particular mention:

  1. Blanco pappas breakfast taco. Eggwhite and Mexican mashed potatoes. Great vehicle for the dona sauce (see below). Addictive. Best on flour.
  2. Fish tacos. Well, it’s more than one dish: there are a few they tout. Light, crisp ingredients, tasty. Corn is a nice wrapper for them.
  3. Vegetable burrito. This is my personal favorite, one per person per meal. Brown rice, beans, freshly grilled veggies. Simple and delightful.

Their dona sauce is heavenly; potent, creamy and, most importantly, a shade of green not usually found in nature. I may have to drive WAY out of my way for it, compared to a five-minute walk to Torchy’s but it’s well worth the effort: Tacodeli has the food, the service, the staff and the attitude that makes them, not Torchy’s, a great local chain. They’ve got locations across from Central Market in Central Austin, up by the IBM buildings on Braker, and down by Barton Skyway and Bull Creek.