Austin City Tacos, 517 University Dr, FW. 7am-11pm Sun, 7am-10pm Mon-Wed, 7am-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
By complete happenstance, I experienced Chef Juan Rodriguez’s two very different culinary ventures within a span of 12 hours. Last week, I met Rodriguez during my first visit to his catering business, Magdalena’s, as part of a chef/artist mixer event. The private party gave me my first taste of what has made the pop-up dinners at Magdelena’s par excellence among many discerning followers. All the passed hors d’oeuvres that evening featured rich flavors that stood out without overpowering one another — a feature that I would find in an entirely different setting soon after.
The next morning, I visited an as-yet-unopened taqueria concept, Austin City Tacos, and again met Rodriguez. The chef was training staff in the kitchen for the place’s soft opening, Thursday, April 25. Austin City Tacos aims to bring an authentic, Austin-inspired taco-centric dining experience to Fort Worth. The name is a bit misleading. This restaurant is no transplant from the state capital. The main feature tying Austin City Tacos to our southern neighbor is Central Texas barbecue. (Think: mild smokiness, usually from post oak, and an emphasis on flavorful meat with sauce that complements without overwhelming.)
The dining area consists of one large room with two long communal tables and a back row of small tables. There’s a small outdoor patio with booth seating along the outside wall. The indoor optics are refreshing without being distracting. Cool pastel blues and yellows add a welcome pop to the otherwise subdued environs. Admittedly, my visit wasn’t the typical undercover review the Weekly prefers, but (also admittedly) Rodriguez didn’t know I was going to write about the food. I was there that morning to snag photographs. He brought out two tacos: al carbon and Revolution.
The Revolution featured a generous portion of chopped beef brisket. The smokiness of the meat was strong but not overpowering. Several strands of fried onion added a nice crunch to the savory taco, which was scantily topped with a mild cream-based sauce and a few bits of cilantro. The tender and lean barbecue was definitely the main attraction.
The al carbon was heftier, requiring both hands to hold the pile of ingredients together. The blue-and-white corn tortilla made for a beautiful presentation — each color occupied half of the shell — but the wrap struggled to hold the clumps of moist chopped chicken, pickled carrots, serrano-lime sauce, guacamole, and queso fresco. Rodriguez mentioned that the explosively juicy chicken is brined in saltwater, orange juice, and achiote.
My one side dish, the Cheat Day! Queso, arrived with sturdy chips that made easy work of scooping gobs of thick melted cheese. The appetizer is served with optional bacon jam and guajillo sauce. The queso packs a fair amount of heat. Austin City Tacos carries four hot sauces that are all made in-house: guajillo, fresh jalapeño, habanero, and jalapeño-vinegar.
Barbecue tacos are par for the course in San Antonio and Central Texas, but the concept is still a novelty here, which may give Austin City Tacos a huge advantage among Fort Worth’s already robust taco and barbecue scene. Diners can choose from around 20 taco options, including relatively tame breakfast tacos. The taqueria tries to be a lot of things to a lot of taco lovers. The menu includes fresh seafood tacos, belt-busting fried egg/brisket/bacon jam versions, and veggie options.
If anyone is concerned about the glut of taco options in town anytime soon, don’t blame Austin City Tacos. They’re in a barbecue taco category almost all their own.
Austin City Tacos
Al carbon $4.25
Cheat Day! Queso and chips $4.85