Erupting in a violent stream of obscenities is not something I often do when I’m dining out. Other than the time a gay porn star-looking assistant manager of a Western Sizzling Steakhouse in rural Kentucky found himself on the business end of a verbal beating, I can’t remember my last such episode.
The desebrada at La Moreliana is that good.
I’m crowded into a bee hive-busy lunch counter at the back of La Moreliana on South Congress. This is Mexican eating the way I like it, surrounded by La Raza. I’m the only one chowing down who doesn’t have a tape measure buckled to his belt, and the paint spackle on everybody’s trousers is good and thick.
I feel grateful that my dinner plate-sized belt buckle of a turkey flying over a marsh at sunset is in effect as it helps me to blend in.
I carefully watch as the taquera begins building my tacos. Par-cooked, fresh corn tortillas are placed on the ancient, blazing-hot griddle. The maize immediately begins to bubble and nice blister marks show themselves as she flips over to side b.
Moments later, la tia begins scooping out thick shreds of roasted beef from a fragrant broth-filled hot pan. She then doles them onto my tortillas along with sweet onion and chopped cilantro. These are the essential building blocks of any good Mexican kitchen.
At my first bite I let loose a volley of a blue streak. Immediately chagrined I hastily begin reading the newspaper I carry with me for solo-dining. The vaqueros around me look a little worried but calm quickly returns to the little tienda.
It’s been years since I first ate at La Moreliana and it’s always been good but today my cook elevated their cafeteria’s cuisine considerably.
The beef has clearly come from a well-tended calf. I could see its early years being spent as a Mexican-style Kobe with perhaps Modelo Especial replacing the sake wine as the massage oil of choice.
The meaty flavor is so magnified that I suspect a bit of Maggi has been utilized in the broth as it is rich with umami.
I sample all three salsas and while all are good, a special mention must be made of the emulsified green as it’s fiery beyond measure. It’s the hottest salsa I’ve found in Austin of late.
At meal’s end I make my way through the market to the meat counter seeking clues to the taco’s provenance. It doesn’t take long for the mystery to be solved.
Row after row of refrigerated, pink meats reveal themselves. Everything is glowing and has been carefully butchered by a skilled hand. Soaring mounds of freshly ground pork and beef are particularly appealing.
Running along the top of the counter is a vast array of pickled meats: Pickled ears, pickled guts, pickled maws, pickled lips….if it can be pickled and it’s a meat then La Moreliana is pickling it.
As a riposte to the typical over-priced tacos on the west side of Austin my tariff is $ 1.35 per taco. A voice of reason in a sea of insanity. The owners of La Moreliana are exhibiting that you can hit your margins effectively without resorting to the price gouging which is rampant in Austin in this era we find ourselves in.
3600 South Congress Avenue