It may be the best taco truck you'll never remember, or at the very least be able to pronounce, depending on which time of the day and under which circumstances you choose to dine. Working in its favor are the seemingly endless hours of operation (7:30 am - 2:30 am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and a location that rests between the hip side of Austin's 6th street and the dirty side, though a name cluttered with vowels and like sounds may pose a challenge for the diners seeking its comfort in the late hours of the night.
If you're not a part of the bar crowd that Pueblo Viejo feeds on a nightly basis, you may after all have no trouble recalling the name or any of the ingredients in your dish. Like most memorable food trailers, they keep it fairly simple and straight forward here. Breakfast or street taco? Gordita or Quesadilla? These are grave decisions we face.
Similarly suited for the casual cuisine is the assortment of makeshift seating; folding chairs, deep bottomed seats made of rigid plastic like those from the grade school days, long metal benches, and round wooden spools turned to tables are among some of the prime options for one to prop their elbows and spread out. A large tree is centered in the lot, across from the long, white taco-slinging trailer, and effectively shades nearly the entire seating area. Parked alongside the trailer is an abandoned yellow short bus with the words Pueblo Viejo painted in white lettering, perhaps paying homage to the former base of operations. Collectively, it feels like a cross between an outing and the junk yard and a picnic in the park.
After some consideration for the approaching lunch hour, I opted to split the difference and ordered one breakfast taco (Tico Taco - $2.50) and one specialty taco (Guaca Taco - $3.90), and one Topo Chico to wash it down.
"That'll be $1," responded the lady behind the window. "Someone here payed in advanced." She waved her hand over the crowd of strangers behind me. I looked for someone to nod or wave assuringly but witnessed no such thing. While resisting the temptation to add a third taco, and perhaps add an order to go, I thanked her and wandered off to find a seat.
As I sat, still waiting for the anonymous gift donor to reveal themselves, I became less interested in the food to come and more intrigued by the chain of reactions that were to follow when others ordered. Truthfully, I was half expecting word to have leaked out, via some form of social media, in enough time for a sudden flood of strangers to max out the open card for a free lunch. Aside from a pair of ladies who contemplated the menu before walking away empty handed, nothing out of the ordinary or remotely questionable occurred.
My food came with a minimal wait, and it came bountifully as the two tacos were filled to the brim. There is an unspoken verdict that a taco truck is measured by not only their execution of the dishes, but also the quality and array of salsas offered. While the chicken in my Guaca Taco was laden with spices and varying ingredients, I drizzled an orange habanero sauce onto the Tica Taco and braced for impact. The effects were rippling and longstanding, even a considerable time after finishing the taco was I licking my lips to cool the sting.
A hefty dosing of starches in the Tica Taco were instrumental in cleaning up the zippy spice and maintaining balance to the taco. The potatoes were soft and dense; their edges lacking a fried firmness, while the beans were creamy without truly announcing any signature flavor. Avocado was, avocado. Moreover, there is only so far you can take potatoes, avocado and beans. The salsa helped kick up the flavor and leave a lasting impression, but otherwise the concoction was mediocre and otherwise underwhelming.
Reaching the Guaca Taco was a relief of sorts, in that the array of ingredients was more interesting in both its spread and offering of individual flavors. Grilled chicken, seasoned with a red pepper spice, and seared onions were amply stuffed onto a bed of spinach and guacamole, which all together worked as a balancing act in both texture and flavor. Effectively displayed was the meaty flavor from the seared chicken while a creamy richness was delivered by the guacamole. Bits of crisp spinach and grilled onion were secondary as softening elements, with the latter providing hints of sweetness.
Both tacos were double wrapped with thick corn tortillas, ultimately leading to a heartier but consequently messier experience. Though, after all, years of experience has allowed me to instead regard my oft messy eating as passionate eating; this makes it agreeable for all parties involved.
As the afternoon wore on at Pueblo Viejo, I sat reflecting on the pair of tacos (and how sometimes there is in fact such a thing as a free lunch) while going over the practice of annunciating its name for word of mouth retellings (Puh-way-blo Vee-Ay-Ho). Ideal for a pit stop on lunch break, or perhaps even more suitable for quenching a late hunger inflated from a night on the town, Pueblo Viejo's versatile menu and generous portions help propel it into the conversation as one of the finest mobile (but actually stationary) taco dispensaries in Austin.
(Items ordered - Tica Taco, Guaca Taco, Topo Chico)
Rating - 3 & 1/2 Avocados (out of five)
New location : 2000 E Cesar Chavez, 78702 Austin, TX (at Craftsman Bar)