April 14, 2016
Once a stop-and-go drive-thru pick up spot for film, Fresa's Chicken in Austin TX, specializes in, well, you guessed it, chicken. Pasture raised, local chickens get sent to this brightly painted, two story brick building to be roasted (after being marinated in achiote and other spices, mind you) and then wrapped in deli paper and served out of a sliding glass window. Since it opened in 2012, the establishment has made its claim by specializing in chicken, yet offerings range from organic eggs for breakfast tacos, house-made corn tortillas, beef brisket and roasted pork shoulder, as well as salads, pazole, tortas, and hand-spun ice cream. Oh yeah, they also sell margarita kits and cold beer to go. If you think of anything else, there's probably a suggestion box somewhere along the drive-thru.
Depending on what time of day, their drive-up window can be most sensible, especially considering the limited parking spots available and beast that is Lamar Avenue. However, being on foot can have its benefits, particularly for those looking to dine elsewhere, since the space to eat on site is rather limited. In that case, an abundance of scenic dining options exist, from the ever-changing spectacle of Austin's graffiti art wall just blocks away, to the low winding paths of Duncan Park that essentially reside in Fresa's backyard.
As we arrived at a lull, our wait time was considerably quick and in no time we were saddled up on the drive-thru curb with a bag full of tacos and Topo Chicos. My first choice (the?) El Presidente ($4.25) featured slabs of Fajita chicken, pickled carrot, cucumber, avocado and jalapeno. First and foremost, the sear marks and moisture of the chicken took charge, while a slow spice crept in as the meal progressed. Not overly saturated, the marinade showed hints of lime and pepper, and the method of shaving skins from the cucumber was effective; their crisp texture added a contrasting snap. Additionally, the carrots and cilantro devised a bit of a Vietnamese feel, which may not have been the intention but was welcomed. Mostly satisfying and rather filling, though, El Presidente seemed to be a worthy representation of the simple expressions Fresa's is aiming for in their tacos.
My El Rey ($4.25), on the other hand, failed to reach the bar set by its counterpart. Considering the prevalence of Texas BBQ and the execution on their grilled chicken, I had built up reasonable expectations. Yet, maybe I'm the one to blame for ordering BBQ at a place with a rotating chicken as its sign in the first place. Either way, the 'slow-cooked beef brisket' was noticeably dry, a tick above room temperature and otherwise lacked resiliency. Though the pickled jalapeno offered a nice kick of sweet spiciness, it seemed that when combined with the other ingredients most of the flavors seemed to mend to a singular spice, while the brisket was all but lost. Not to mention the noticeable fat streaks on the brisket. Overall, the taco was fairly sufficient and proved to be filling, yet it would seem difficult to justify ordering again at that price.
The whole experience was one of the cooler ones to date in Austin, mostly in regards to the mixed bag of menu options and nearby outdoor dining locations, so it would not be fair to write Fresa's off for one mediocre taco. After all, you don't go to Red Lobster (hopefully ever) and expect their mac and cheese to be memorable. Perhaps next time I'll test the breakfast tacos or man up to the full chicken spread. I'll go back, but not before trying other taco stands around town.
Ate: El Presidente, El Rey
915 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
Rating: 3 Pasture Range Chickens (out of five)