April 14, 2016
Once a stop-and-go drive-thru pick up spot for film, Fresa's Chicken in Austin TX, specializes in - you guessed it - chicken. Local, pasture-raised chickens get sent to this brightly painted, two-story brick building to be roasted (after being marinated in achiote and other spices, of course) and then wrapped in deli paper and served out of a sliding glass window. 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, Fresa's drive-up window can be most sensible, especially considering the limited parking spots available and the cluster of North Lamar Avenue. However, being on foot can have its benefits, particularly for those looking to dine elsewhere since on-premise seating is rather limited. On the flip side, 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. Assertive were charred grill marks and the moisture of the chicken 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; crisp and snappy, this added contrast. Additionally, the carrots and cilantro devised a bit of a Vietnamese feel. 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 deliverance of their chicken, reasonable expectations had been built for the taco. 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; the 'slow-cooked beef brisket' was noticeably dry, a tick above room temperature and otherwise lacked resiliency. Pickled jalapeno offered a nice kick of sweet/spiciness, yet it seemed that when combined with the other ingredients most of the flavors seemed to mend to a singular spice; also noticeable were heavy 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 more nomadic 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 change your life. 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 Raised Chickens