Taco journalists chronicle Austin’s breakfast taco obsession

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(Photo Courtesy of Dennis Burnett)

There are more breakfast taco establishments in Austin than there are Starbucks in Manhattan, according to the new book “Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day.”

Taco journalists Armando Rayo and Jarod Neece have sifted through most of the 370 breakfast taco vendors in the city and cover history, statistics and recipes in their new book “Austin Breakfast Tacos.” 

Rayo and Neece, known for their blog “Taco Journalism,” have upped their game from blogspots to a printed book, and they are taking their talks to the kitchen in the first ever Austin Breakfast Taco Demonstration, happening Saturday at Central Market Cooking School. 

“Being a published author is a big deal to me,” Rayo said, “Transitioning from blogging to having published work adds a lot of credibility. I went from taco journalist to cultural historian.” 

After amassing a respectable online following, The Hisory Press, an independent publishing company, proposed a book idea about Austin’s cultural fetish with breakfast tacos. Rayo and Neece eagerly went to work, and, after eating countless tacos, finished the book in two and a half months. 

The book is separated into four sections: a cultural history, breakfast taco 101, Austinite profiles and Austin’s best breakfast tacos, respectively. 

The taco journalists interviewed Tim and Karrie League, owners of Alamo Drafthouse, who reveal that Taco Cabana chorizo and egg tacos “were the fuel that built the first Alamo Drafthouse.” Other personalities include local chef legend Paul Qui of Eastside King and Aaron Franklin of
Franklin Barbecue. 

The selective list of “Austin’s Best Breakfast Tacos” is the most intriguing part of the book. Twenty-four eateries are profiled, each one offers up at least one recipe for taco enthusiasts. Even Juan Meza from Juan In A Million spills the beans about Austin’s most famous taco, the Don Juan. Familiar names like Tamale House, Tacodeli and Torchy’s Tacos are
also inside. 

“One time I had a Twitter battle with Torchy’s. They were upset that I gave them a bad rating so they were hesitant to [be] in the book, but it was kind of like a peace offering,” Rayo said, “I still stick to my guns though.” 

Rayo and Neece also identify which restaurants have been around for the longest, giving credit to the old guard of taco suppliers, like El Sol y La Luna, located at the intersection of 6th Street and Red River Street.

“Since I’m located on 6th Street I’m very close to hotels and the convention center. Let me tell you — people love tacos. Everyone, even vegetarians. People are aware that they’re for everyone, not just Latin people,” Nilda de la Llata, majority co-owner of El Sol y La Luna, said. 

The Taco journalists have capitalized on one of Austin’s current cultural phenomenon and are toying with the idea of a sequel. Not only does Rayo love eating tacos, it turns out he loves writing about them as well. 

“What I do is get the stories beyond the tacos and identify what traditions are being passed on; that’s what makes the blog and book so unique,” Rayo said. “It’s not just a food review, it’s a story of a people, a place and
a history.”