In Austin, it’s always been the case: a bartender’s pour is as liberal as the city’s politics, because much like everything else in Texas, our thirst is bigger here, too. With the rise of SXSW over the past decade, the uncountable stacks of red Solo cups from the University of Texas’ 53,000 student body population, old-guard honky tonks, and the development of Rainey Street (a once quiet residential neighborhood converted into a row of rowdy bars), Austin is blowing full steam ahead towards earning the reputation as America’s drunkest city.
Perhaps better than anyone, then, we also gird ourselves against that inevitable “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” And those of us lucky enough to call Austin home know that there’s one sure-fire solution to the post-drinkathon pain: the breakfast taco—a simple, yet iconic staple of central Texas that’s helped the young and old alike recover from the most (un?)memorable of nights.
I. A Brief History of the Breakfast Taco
While some claim that cowboys and banditos have been enjoying their morning sustenance wrapped in warm tortillas for over a century, the breakfast taco truly entered Austin’s collective consciousness during the 1980s. According to Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece’s Austin Breakfast Tacos, it was during this time that several prominent Austin-area Mexican restaurants—most notably Tamale House on Airport Road and Las Manitas on Congress—began integrating more home-style dishes into their menus, including breakfast tacos, to appeal to Austin’s growing immigrant population. Locals caught on to the trend, prompting a spike in commercial sales.
Over the next 20 years, Austin experienced a boom of Latino-owned businesses, primarily in the form of taco trucks and trailers. With these mobile operations came new takes on the classic formula of egg, cheese, and beans wrapped in flour tortillas. Meats like chorizo and brisket became mainstays; and, hell, some folks even started serving them on corn tortillas (traditionally reserved for barbacoa). We strive to keep it weird in Austin though, even when it comes to tacos.
With over 350 options for breakfast tacos in Austin today, it’s easy to get lost in the embarrassment of riches. Places like Juan In A Million and Tacodeli consistently receive national attention for their mastery of the genre. Although Austinites vigorously support these landmarks, serious breakfast connoisseurs know that off-the-radar oases like Joe’s Bakery, Tacos El Primo, and Las Cazuelas can easily hang with the big boys.
It goes without saying that when locals are down-and-out, clutching their heads after a night of serious boozing, they always turn to the breakfast taco. But here’s a little secret: Not all tacos are created equal (and neither are hangovers). A belly full of beer—as opposed to shots of tequila—is going to require a different recovery method. So to help you navigate the taco landscape (and regain some honor during your pitiful state), we’ve devised a hangover rubric, matching the best tacos to cure your particular ailment. Ditch the guidebook and follow our lead as we show you the most delicious options to combat last night’s Austin hijinks.
II. The Breakfast Taco Hangover Rubric
A cure is on its way, as we pair your hangover blues with the perfect taco.
Beer: The Don Juan at Juan In A Million
Address: 2300 E Caesar Chavez St (512-472-3872)
The Solution: Beer hangovers tend to localize themselves in your stomach, leaving you feeling sluggish and heavy. Yet even if you feel bloated, on the verge of bursting at the seams, it’s imperative to get something in that quivering belly of yours. The 3/4-lb. Don Juan taco at Juan In A Million, a 20-year-old Austin institution, is known for its legendary size and girth. Even prodigious eater Adam Richman could only stomach four in his attempt to break the record-setting mark of eight on Man vs. Food. When it comes to beer, you’ll need something that’s going to drop an absolute anchor in your stomach, which is why the Don Juan’s got your back. This behemoth monstrosity packs some major calories: chopped bacon, one whole potato, and two eggs, capped off by a generous sprinkle of cheddar cheese. The DJ is greasy enough to coat even the most unsettled of stomachs, and big enough to keep you full throughout the day as you regain your bearings. (Photo: eatingtheroad)
Whiskey: The Tofu Neal at Bouldin Creek Café
Address: 1900 S 1st St (512-416-1601)
The Solution: When you begrudgingly awaken the morning after smelling like a bottle of Jim Beam, your soul will need to be disinfected from the amount of sin introduced to your bloodstream. In general, you’d be hard-pressed to find even a remotely healthy breakfast taco. But the ones served by vegetarian hippie outpost Bouldin Creek Café are by far your best bet for repentance after a long night with the ol’ firewater. Potato leek omelettes and sweet potato pecan tamales are house favorites, but stick with the Tofu Neal, a whole-wheat flour tortilla featuring sautéed mushrooms and spinach mixed in with scrambled tofu that is sure to cleanse your system (don’t be fooled—the taco’s “meatiness” will convert any stubborn carnivore). Local artwork and bright murals adorn the walls, but head to the patio with your dog for a quiet meal and some fresh air. If you get your mind on the right track, surely your body will follow suit. (Photo: lazysmurf)
Champagne: The Wrangler at Torchy’s
Address: 2809 S 1st St (512-444-0300)
The Solution: We’ve all been there: an evening of casual drinking suddenly changes course when someone breaks out a nice bottle of bubbly. Yet after a night of keeping it classy by poppin’ bottles, it would only make sense to extend this idea to your actual taco, too. Luckily for you, local favorite (and rapidly growing expansion) Torchy’s focuses on high-quality ingredients, relying on locally sourced and sustainable products such as El Milagro tortillas and Casa Brasil coffee. The Wrangler, a concoction of fluffy scrambled eggs, charred potatoes, smoked beef brisket, jack cheese, and homemade tomatillo sauce, doesn’t just satisfy appetites—it might actually save lives. Don’t let the CO2 powered taco canon dissuade you either: This no-jokes taco experience perfectly suits the bubbly indulgence of last night’s escapade (be sure to check out the Thai fusion taco with cabbage slaw, peanuts, and mint, too). (Photo: Torchys)
Tequila: Migas at Veracruz All Natural
Address: 1704 E Caesar Chavez St (512-981-1760)
The Solution: When tequila shots hit the bar, all bets are off. Unrepeatable things will be said, quasi-audible confessions will be slurred, and new nicknames will be coined. Texans have long gravitated towards Mexico’s agave-distilled liquor, and being in such close proximity to the country, we’ve managed to adopt another below-the-border artifact into the Tex-Mex idiom: migas. A traditional Tex-Mex breakfast staple made with eggs, cheese, crispy tortilla strips, and pico de gallo, migas were historically considered a utilitarian meal, incorporating uneaten tortillas and other left-overs. As you try to piece back together the last 12 hours, make your way to Veracruz All-Natural. Hailing from the seaside community of Veracruz, owner Reyna Vasquez makes the best migas in Austin. Tortillas are prepared on sight, ensuring a heavenly vessel for the aromatic and flavor-packed breakfast tacos. Who could say no to crispy tortilla chips mixed with eggs and cheese? (Photo: tacotrail.com)
Red Wine: Steak & Egg Taco at Royal Blue Grocery
Address: 609 Congress Ave (512-469-5888)
The Solution: Most purveyors of fine breakfast tacos aim to make them fresh upon order; such is the standard for excellence in this taco-obsessed town. But when your head is throbbing from “accidentally” downing that bottle of pinot, and the very thought of decision-making exacerbates your illness, the simplicity of grabbing a taco out of a heated tray and being on your way trumps all. Much like one’s growing appreciation of fine wine, the convenience of Royal Blue Grocery (an urban market with five locations) is a highly valued quality you’ll also come to recognize over time. Simple and unfussy, Royal Blue’s tacos are best when served with grilled steak. But here’s the kicker: In addition to offering the house-made tacos, RBG also stocks up on supplies from another hangover favorite, Tacodeli. With subtle nods to the flavors of Yucatan, Tacodeli churns out complex breakfast treats, including adobo marinated chicken and pork shoulder seasoned with chile pasilla sauce. To walk in and out of a place with two all-star breakfast tacos (and head immediately to bed) is an unrivaled combo move. (Photo: Foodspotting)