Papalote Taco House
While Papalote’s menu and signage bear an aesthetic more befitting a chain restaurant, the offerings here are decidedly personal. Owner Sergio Varela designed the menu as a simple homage to his mother’s recipes from southern Mexico, resulting in perhaps the best taco variety on offer in South Austin. The tiny interior isn’t full of atmosphere, but eat in—you’ll want the freshest possible experience with these artful and saucy creations. The pork loin in the puerco pipián taco comes smothered in a creamy, earthy pumpkin mole, which transcends to greater heights when paired with a hit of the restaurant’s extremely spicy, creamy green sauce. The nuttiness and warming spice of the sauce exemplify Varela’s ability to achieve subtle yet deep flavors, a wonder when you consider this is a dish sold for a mere $3.25. Papalote layers on increased textural complexity by topping most tacos with fresh avocado slices, crispy cabbage, and pickled purple onions, an added touch that elevates them above much of the neighborhood competition. Vegetarians should also take heart—both the tortas de coliflor and the rajas y hongos are thoughtful and substantive options here.
2803 S. Lamar Blvd. (512-804-2474). Open Mon–Fri 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat 8 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun 8 a.m.–8 p.m.