If there’s one thing that we’ve made clear here at Capital City Soccer, it’s that food is an important part of the Q2 Stadium experience. I think most of us would agree that a Sonoran Dog goes down pretty well with a $12 beer right before kickoff (I guess you could say it’s our version of the choripán). But sometimes, you may need some post-match sustenance to round out your night.
Maybe you feel the need to celebrate with your Verde buddies after witnessing Driussi bag a brace, or you need to down some grub to help you cope after some dropped points. Either way, food is expensive (thanks, Obama) and health-wise, it’s probably not best to eat so late, but if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.
Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered. For the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing various late-night spots around 10414 McKalla Place.
But before I do that, let’s start with some parameters:
- Since most home matches will end around 9:30pm on Saturdays, I’m only reviewing places that are open until at least 11pm on Saturday nights.
- I want to keep you close to Q2. Only restaurants within a 5-mile radius of McKalla Place are fair game. It’s also important to note that Q2 is really close to Austin’s Taco Mile. So you’re going to get a lot of taco reviews in this spot.
- I won’t be limiting my reviews to brick and mortars. All restaurants matter, even the ones housed inside trucks.
- Will Whataburger or Pluckers fulfill your late-night needs? Sure. But you already know about those spots. I’ll be keeping it local-only for these reviews.
- Every restaurant will be rated on five different criteria: Food, Menu, Ambience, Service, Return-Factor. Scores will up totaled up at the end.
Make sure to check back here as we’ll highlight a different place before every Saturday night home match in April, May, and June.
Saturday Hours: 7:00pm to 1:30am
To be honest, I debated whether or not I should include Seolju on this list, not because I don’t think it’s amazing, but because I’m selfish and don’t want my spot to get blown up too much. Ok, ok, I’m being ridiculous, it’s already recognized as one of the 38 most essential restaurants in the city. And even though I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember, I am no food-gatekeeper.
Admittedly, I’m not incredibly well-versed in Korean cuisine outside of your standard Korean staples (seafood pancake!!!) and KFC: Korean Fried Chicken. If you’ve never had KFC, well, it’s Fried Chicken but better. I’m not going to go too deep into the differences, but you can read more about it here. Long story short, if you’ve never had KFC, you should. Soon.
The beauty of Seolju is that it offers you an extensive menu at a time when you may need it most: late night. This isn’t a place to bring the kids (I mean, I guess you could), it’s a place to bring the friends for a great meal, and a little bit of turn-up.
Are Seolju’s wings the best in the city? That’s so tough to answer but they’re definitely in the conversation. And that alone earns this a perfect score in the food category. The spicy ramen hits the spot (and is definitely spicy), and honestly, you can’t really go wrong with anything you order. Pro-tip: order the wings with the sauce on the side. And order some wings already sauced. It’s worth doing both.
Late night grub done right. Where else can you get wings, corn cheese (that cheese pull!!!), kimchi fried rice, squid, bulgogi, hot pot, and so much more, all under one roof. Add some soju and Hite, and you’re set. Just remember to never pour your own soju (a yuge faux pas).
It looks as if they bought the place from the previous owners and just kept it the way it was. It’s a little grungy-feeling, they could probably use some upgrades here and there on the furniture, and it shares a shopping center Club Rodeo. I’m going to say that all of this gives it a unique character, and the buzz inside the restaurant makes you feel like everyone in there is about to keep the night going, not winding down.
So no one really waits on you, you simply scan the QR code at your table and order through your phone. When your food is ready, a server brings it to your table. I really like the concept, and it probably limits the amount of annoying conversations that staff need to have with inebriated guests. Only gripe here is that it took a little longer to get a staff member’s attention for extra napkins, utensils, etc.
With a menu this extensive, and food this good, you have to come back and try everything else. And even if they only served those wings, they are good enough to merit a return trip all by themselves. I will most definitely be back.
Total score: Starting off our late-night eats series with a bang, Seoulju gets 22 out of 25 pickled daikon radishes.
Tacos El Charly – 9306 N Lamar Blvd (Northgate Shopping Center)
Saturday Hours: 7:00pm to 2:55am (according to Google)
Cuisine: Mexican – Tacos
I don’t know if I’m genetically predisposed to tacos, or if they’re just the perfect late-night meal, but I love me some tacos after a night out. And to be clear, I’m not talking about Taco Bell here, I’m talking about unos tacos chingones, the kind that (a) come from a truck, (b) leave your hands smelling like oil and onion even after 20 washes, and (c) taste better with a Mexican Coke.
Lucky for me, Tacos El Charly checks all the boxes. In particular, I was excited to try the tacos al pastor since a taquero that I know and respect said that El Charly is his preferred place to go for pastor (other than, you know, his own truck).
One very important thing to note when visiting El Charly: bring straight cash, homie. That’s the only way to get food here, but if you forget (cause who carries cash anymore), there’s a Wells Fargo ATM in the same parking lot.
I realized after rating Seoulju a couple weeks ago that I should have added one very important stipulation to this category: I’m rating these late-night eateries based on their food offerings during fourth meal. In other words, certain foods just hit harder after a night out, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to eat them for, say, lunch (I think of BBQ as the opposite…I love me a BBQ lunch, but there’s no way I want some brisket at midnight).
Are there better taco spots than Tacos El Charly in Austin? Yes, I can think of two right off the bat. But can those places give you a gringa at 1:30 in the morning? Well, no, they’re not open late (they also don’t serve gringas…the food, not the people).
And so, I believe you’d have to take my rating with a small grain of salt. Remove the cover of night and you’re likely looking at a solid 3 out of 5 rating.
As for the pastor tacos, I was actually shocked to find that they weren’t as good as advertised. In fact, if I tasted these tacos without knowing what meat was inside, I’d be hard pressed to correctly guess what I was eating. To get a little technical here, the color was off (I’m used to more of an orangey-tang, it was as if they don’t use a lot of achiote paste for their pastor), and maybe I’m used to a certain way to prepare pastor, but I wasn’t really impressed. Everything else, the suadero, the chorizo, and the tripas were solid.
One big difference with respect to this category between a food truck and a brick and mortar restaurant is that an expansive menu can actually be a double-edged sword. To be clear, variety is good, but in a truck, you only have so much space to work with, so you typically limit what you can offer with respect to food. But not at El Charly. In addition to tacos you can get tortas, burritos, quesadillas, and gringas. As far as meats are concerned, your options are: pastor, bistek, tripa, buche, chorizo, or suadero.
I will say, a visit to Tacos el Charly is an experience. For one, it’s popping. When we got to El Charly, the line was at least 25 deep (fear not, they’re pretty efficient). So you know that the tacos have to be somewhat decent if that many people are there. You have people selling tamales, chicharrones, and even pan dulce out of their cars (gotta respect the hustle). It’s just an experience that any late night fiend should check out at least once.
And if you needed more convincing…Austin FC players are also feeling the vibe. As we were waiting to order, Jhohan Valencia himself rolled up to meet family and friends (and if you’re wondering, he waited in line like everyone else).
Again, a little trickier to rate a food truck where no one really waits on you, but the question I ask myself in these situations is the following: If I need something extra to truly enjoy my meal, can I get it relatively easy? The answer is yes.
They have a salsa bar for easy access to tacos that’s probably also Germ City, USA, but whatever, you’re eating tacos late at night. Inside, there’s a small army of taqueros working hard to get your order out relatively quickly (took a little under ten minutes to get our food, which is great given the mass of people there). Outside, there was one employee cleaning up and ensuring that people had what they needed (or maybe he was just standing by Valencia table to give him the VIP treatment, I can’t tell).
As discussed earlier, there are a ton of taco spots in the North Lamar/Rundberg area. Is Tacos el Charly good enough for me to ignore all these other taco places? No. It was good, but it didn’t satisfy my soul the way that some of the best places in the city do regularly.
So, while I might be back, it would only be after checking out the other taco places in the area.
Total score: My friend Elliott and I would agree, El Charly is solid, and after a night, solid sustenance is all you need. El Charly gets 19 out of 25 chiles torreados.
Saturday Hours: 9:00 am to 2:00am
Cuisine: Mexican – Tacos
Ok, I promise for my fourth installment of post-match eats we’ll get away from the North Lamar/Rundberg neighborhood, but for this installment I’m going to feature another gem on Austin’s Taco Mile: Carnitas el Güero. If you’re a regular taco eater, you’ve likely had carnitas in some form. But what makes Carnitas el Güero special is that they make their carnitas the way the higher spiritual power intended, Michoacan-style. In this cooking process, the pork is slowly cooked in lard until the end when the heat is turned up to give it a crispier texture. All of this happens in a huge copper pot. The end result, eaten in taco form, of course, is incredible.
Technically, Carnitas el Güero is a mini-chain with five locations in Austin (the OG location is in a convenience store off Stassney), one location in San Antonio, and one more in…Mexico City. But I still wouldn’t consider it a chain by normal standards so it still fits the parameters that I’ve set forth for this series. At any rate, the North Lamar location is their first brick and mortar restaurant, and it’s a perfect spot for a post-match meal. Well, to be honest, given that they’re open from 9:00am to 2:00am every day, it’s actually the perfect spot for a meal at any time of the day. Carnitas for breakfast? Brunch? Dinner? Fourth meal? Yes.
During our previous installment, I added the “fourth meal” caveat, meaning that this particular category had to be taken with a small grain of salt. In other words, a 3/5 rating, for example, was based on the quality of the food during a late-night meal. So it’s important to note that Carnitas el Güero would earn a perfect rating in this category irrespective of when you eat it. Yes, it’s that good.
And as if it wasn’t enough that they consistently have the best carnitas in the city, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that their salsa verde is, in my opinion, the absolute best in Austin. I’m not saying that the salsa is necessarily better than the carnitas itself, but I can tell you that I think about this salsa more than I think about those carnitas, if that makes sense. Add some of their pickled onions, and you, my friend, are in taco heaven.
As mentioned above, their original physical location is located inside of a convenience store. That place was limited to just straight carnitas (which is not a bad thing, at all). Their North Lamar location, however, has a much more extensive menu, with some of the offerings unavailable after 6:00pm (but really, who would want pozole for dinner, or after hitting up the bar?). Buyer beware…I’ve never had anything but carnitas here, and ‘carnitas’ is literally in the title of the restaurant, so you may not want to venture outside of that and order some fajitas or pastor. I mean you could order them, but do so at your own risk.
Admittedly, they do get the extra points in this category for having other meats as options and they also offer alcohol. Sometimes, you just need a michelada in your life.
Lastly, if you’ve never had carnitas just note that traditionally places will throw in all kinds of pig body parts in the cazo. And while you may not be able to get some kidney, lungs, or heart at Carnitas el Güero (as far as I know), just make sure you order correctly. For beginners, I’d recommend maciza (lean meat). You can also get a little bit of buche (stomach) or cueritos (skin…just very gelatinous) thrown in there, but the texture can be a little bit weird if you’ve never had carnitas so be forewarned. I like mine with a little bit of cueritos, but since this visit was a late (late) dinner, I went with the leaner pork.
It’s almost as if being on the Taco Mile forces you to step your game up with respect to the overall atmosphere. It’s definitely a vibe inside of Carnitas el Güero, you got the
banda corridos tumbados blasting, alcohol options, and just people looking to eat.
The spot is a little grimy, but hey, that’s how you know the tacos are going to be good.
I’m trying not to include my overall experience with this restaurant and base it only on this recent visit, but admittedly, it’s difficult (let’s just say they officially open at 9am, and on a few occasions they weren’t actually close to being ready…not to go off on a tangent but you often get this with raza-owned establishments. It’s the price you pay for good food sometimes.).
The reality is that this place is open 17 hours a day, seven days a week. So it’s very possible that the staff is completely overworked, especially late at night. Factor that in with a bunch of hungry patrons around midnight and you’ll get a place that could probably be more efficient. It’s not bad, it’s not great, it’s good enough.
One other tip, if you’re getting food to-go, always check your to-go order before leaving the restaurant. That’s probably best practice for any restaurant, but let’s just say that this has saved me here a couple times in the past.
Yes, the food is that good here and with a menu that extensive, it may be worth another trip to try out some of their non-carnita offerings. Similar to Seolju, this is a good place to chop it up with the homies, maybe get another Pacifico in you before the night ends, and eat some tacos chingones.
I also feel like you get excellent value for what you’re paying. The personal order costs $12.99 and includes two tacotes (big tacos) and one doradita (fried carnitas taco), but I was able to make seven tacos from all the carnitas on that plate. So you could easily feed two, possibly three people just from that. Given that I’ve been here plenty of times (and will likely be back plenty of times), a perfect score in this category makes sense.
Total score: Don’t take my word for it, this place is frequented by many Austin FC supporters after a visit to Q2. Carnitas el Güero gets 21 out of 25 cantaritos.
Sunoco Food Trucks – 2601 W. Braker Lane
Saturday Hours: They are open after home matches!!
Cuisine: Various (but mostly tacos, let’s be real)
Ok so sometimes life happens and I should have had a review ready for you before Saturday’s match against Toronto. So my apologies since I said I’d have a review ready to go before every weekend home match in April, May, and June, but I doubt that anyone was waiting on pins and needles for our fourth installment.
So as promised last time, I am staying away from North Lamar and Rundberg (for now, anyway), and staying a little close to Q2. Ok, so maybe a lot closer! Today, we’re gonna talk about the trucks known as ‘The Sunoco Food Trucks.’
I also want to note that I won’t be using my usual rankings. Given that this is a review of multiple trucks, I feel it’s best just to talk about my overall experience.
I will be the first to admit that I never even considered eating at any of these trucks. Even though I walk by them on my way to and from Q2 on matchdays there was some sort of mental block that kept me from legitimately thinking about eating there. Enter my buddy and fellow member of Los Verdes, Marcelo Teson. After the first installment about Seolju, Marcelo suggested that I give the Sunoco (also known as, ‘El Nascar’) Trucks a go.
Even though Marcelo is Argentino, which is home to the famed choripán and some of the best pre/post match street food, and I trust his opinion on food, I was still dubious. I mean, I had never heard anyone talk about the Sunoco trucks, and it looked more like a place you go to eat because it’s conveniently located next to Q2, not because it’s necessarily good. But I figured, “hey, I have a job to do.” Eating food isn’t always glorious. Sometimes you gotta take one for the team and Capital City readers deserve to know more about the Sunoco Trucks.
To be honest with you, seven food trucks in one location could be a little overwhelming, especially after an intense match at Q2, and especially after the boys bring home all three points. Without knowing much about the trucks I would have chosen based on two factors: what I felt like eating at the time (which is likely going to be tacos as I’m sure we’re all well aware) and what the lines are looking like.
Luckily, I had Marcelo to guide me and he was quick to point out that there were two trucks to focus on given that Taqueria Mi Zacazonapan was closed (he says they’re the top dog, when they’re open. Google says they’re open from 7am to 3pm only): Tacos el Rincon and Taqueria Los Regios.
Tacos El Rincon
El Rincon is the more well-rounded of the two trucks. I ordered the bistek, pastor, tripa, and campechano on blue corn tortillas.
All of these tacos were serviceable, but the campechanos were far and above the star of the show. Tacos are almost exclusively filled with meats that are softer in texture. Campechanos are special because they’re a mix of meats: usually bistek, chorizo, and crispy chicharrones. El Rincon doesn’t use chorizo, they use pastor. But the result is still incredible: you get two contrasting textures in one taco. The saltiness and crunch of the chicharrones makes this taco a world beater.
Again, the rest of the tacos were good, not great. But the campechano was one of the best tacos I’ve had in this city and reason enough to go back to Tacos El Rincon.
In fact, I did go back to El Rincon. I had to make sure I wasn’t going crazy about these tacos. I ordered some for my friends Elliott and Adam, and they were both blown away. So yes. Go to El Rincon post-match and get you some campechanos.
Taqueria Los Regios
Prior to visiting Los Regios (but after learning about them from Marcelo), I had seen this Instagram video about Los Regios. It was clear that I had to try los Tacos Tlaquepaque, and wow, I was not disappointed.
The tacos are made of lean barbacoa meat, and the corn tortillas are dipped in oil and slightly fried (just like my mom makes her tortillas). This gives the tortillas a soft crunch, if that makes sense. But the salsa roja…oh my. This smoky salsa is out-of-this world good, and you get a pretty good amount of it. The idea is to just slather it all over your tacos and go ham.
In the days leading up to that meal, I knew I had to have those tacos again. I could not stop thinking about the Tacos Tlaquepaque. In my personal encyclopedia, you’ll find a picture of these tacos right in the section titled, ‘Late night tacos.’ I’m also pretty sure I dreamt about these tacos too. Which means that they are literally the stuff of dreams.
The Sunoco Trucks are a Vibe
One of the best parts about eating with buddies post-match is that you get an opportunity to reflect on the match while filling your stomachs. But imagine doing that with over 100 other Austin FC supporters that literally just left Q2 stadium.
The best part? There’s a gas station right there! After a win, you’ll often find people bringing back beers from the Sunoco and sharing with their fellow Verdes.
I can’t believe I’ve been sleeping on these trucks for so long. And there are still more to try! I don’t know if I’ll have that ready for you next time, or if it’ll take me a little longer, but we’ll be back to the trucks again soon.
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