Monday, June 25, 2012

Fresa's - the Food Truck Without Wheels

Austin's food truck boom is the stuff of legend. Trucks sprout like weeds in vacant lots, surrounded at all hours by picnic tables, bicycles and mustachioed men in hats. In an effort to differentiate themselves in a crowded market, these places have taken on more and more ambitious cuisine. Lobster bisque, roasted tomato buffalo mozzarella caprese, and sous-vide pork belly all now come on wheels.

At the same time, Fresa's has been working the reverse angle. Fresa's, the newest outpost of the McGuire Moorman empire, is taking food that was born to be mobile - Mexico City style corn, chicken tortas, tortillas, agua fresca - and putting it inside a very solid building.

Fresa's is housed in the space formerly occupied by Emerald City Coffee Press on North Lamar between 9th and 10th. It's an awkward mid-century building, taller than it should be, with a massive overhang on one side, and a flat expanse of brick facade. Fresa's made it beautiful. A few raw wood accents, plenty of bright colors, beautiful typography, the best neon chicken sign in Austin; this place looks like it was born to be here. In truth, the lovely space is a mixed blessing, because as beautiful as it is, there's no way to spend any time there. A few stools work while you're waiting for your order at the counter, but that's it. No tables inside or out.

We opted for the closest picnic table we could think of, a quick drive away at 9th Street in Clarksville. It was a bit of an ordeal for lunch, but we were rewarded with very tasty goodies when we laid out the spread on the table. Tortas were a brilliant combination of creamy queso fresco, avocado, savory ancho-marinated pulled chicken and super fresh lettuce and tomato. Chips were well-seasoned, a little thicker than I would have liked, but were redeemed by a totally legit, slightly spicy, full on tex-mex queso. Corn was charred and slathered in mayo (sounds odd, I know), lime, salt and chili - a highlight for all of us. The horchata auga fresca was fragrant and lovely. In all, it was a formidable and tasty, if also pricey, lunch - well made, compellingly tasty, a solid step up from similar fare up the street at Zocalo.

I mention Zocalo for a reason there. Fresa's is an excellent place - no question about it - but it is so high-concept and so limited in what it does, that despite the better flavors at Fresa's, my next trip for some moderately healthy mexican-inspired goodness is likely to be Zocalo. I'd like a place to sit, something I can easily feed my kids, a couple more options on the menu. But that's just me - I'm hopeful that there are enough folks in Fresa's urban professional downtown-dwelling target market to make this place a success. I would hate to lose that neon chicken.

Special thanks to FairMorningBlue for help with the photos.

  Fresa's Chicken al Carbon on Urbanspoon


Sinda said...

Fresa's has become my go to spot for take-out when we're on the road and famished. I have a fierce love for the #1 torta, and the girls crave the aguas frescas. Expensive, but yum. Have you been to Elizabeth St. Cafe yet?

Beautiful photos, Tracy!

Unknown said...

As a to-go spot, I think they're dead on. A couple of picnic tables, an option Clarissa would eat, and I'm theirs forever.

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