It may seem like a gimmick, but Juan in a Million has been around for too long to be a flash in the pan. Offering up the Mac truck of the breakfast taco scene, the “Don Juan”, it would seem that this place is set up to be a mere Man vs. Ridiculous Amounts of Food showdown. But no, the food is actually pretty darn good.
Let’s back up a bit. First, Juan in a Million has been an Austin institution since 1981. Second, it’s located in what could almost be the Little Mexico part of town – most of the business signs are in Spanish and the rules-as-suggestions nature of the driving almost makes me feel like I’m back in Mexico. Finally, check out this menu. It’s filled with all manner of Tex-Mex and Mexican delights. And seriously, the name alone is worth a visit, right?
My first visit, now several years ago, is still my favorite. It started with a bone-crushing handshake from Juan (Meza, the owner) himself as he greeted us at the door. When it came time to order, I couldn’t resist trying out the Machacado con Huevo, a mixture of scrambled eggs and shredded dried beef (sometimes called carne seca). Imagine tender, fluffy eggs studded with spicy/salty shreds of goodness. I swear to you, it was almost better than bacon.
Since that first visit, I’ve been guilty of always ordering the same thing (which is truly a crime here). And amusingly enough, it’s the “Don Juan” I order (usually splitting it with my husband). My food requirements were no different on a recent post-Thanksgiving visit when we took our out-of-town guests to get some proper breakfast tacos. Part of the problem is that we trek down to this part of town so infrequently that I go there craving that specific taco. And oddly, there’s really nothing racy or particularly unusual about it (beyond its size), but somehow, it has solidified a place on the list of dishes I occasionally but very specifically crave. The “Don Juan” is a secret mixture of bacon, egg, potato, and cheese, and with the extra tortillas they sell you for a few nickels each, Sean and I actually make four separate breakfast tacos out of our one dish. Dolloped with Juan’s wickedly flavorful salsa, this is very nearly the perfect treat for me.
We ordered horchata to go with our tacos (usually I order black coffee, which for some reason seems to go perfectly with spicy Mexican (Texican?) breakfast). Horchata (at least what’s generally served around Austin – my understanding is that it can be infinitely varied) is a rice-based drink that is flavored with sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla (and sometimes almonds and other nuts) and is sometimes complemented with a bit of cow’s milk. And the horchata at Juan in a Million is delicious. It’s sweet without being syrupy, and they augment theirs with a bit of milk which gives it a nice creamy mouth-feel. Amusingly enough, Sean and I received our horchatas, and our guests (his sister and her roommate) eyed them sort of suspiciously. But on being urged to taste ours, they quickly ordered horchatas for themselves as well. The name is tough to remember and the drink looks a little odd, but it really is pretty tasty.
We left the restaurant well fed and happy. Our guests enjoyed their breakfast, and everyone was glad for the minimal financial outlay. One final important note – depending on the day, Juan in a Million can be insanely busy. There’s gobs of parking in the back, but it can fill up quickly. Service inside is generally very efficient, so even if you’re standing in line, odds are good you’ll get a seat in short order.