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Austin Mini-Chain Taco Flats Is Opening a Mexican Slow-Smoked Meats Restaurant in Smithville

Carne Lenta will serve slow-cook birria, barbacoa, carnitas, and picadillo, and more local meats

Carne Lenta in Smithville
Carne Lenta in Smithville
Carne Lenta [Official]
Erin Russell is associate editor of Eater Austin, a native Austinite, and a big fan of carbs.

Austin taco mini-chain Taco Flats is opening a Mexican slow-smoked meats restaurant, Carne Lenta, in Smithville this week. It’s taking over the former location of Micklethwait Market and Grocery space at 114 Northeast Second Street, opening tomorrow, Wednesday, July 16.

Carne Lenta, which is Spanish for “slow meat,” will serve slow-cook birria, barbacoa, carnitas, and picadillo, available by-the-pound and within tacos. The restaurant will use local cows, and Tony Olvera, who also worked the overnight pits at Micklethwait, will butcher everything in-house. The tortillas will be made on the premises as well.

In terms of drinks, there will be beer from places such as Friends and Allies, Pinthouse, and Saint Arnold’s, all for a suggested donation, which the restaurant will donate to rotating charities. Plus there are soft drinks for sale.

Carne Lenta will have a walk-up counter with indoor and outdoor seating. If all goes well, Carne/Taco Flats owner Simon Madera share that it may open a bar inside and expand into the market section.

A smoker at Carne Lenta
A smoker at Carne Lenta
Carne Lenta [Official]

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Madera is limiting the number of people at the restaurant to 20 inside and 20 outside, has installed sanitation stations, and is conducting temperature checks on staff.

The restaurant came about as the building’s owners were frequent customers of Taco Flats, and Madeira wanted to streamline the supply chain of his restaurants. Carne’s meats and house-made tortillas will be used for Taco Flats as well.

Micklethwait pitmaster Tom Micklethwait had opened the Smithville restaurant in February 2019, and had to close it a year later, because of slow sales and the decision to focus on the two Austin trucks (the original barbecue truck, which remains open for takeout service, and Taco Bronco, which remains temporarily closed).

“The second wave of COVID-19 has dropped our sales” at Taco Flats, Madera told Eater, referring to the current ongoing novel coronavirus surge, but there’s been “lots of neighborhood support.” The rapid requirement changes from the government agencies has “forced us to adapt weekly,” he added. The three Austin locations of Taco Flats are currently serving food and drinks to-go, and its patios are open for dine-in service.

As a result of the statewide executive order reclosing bars last month, Madera had to shut down his East Austin bar La Holly for the time being. However, the on-site Taco Flats food truck is still open for to-go food and drinks.

“We feel good about where things are,” Madera said, “it’s just a fight we have to be ready for for who knows how long.”

Taco Flats

5520 Burnet Road, , TX 78756 (512) 284-8352 Visit Website

Carne Lenta

114 Northeast 2nd Street, , TX 78957 (512) 237-1422 Visit Website