Music Festivals

Snackshot: Citizen Journalists

Armando Rayo (Mando for short) and J.D. Nasaw are two Austin-based food bloggers that you couldn't help running into during SXSWi, and for good reason: They're intent on changing the world for the better through food and blogging.

Mando originally hails from El Paso and is better known through his food activism by the names @tacojournalism or @elmundodelmando. His philosophy is simple: connecting people over universally loved and simple-to-create food like tacos, and engaging the Hispanic community that creates these tacos through social media.

I first met him in Houston during an intimate taco truck crawl where a band of Austin food bloggers hit the road to experience the best that Houston had to offer. (They weren't disappointed.) Here at SXSW, Mando set up a free "best of Austin's breakfast tacos" tent for hungry attendees on Sunday morning, which was probably the best meal most people had all weekend. This tent tied not only to his love of tacos, but to the recent national attention focused on him when he was featured in a New York Times article on breakfast tacos, as was our own Robb Walsh. And while most Houstonians (and San Antonians and Valley residents) will strongly disagree that Austin is the home of the breakfast taco, or that the city has the best breakfast tacos in the nation, you can't deny that Mando is getting his message across from some of the largest podiums available.

Nasaw hails from San Francisco, but has lived in nearly every city in America. He is better known by the name @citizentaco and through his current passion and project: documenting our country's best food spots -- whether high-end restaurant or low-rent taco truck -- by creating an interactive Google map: visualization of data at its most delicious. Nasaw adheres to a gluten-free, dairy-free and mostly sugar-free diet, which means that taco trucks -- with their corn tortillas, authentic lack of shredded cheese and savory ingredients -- are often a beacon for him when on the road.

Recently, Nasaw took a trip to Houston and ate at 16 restaurants in only two days. If you're wondering what someone could possibly take away from any of those restaurants on such a compressed schedule, you only need to read his reviews of places like Feast, Jang Guem Tofu, Vieng Thai and Gerardo's to see for yourself: They're snappy, short and sharp -- just the facts, ma'am. When he's not making whirlwind culinary jaunts, Nasaw also directs people to good food on a more local level. Serious Eats asked him to create a list of the can't-miss restaurants in Austin for SXSW festival-goers.

Between Mando and Nasaw, there's nothing keeping you from eating the best food that Austin has to offer. So put down that crappy burger you bought on 6th Street and go eat something real.

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Katharine Shilcutt