Habaneros — A Taco Revolution

Fuel up after filling up your car's gas tank.

Fuel up after filling up your car’s gas tank.

Tacos can be served from practically anywhere, one of the most popular spaces being the gas station. And why not? Customers can fill up their jalopy’s tank then stuff their own. These taco operations are busy throughout the day, but breakfast often calls for patience. Lines are common. That’s where Habaneros — The Taco Revolution in Arlington, Texas, comes in. I stopped at the gas station taqueria en route to Fort Worth. Just off the Ballpark Way exit on I-30, Habaneros takes up about half of the business with tables and booths and a salsa bar against a counter. Continue reading

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Filed under Arlington, breakfast tacos, DFW, Reviews, Tex-Mex, Texas

My Favorite Tacos of 2014

Tacos!

Get me talking about tacos and see me light up like a child who receives the exact gift he wished for Christmas morning. From their history and folklore to their variability, there is much joy in tacos. In no particular order, these are the tacos that brought me that joy in 2014.

A plate of tacos at Los Torres.

A plate of tacos at Los Torres.

Taco de Barbacoa Roja Estilo Sinaloa at Los Torres Taqueria
Unlike the barbacoa commonly available in Texas, this specialty of Sinaloa (where the Torres family has roots) is a mix of beef and pork, dark red from chiles colorados and fragrant spices. It’s always included in my order at Los Torres, where homey braises and handmade tortillas band together to give Dallas it’s best taqueria. When you visit the little spot in Oak Cliff—and you will—resist the urge to order tortillas de maiz hechas a mano. Go for the thin, nearly translucent handmade flour tortillas characteristic of Sinaloa.

Taco de Barbacoa de Cabeza at Gerardo’s Drive-In
The table-hushing barbacoa at Gerardo’s on Houston’s east side is among the best I’ve had in Texas yet. It’s silky and full, though delicate, and pulled directly from the cows’ head. My visit to Gerardo’s included a kitchen tour from Owner José Luis Lopez—Gerardo is his son—who obviously has pride in his work. He propped the cow heads for photos taken by the crew I was running around Houston with that morning, amigos in food J.C. Reid and Michael Fulmer, cofounders of the Houston Barbecue Festival, and photographer Robert Strickland.

Taco al Pastor at Taco Flats
Austin isn’t a taco al pastor town. It’s strength resides in breakfast tacos and Tex-Mex. So this killer version of the undisputed king of tacos on a housemade tortilla from Taco Flats, a new Burnet Road bar with taco-focused pub grub came as a surprise. Sit at the far end of the bar for a view of the trompo. Continue reading

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Filed under Austin, Best of, Dallas, DFW, Fort Worth, Houston, one of the freaking best, Reviews, San Antonio, Tex-Mex, Uptown

Machete Tacos + Tequila

Machete Tequila + Tacos second location is across from the newly restored Denver Union Station.

Machete Tequila + Tacos second location is across from the newly restored Denver Union Station.

Denver may be better known for its burritos, but the Mile High City has its fair share of tacos, both famous and traditional. You might have heard of Pinche Taqueria. Or breakfast taco joint Moontower Tacos opened by a former Austinite. Dallas-based Rusty Taco also has an outpost in nearby Aurora, Colorado. Or Taqueria Mi Pueblo, serving everything from lengua and tripe to, yes, burritos.

Due to a busy schedule during a work trip to Denver, I was unable to visit any of those taco joints. I did, however, get to squeeze in time at the second location of Machete Tequila + Tacos.

An upmarket spot serving creative yet traditional tacos from chef José Avila, Machete’s flagship opened in the Cherry Creek neighborhood in 2011 and quickly garnered praise. The Lower Downtown branch across from Union Station fired up its kitchen this year. It was also on the receiving end of critical and popular response.

It’s easy to see why. Continue reading

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Taco Flats

Taco Flats' modern and sleek exterior.

Taco Flats’ modern and sleek exterior.

Taco Flats was the taqueria I most anticipated in 2014. Named, with permission, after a legendary Austin bar and rock club, the business from owner Simon Madera, a Rio Grande Valley native and restaurant industry veteran, opened in November. It has become something of a craft beer bar-modern taqueria along a stretch of Burnet Road that is becoming a taco hub. The taqueria is in the same strip center as the brick-and-mortar home of fancy lonchera Peached Tortilla and a short walk from Fork and Taco, which has an Uchi alumnus in its kitchen. Fork and Taco is an admirable restaurant that understands the importance of the handmade tortilla, but this is a review of Taco Flats, not Fork and Taco. That post is forthcoming.

As I mentioned, the wait for Taco Flats’ opening was worth it. From the moment you open the door, you know you’re in for something different. Continue reading

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Filed under Austin, Reviews, Texas

Fusion Taco

A trio of fused tacos.

A trio of fused tacos.

John Tesar is a damn great chef. He is also as adept at navigating social media as he is the nuances of aging meat and fine seafood. His knack for promotion via Twitter and Facebook has, in the eyes of others in the restaurant industry, given them permission to flex their muscles. Where Tesar has succeeded, most others have bombed.

Fusion Taco in Houston, a food truck that went brick-and-mortar in 2013, is one such case. Co-owner Julia Sharaby, reportedly having taken issue with a perceived dis from Alison Cook and being left off the Houston Chronicle restaurant critic’s Top 100 Restaurants list, let loose her fury. It was noted by a couple of food blogs, but that was it. Flash and fizzle. The food at Fusion Taco is much the same. Continue reading

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Filed under Houston, Reviews, Texas

Book Review: The Tacolicious Cookbook

TacoliciousRecipesLead

Photography: © 2014 by Alex Farnum

This is an excerpt of a book review that originally appeared on Cowboys & Indians magazine’s website. Read the entire post at www.cowboysindians.com.

There is a small group of taquerias and food trucks pushing the boundaries of the taco in the United States. Wes Avila’s Guerrilla Tacos; Guisados from Armando De La Torre Sr. and Armando De La Torre Jr.; Alex Stupak’s Empellón in New York; Revolver Taco Lounge from the Rojas family in Fort Worth, Texas; Taqueria Feliz in Philadelphia, where Lucio Palazzo helms the kitchen; and Antique Taco in Chicago are all part of that company. And then there is Tacolicious from husband and wife Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave with executive chef Telmo Faria in San Francisco.

What Tacolicious and the others understand is that there exists a tradition that must be acknowledged. They remain faithful to it and have discovered how to play with their food within the boundaries, although they’re not afraid to punch the occasional hole in the barrier. These restaurants offer a mix of classic options and dishes that allow them to flex creative muscle, usually with an eye toward high-quality local, seasonal foods.

With Tacolicious: Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails, and More (Ten Speed Press, 2014) by Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave, Tacolicious has planted itself firmly in that foundation.

Read the rest and get recipes at www.cowboysindians.com.

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Filed under books, California, San Francisco, Taco Internet

Taqueria Eva’s Taco Truck

Just in case you didn't know what this truck sold.

Just in case you didn’t know what this truck sold.

Fort Worth has a wealth of loncheras. They’re stationed at the far end of grocery store parking lots, they’re parked alongside convenience stores—wherever they call roll up and set a table with a few chairs. That’s where I found Taqueria Eva’s, a taco truck on the city’s Northside.

An older gentleman sat reading a newspaper in the truck’s cab as a friend and I walked up to the lonchera. As we stepped up to the ordering window, a boy young enough to be the man’s son it open, took our order and immediately set to making our tacos, working the flattop and heating the tortillas like he—a kid—was a seasoned taquero. Continue reading

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Filed under DFW, food truck, Fort Worth, Reviews, Texas