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.
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
Filed under Austin, Best of, Dallas, DFW, Fort Worth, Houston, one of the freaking best, Reviews, San Antonio, Tex-Mex, Uptown
Las Cazuelas tacos de guisado stand
While Mexico City may not have New York’s skyscrapers, it’s every bit as big — bigger — and its people every bit as busy. Urban life doesn’t always allow for a home-cooked meal. So in DF, the home-cooked meal has come to the street in the form of tacos de guisado. Continue reading
Breakfast in Texas means tacos, and breakfast has been on my mind a lot lately. So, I’d thought I’d offer my current top 10 places for the proper way to begin a day—anywhere, not just in the Lone Star State.
Taqueria La Salsa Verde
Although its appearance shows otherwise, the taquera working this Richardson gas-station counter claims the taco de cabeza (above) is prepared al vapor. Whatever its preparation, the taco is still excellent. Which is really all that matters to me first thing in the morning. The choriqueso is the cabeza’s equal. 14225 Coit Road, 972-330-0403
The chorizo and cheese at this South Congress shack offers buckshot heat in a large tortilla, giving any road trip a fiery start. 4406 S. Congress Ave., Austin, 512-443-9308 Continue reading
Filed under Austin, Best of, breakfast tacos, DFW, East Dallas, North Texas, Oak Cliff, Plano, Richardson, San Antonio, Tex-Mex, Texas
This past Saturday, Feb. 23, three other men and I—with at least one casualty to National Margarita Day—set off for Fort Worth and its tacos. Our first stop was the Swiss Pastry Shop, a local institution opened in 1973 and owned and operated by Hans Peter Muller, son of the founder. Servers were scurrying about slammed after the first of two days of Cowtown races. Racers and their friends and families were grubbing down on hearty breakfast and lunch fare, while those waiting for a table were ogling the pastry cases, where Hans’ specialties including Swinkies and the Black Forest Cake waited for the likes us.
We were there for a day of tacos, among them the dessert tacos that I joked on Twitter Hans should create. A month later, the several of cajeta cheesecake cream, applewood-smoked bacon and candied jalapeños in a chocolate-dipped almond praline shell gems were ready. Rich and messy, kicking and sweet, the dessert tacos were as far from the Klondike Choco Taco as you could get—and fantasti! I had two at the shop, some mind-quieting flourless Black Forest Cake, as well as a Fort Worth Cheese Steak sandwich—sliced and grilled smoked ribeye with Hatch chiles and queso blanco—with three dessert tacos to go. Some chorizo and egg breakfast taco in a hand-rolled flour tortilla was thrown in for good measure. It was 11 a.m. Roadrunner Eats, Robert and Hans were off.
From the Swiss Pastry Shop, we set off for Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, another Fort Worth landmark and the reason I went crosstown. Roadrunner Eats wanted my take on the food there. Food he doesn’t much care for, to put it politely. The sliver of enchilada I had was terrible. Its red chile sauce tasted like it had turned. The crispy taco with a shell fried earlier that day was decent but a few more minutes and the soggy bottom would’ve succumbed to weight of the mild beef and sweet tomato salsa wedged inside the yellow envelope. Continue reading
If you’ve picked up the February issue of D Magazine—and if you haven’t, you should—you’ve seen my feature, “The Top 20 Taquerias in Dallas.” Unfortunately, between press time and the newsstand date, two of the restaurants listed shut their doors for good, although both cited they have future projects in mind. Each cited lack of customer traffic. Taco Republic, which wowed me with the Thai Chihuahua and use of tortillas made from nixtamal, closed last month and was ranked number 7 on my list. Taco Republic didn’t make to its first anniversary. Owner Ron Guest placed the blame squarely on the fast-casual joint’s location. Taco Republic was a pain in the neck to get to. Café Maya, made it past the year mark before closing in January, but not by much. The loss of Café Maya hurt. When co-owner Sergio Pinto broke the bad news to me, it felt like someone had thrown hundreds of slap bracelet around my gut. It hurt. And not just because it meant I’d be missing the killer cochinita pibil. Café Maya was a family-owned joint that put it all out there. I hate seeing family restaurants shut down. We need more of them.
What follows are additional write-ups that could’ve been on the list for some reason. About the first: Had I visited the truck more than once before I filed my story, the mobile concern would’ve broken the top 10, as the best taco truck in the Dallas. The second, a Dallas institution owned by one of the standard-bearers of Mexican food and Tex-Mex in this city, was edged out by a late entry. Nevertheless, it’s worthy of an honorable mention, as are Birrieria Aguiñaga, Fito’s #3, La Tejanita and Taco Ocho (which I’ve reviewed in the past). Continue reading
I’ve taken up to five buses and a DART rail line to get to a taquería. Several, including La Nueva Fresh & Hot and Tacos La Banqueta, are worth more than that. But not all the businesses I visit are tried-and-true Mexican joints that impress with south-of-the-border signature antojitos. Some are gourmet food trucks and fast-casual counter-service concerns that deserve as much kudos as the aforementioned treasures. Adding to my previous assembly of favorite non-traditional tacos, here are five more.
Latin Love at Taco Ocho
One of two remarkable Richardson fast-casual taco joints, Taco Ocho cruises into pan-Latino territory. Among the eight tacos available, the Latin Love is hunk. Its threads of salt-tinged beef lead into the sweetness provided by slice of fried ripe plantain, accented a by smear of refried black beans, a drizzle of salsa verde and a sprinkle of cotija. And to wrap it up, the corn tortilla withstands the heft of the fine contents. Continue reading
Filed under Best of, Dallas
I lump specialty and traditional tacos in my Best Of lists because the pesky issue of taco authenticity is something I overcame long ago. The breakfast taco (a Tex-Mex classic) is no less legitimate than a taco al pastor (an iconic Mexico City snack appropriated from the roasting preparation Lebanese immigrants brought with them in the 20th century). The same goes for Velvet Taco’s fare or the Taco Bell-Frito Lay chimera, the Doritos Locos Tacos.
Today, I temporarily separate the categories. The specialty/gourmet/gringo/upmarket/whatever you want to call the tacos that do not adhere strictly to a misplaced perception of the uber-traditional deserve as much praise and scrutiny as the liquid fire of the guisado verde from La Nueva Fresh & Hot or the crackerjack carnitas from El Pueblo Restaurant on Jefferson Avenue. This list, then, gives greater attention to tacos and restaurants who have earned it. And now—with old favorites and double-takes—in no particular order: Continue reading