Category Archives: one of the freaking best

Making Tejate at Mi Lindo Oaxaca

A bowl of tejate.

A bowl of tejate.

Tejate, a traditional Oaxacan drink made from maize, cacao, mamey seeds, and other ingredients—all handmade—is a labor-intensive preparation. And that’s an understatement.  From the hand-shelling of cacao and the grinding of the nixtamal  to the serving, takes several hours.

At Mi Lindo Oaxaca in Dallas, Honorio Garcia and family take that time to make tejate from scratch at their restaurant. Here’s a video of the incredible process that shows how the preservation of tradition trumps the creativity of modernity.


Filed under Dallas, Oak Cliff, one of the freaking best, Tacolab, Texas, West Dallas

My Favorite Tacos of 2014


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


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

Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop


A group of wait staff broke out into a ranchera when they learned it was a customer’s birthday. There was clapping. The clapping spread. As did the singing. To my left was a photo of Vicente Fernandez, the king of ranchera music. In front of me, at Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop in East Austin, was a platter of incredible breakfast tacos, flawless homemade flour tortillas—thick without being dense, fluffy without being mistaken for an old pillow—and all. Within one envelope was snappy dredged in flour bacon, firm eggs that bore a sheen, the heavy-handed spread of captivating refried beans. The pictured round breakfast sausage patties are one of only a couple of items not made in-house, but they have to be on the menu. Reportedly, sausage patties are among the first ingredients placed in a tortilla in Texas to create a breakfast taco.

There are myriad theories on the origins and appropriate composition of breakfast tacos. Some believe that Austin can rightfully claim Texas’ favorite day starter. This declaration is justified, they insist, because Austin is where the breakfast taco was perfected and popularized. Support is found in food writers in cities like New York who slap the qualifier “Austin-style” before mentioning our homegrown staple, tourists who return to their hometowns oohing and ahhing about them, and Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop. Continue reading


Filed under Austin, one of the freaking best, Reviews, Tex-Mex, Texas

A Brief Post About Rusty Fenton’s Passing

Rusty Taco/Facebook.

Rusty Taco/Facebook.

As many of you know, Rusty Fenton, founder of Rusty Taco, passed away early Monday morning of cancer. When I learned about his condition, I was floored. How could one of the nicest guys I know have cancer? I thought. When I read Carol Shih’s SideDish post about Rusty’s death, I was having a post-work beer. I cried in that beer.

I knew it was coming, but awareness doesn’t soften the news of such an event.

Rusty had been diagnosed with the disease while developing his successful taqueria brand, Rusty Taco, and its first store on Greenville Avenue. Since then, he dedicated his life to his family and Rusty Taco, making sure that his wife, Denise, and his four daughters, would be taken care of when he was gone. All the while, he smiled.

I work across the street from the Greenville Avenue Rusty Taco. It’s my regular breakfast taco spot, and when Rusty was alive I’d sometimes rush down there for lunch in hope of catching Rusty to see how he was doing and to see his smile.

The last time I saw him was during one of those lunchtime pop-ins. We shook hands, talked about a food he fell in love with during a recent trip to Mexico City. He was considering adding it to his menu.

Before that, we saw one another at the North Texas Taco Festival. He and his wife walked up to me in the middle of the madness, they said hi and Rusty, sensing I was frazzled, gave me a hug. It helped.

I can’t say Rusty and I were friends, but he sure made me feel like one whenever we spoke.

Rest in peace, Rusty, and thanks for the tacos. You will be missed.

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Filed under News, one of the freaking best

El Taco del Rincon de Villa

A platter of tacos at El Taco del Rincon de Villa

As important as follow-up visits are, I can’t make return trips to every review subject. Those I do eat at more than once are usually my favorite and the worst spots, including Los Torres, La Nueva Fresh & Hot, Mi Tierrita, La Banqueta, El Si Hay and Fuel City. My opinions of which remain unchanged.

Over the course of several visits during a three-year period—and six in the last month—my impression of El Taco del Rincon de Villa (formerly just dear old El Rincon de Villa), on the other hand, couldn’t have shifted by a greater margin: From mixed after my original visit to its current ranking in my top 10 (or as I thought to myself, Holy crap! When did this happen?). Continue reading


Filed under Dallas, DFW, North Texas, one of the freaking best, Reviews

The Best Tacos in Dallas, Give or Take

Dallas Observer Gives Some Taco Love in 2011 Best Of Issue

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


Filed under Best of, Dallas, DFW, food truck, News, North Texas, one of the freaking best, Reviews, Texas

Revolver Taco Lounge

Not all great taquerías are hovels found in neglected districts. Some shine white and clean in developing enclaves. Case in point: Revolver Taco Lounge, a contemporary Mexican restaurant awash in white with orange accents along West Seventh Street in Fort Worth.

Opened for more than a year, Revolver offers Mexican standards humble in presentation. Here, the Rojas family offers pipian, a green mole with pumpkin seeds, blankets duck breast. A lobster taco is laced with chipotle butter sauce. In the mood for huitlacoche? Revolver’s got it.

The eatery’s tacos come wrapped in house-made tortillas produced from nixtamal (i.e., the hard way) in a kitchen staffed by—stereotypically enough—smock-wearing elderly women, among them owner Gino Rojas’ mother and aunt. Continue reading


Filed under DFW, Fort Worth, one of the freaking best, Reviews, Taco Tours, Texas

Doña Lencha Restaurant and Taquería #1

On my way to the airport for a San Diego-bound flight—and unsure about what gastronomic pitfalls or crescendos awaited me in SoCal—I stopped for tacos at one of two Doña Lencha restaurants in Irving.

The Story Road location anchors one corner of a strip mall with a large dining room, but I wasn’t there for a sit-down meal. So, I got tacos needed to gird me through my ride on Spirit Airlines as a to-go order.

To that end, I selected four gratifying tacos. So gratifying that the bizarre ending to my time there won’t deter me from returning. Inconspicuously. Continue reading

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Filed under DFW, Irving, one of the freaking best, Reviews

La Norteña Food Mart

“Awesome!” the thought swims around my mind as the cabeza taco’s qualities continue to swim in my mouth. Awesome!  But the cabeza, cooked for six hours, isn’t the only phenomenal taco at La Norteña Food Mart in Five Points. The pastor and carnitas options are fantastic. The beef guisada (thick stewy delight), when available is a gem. Heck, even the chicken is good.

The market/taqueria is an oasis in this rough and tumble section of Lake Highlands, a couple of blocks east of Greenville Avenue, and the subject of a previous story. Since that first post, I have returned several times to snack on tacos and for chats with the good-natured owner, Baldemar Martinez. Continue reading

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Filed under Lake Highlands, one of the freaking best