On two consecutive days I found myself in Richardson. And two consecutive days, I left two taquerias with a skip in my step and a smile on my face. The second, La Candelaria—named after the religious holiday marking the end of the Christmas season in Mexico and commemorating the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple—is tucked into a corner of a shopping center anchored by a large supermarket. But I only noticed that on the way out. So fixed I was on getting my mitts around the restaurant’s handmade tortillas on the independent recommendation of two friends.
The L-shaped taqueria was dark, even in the middle of the day, when I walked up to the counter and ordered one of almost everything (they were out of pancita [stomach, guts]).
There was only awful taco that day at La Candelaria—the hongos. The rubbery collection of sliced mushrooms was fresh from an aluminum culinary coffin. I caught the owner clearing tables and asked about the cabeza. The cachete, or cheek, was a tad too fatty for his tastes, but that he liked it all the same. (Of course he did.) If it needed less fat—which it didn’t; the cabeza was the leanest I’ve had in Dallas-Fort Worth—the cheek meat needed more seasoning. A net of iridescent fat would’ve provided. Continue reading
Dallas’ best potato and egg taco is found along Singleton Avenue, near the Trinity Groves. And I’m concerned it’s not long for this world. Until, a friend and I decided to try our luck with lunch at Taquería La Chilanga, the red, yellow, orange and white freestanding taquería at the foot of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, I’d not seen it open for business for months. I had thought it had already fallen victim to the restaurant concepts taking up the development led by uber-restaurateur Phil Romano and partners, at the eatery’s doorstep.
What we found wasn’t a gem but a solid operation making its own corn and flour tortillas by hand, a taquería that deserves constant business.
Lunch was every taco available—a total of seven—on tortillas de maiz hechas a mano split between two customers. We were the only customers. Continue reading
It all started with a photo message from Brandon Castillo. My friend, the executive director of the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market and co-producer of the North Texas Taco Festival, had sent me an image of a flyer with a trompo, the logo of the Saltillo, Mexico, soccer club, a map and words: Trompo Loco Highland Mart.
Our first attempt at eating at Trompo Loco was for naught. I arrived ahead of Brandon and found the blue corner building, a former bodega, closed with no sign of a lunch opening. We defaulted to Tacos La Banqueta, a short walk away. It wasn’t a bad move.
On recent weekend morning, I get another photo from Brandon, this one of a lone taco de trompo on blue-and-white checker paper. It was followed by a picture of a trompo, carmine-colored spinning top-shape hunk pork capped with the top half of a pineapple at the corner of Worth Street & North Carroll Avenue.
It wasn’t until yesterday that I finally had the opportunity to try the tacos at Trompo Loco Highland Mart. They incredible. Continue reading
When I interviewed La Nueva Fresh & Hot Tortilleria owner Gloria Vazquez for my D Magazine Best Tacos in Dallas feature, I learned that not only has her family been making tortillas since the late 1960s in their home state of Zacatacas, Mexico, but that between she and her siblings the Vazquez clan owns and operates several Dallas-area tortilla factories.
In an email conversation, Vazquez said, “My father, Arcenio Vazquez Muñoz, opened the first Tortilleria in Rio Grande, Zacatecas, in 1968. Currently in Rio Grande there are six locations of which I am the owner of one, they are all still operating the same way they did when my father first opened them. There are [other] locations in the metroplex owned by my two brothers, which have been opened for nine years.” Aside from the Webb Chapel branch, there is a La Nueva Fresh & Hot in Lewisville but what of the other Vasquez family shops? Some of them do business under the name La Nueva Puntada.
Last weekend, my family and I stopped at the Duncanville location after a camping trip. We were filled with excitement and high expectation, and hungry. Like La Nueva Fresh & Hot, the La Nueva Puntada on Camp Wisdom Road isn’t a restaurant, which is contrary to what the website photo gallery led me to believe. Had junior not been drowsy and had our car not been stuffed with camping equipment, we would’ve eaten our tacos in the comfort of it. Instead we took the food home. That wasn’t the best decision. By the time we got home and opened our Styrofoam to-go containers, the tacos had cooled some.
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
Harry Hines Boulevard has a plethora of Mexican restaurants. And I’ve only begun to undertake my exploration of the area, an extension of the Maple Avenue taqueria corridor, first with The Taco Pronto Cafe. Now, with Tacos House.
The two-room family Mexican restaurant wasn’t on the day’s taco itinerary and, truth be told, was chosen for its festive exterior and the promise of barbacoa de borrego (lamb).
Slices of reflective, maroon-colored pork resting in greasy tortillas are a beautiful sight streaked. Even if I could do without the greasy tortillas underneath the meat. But that’s what you get at a Fito’s Tacos de Trompo, including #3, a walk-up taqueria next to a gas station on Northwest Highway, up the road from La Nueva Fresh & Hot Tortilleria.
While Fito’s #3 can’t compete with La Nueva—and its tortillas can be wrung out to fill a deep fryer—the trompo is stellar. The achiote bit back with mild chile. I had only one other type of taco available to me, bistec. The taquero behind the window counter said they were out of barbacoa, lengua campechanas, piratas, an array of potentially exquisite styles. As for the bistec… Continue reading
Many taquerías looked closed from the street, but I had never seen Rosita’s open, even though my friends at TacOCliff had reviewed it and another friend recommended it. “Trompo tacos done right,” he said of the “Monterrey style spot.” Over a weekend, I drove by to find its neon open sign aglow. In I went.
While I did find excellent trompo, I also found three large paintings of biblical scenes on the north wall: one of the Last Supper depicting Judas contemplating his exit; one of Moses, the 10 commandments in one hand, a staff in the other framed by lightning; and one of the Nativity. Photos of Pancho Villa hung one the opposite wall. As you see above, the signs of such religiosity began on the exterior of the strip-mall taquería.
The menu over the cake display advertised barbacoa, and it turned out to be a mix of cachete and lengua de res (beef cheek and tongue). I didn’t give it a second thought, and added it to my order, along with carne deshebrada.
Mike Karns has it made. In one corner—in one building, actually—across from the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science and a Frisbee’s throw from Klyde Warren Park, The head of Firebird Restaurant Group has three restaurants for three demographics. Anchoring the property is the de facto flagship outpost of the El Fenix chain. Next door, the second Meso Maya—the first is on Preston—offers chef Nico Sanchez’s gourmet Mexican fare for a chic set. Behind that, walk-up Taquería La Ventana serves classic tacos in tortillas made from nixtamal, for those who might only have enough time for a nosh at one of its outdoor tables. And for that, it’s perfect. Aside from food trucks, you’d be hard pressed to find such convenient and adequate grub at the border of Uptown and Downtown. Even if La Ventana’s menu contains offensive language (more on that later). 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