It’s not difficult to find handmade or housemade tortillas in Dallas-Fort Worth. Tortillerias are plentiful, and any business offering them will make sure you know it. Taqueria Laredo along U.S. Highway 67 in south Oak Cliff is one such establishment. The words are painted large across a retaining wall on one side of a parking lot usually full of cars, pickup trucks mostly. The same wall bears a menu in the form of painted signposts. It’s a fanciful touch that has Taco Trail written all over it.
As its name suggests Laredo Restaurant serves Rio Grande Valley-style eats, namely barbacoa and flour tortillas with the radius of the wheel from a child’s bike. Those items, and by the looks of the food on tables, pozole,are the hits of the house, available only on specific days at a taqueria whose days of operations are Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. Laredo is a special place. Continue reading
I got the call a couple hours before opening time. Luis Villalva, who had previously worked at Revolver Taco Lounge in Fort Worth and most recently worked with Taco Party (he was the guy in the soccer jersey manning the trompo at TacoCon), was finally ready to serve tacos at his own place, El Come [Koh-meh] Taco on Fitzhugh Avenue. “José, it’s Luis. We open El Come Taco at 5 p.m. Come eat some tacos,” was the voicemail message. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it for first service. But I made it for lunch the next day—the day I had waited for since Villalva clued me into his plan at TacoCon. And it was worth it.
El Come Taco translates to He Eats Taco, and, for the time being, tacos are all you can eat when you visit the taqueria. Villalva did tell me huaraches, quesadillas and other antojitos would join the slate eventually. Nevertheless, the tacos are enough. They’re also surprising. Not just because there are off-menu options but because Villalva and staff have brought a little of their former Mexico City operation, Transito, to East Dallas. Continue reading
The populist nature of tacos lends itself to lightheartedness and (sometimes bawdy) humor—just think of the latest taco meme or anthropomorphic tacos, L.A. Taco’s Taco Man. The editors and author of La Tacopedia understand this. That book is jammed with clever cartoons and art. Taqueria walls and facades are just as illustrated. Here is a selection of photos showcasing some of the taco art in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Continue reading
Come National Taco Day, Friday, you’ll be required to eat a plethora of tacos. You’ll be overwhelmed with choices. So, we thought we’d offer a few choices. The following selections were compiled with the help of fellow taco enthusiasts across the United States. If your city is mentioned below, these joints are where you grab a taco or nine, especially if you haven’t visited it. Adventure is an integral component of the enjoyment of tacos.
Colonia Taco Lounge, 13030 E. Valley Blvd., La Puente, CA 91746, 626-363-4691, Facebook. Coliflor with a caper salsa on tortillas molded by ex-Bouchon head baker’s hands (te la puedes imaginar), taco de chayote with calabacita succotash, pork and kabocha squash pumpkin carnitas with a salsa seca
Diablo Taco, 3129 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, 323-666-4666, Facebook, Twitter, www.diablotaco.com. Coca-Cola asada, caramelized onions and white bacon beans (pictured) or the maple-fried chicken and kale.
El Faisan y El Venado, 231 N. Ave. 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042, 323-257-1770. Escabeche Oriental Continue reading
La Guadalupana’s parking lot on a busy Sunday.
Some are here fresh out of church, fashion cowboy boots reflecting the overhead lights. Some just rolled in for lunch. They’re wearing pressed embellished western shirts, what could pass as First Holy Communion gowns, work clothes, mechanics coveralls, whatever was clean and didn’t require ironing. I’m one of the latter. All of them, including myself, are crowded near a clear patch of counter between the cash register where customers place orders and the steam trays, separated from the full luncheonette counter by glass.
The trays hold guisos, carnitas and barbacoa (both only on weekend), menudo, and several grilled meats in their own juices. These are squeezed into gorditas, get piled on bread for tortas, bought by the pound, poured into small cauldrons and made into tacos.
All of these dishes pack the every table—especially the vermillion menudo—in the dining space of La Guadalupana, a meat market and grocery store in Oak Cliff. Continue reading
From the start, things were off. The waitress mumbled to herself as she led us to our table at El Ranchito #3. She whispered answers to our questions in Spanish and neglected to mention the restaurant was out of the drinks we ordered, part of the three-taco special platter with either a coca mexicana special, a Fanta or an agua fresca de tamarindo. The waitress acknowledged the order and it arrived quickly, but our drinks didn’t. When I asked for our drinks again, I was told the restaurant didn’t have any Coke or agua fresca. Only Fanta was available in the beverage case. She pointed to it. It was 11 a.m. The chance that there was a rush on the specials that had depleted the stock was, by then, zero.
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
As recognizable as the calaveras of Dia de los Muertos, loteria cards bearing archetypal figures drawn by Don Clemente Gallo in a Tarot-esque fashion are fixtures of Mexican popular culture. The cards, employed in a bingo-like game of chance, have inspired countless designers and artists. La Luna (the moon) adorns a switchplate. The wall concealing the bathrooms in Fito’s Tacos de Trompo #2 on West Davis Street is painted with a loteria card mural. Four Corners Brewing Company in West Dallas models its beer labels after the cards. And since we’re partnering with them to present TacoCon (Cerveza), we’d thought we have a little fun with them too.
In the run up to the festival, we’re releasing our own loteria cards, created by Alexander Flores. Print them. Collect them. Bring them to TacoCon (Cerveza) and use them to vote for your favorite taco truck. The first one, El Taco, is being released here. The rest will be available only on the North Texas Taco Festival Facebook page. ¡Buena suerte!
I don’t recall how I came across St. Tacos. I do know that from the McKinney taqueria’s Facebook photos, I needed to hightail it north on U.S. 75 at my first opportunity. The pictures showed a trompo, a spread of tacos and salsas so delightfully colorful you could read by them, not to mention the painted roads on St. Tacos’ floor.
Would the journey to St. Tacos end in a reward of cochinita so spot-on the achiote and sour oranges mistook the sides of my mouth for boxing gym punching bags? If I made my way to St. Tacos, would I be welcomed with pork sliced off a trompo like a casino card dealer’s flicks cards to the poor suckers with high expectations? Would the pork bear a protective, happy crust from its slow dance on the trompo and bear evidence of chile and citrus wrap? What of the barbacoa? Would it coat my stomach with stale canola oil?
The answer to the latter questions is a resounding “No!” The rest needs some explaining. St. Tacos’ barbacoa is a solid take on the classic preparation. It’s lean without losing body. There is no excess grease. It’s tried-and-true barbacoa through and through. The cochinita gets high marks for being the pugilist I hoped it would be. During my conversation with Eduardo Muensch, St. Tacos’ owner, the Mexico City native revealed how he prepared his cochinita (extended marinating isn’t involved) and where he learned the recipe (Merida, Yucatan). The bistec wasn’t pulverized, a travesty all too common in many area taquerias. Continue reading
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