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
Credit: Stuart Mullenberg
Authors note: I wrote the backpage “Quench” essay for Imbibe Magazine’s Texas issue, the first issue dedicated to the drink culture of a single state. My contribution explores taco and beer pairings. To read more from the issue click here.
After my wife and son, I have two great loves—tacos and beer. For my food blog, Taco Trail, I’ve eaten at hundreds of taquerías and Mexican restaurants in my adopted hometown of Dallas and across the United States. Meanwhile, I’ve logged countless hours at beer bars and craft breweries.
Texas is the land of the San Antonio puffy taco, the breakfast taco, and the fried-to-order crispy taco, known as the taco dorado south of the border. In the Lone Star State, tacos stuffed with lengua, suadero, barbacoa, carnitas and other fillings are sold in gas stations, from walk-up windows, from kiosks, in check-cashing shops, everywhere. And if you insult another Texan’s favorite taco spot, by saying something like, “Fuel City tacos are trash,” you’re spoiling for a fight. Texans are sensitive about their tacos. Yet somehow—in Texas, at least—craft beer isn’t typically found in the best taco joints. While the craft beer movement has been steadily gaining traction in Texas, the last few years have seen a major growth in markets like Dallas. Last December, in a public ceremony complete with bridesmaids and groomsmen, a local cheesemonger even married a beer (Peticolas’ imperial red ale, Velvet Hammer, which is admittedly a great catch). 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
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.
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
Courtesy Señor Locos
I’m fascinated by puffy tacos. So fascinated I went to San Antonio to eat my way through their history and plates of them. So, when I learned that a “San Antonio-style Tex-Mex icehouse” was open in Plano, I had to ask the owner if he/she plans to offer the iconic Alamo City dish at the establishment. The restaurant in question is Señor Locos and the owner, David Brian, whom I reached out to via Facebook and email yesterday says. In response to my wall post, he said, “Wow! Yes look for them to hit our Menu in April.”
And I see a lot of promise in the puffy tacos to come. First, Brian, who’s been in the Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurant world since he was 13 years old, has enlisted David Woodward as chef. Woodward resume includes working for Stephan Pyles in Las Vegas. But back to the puffy tacos. Brian says they’ve been tricky, a statement echoed by Tex-Mex masters. “The obstacle has been recreating the recipe, but we’re close to figuring it out.” Guests will have the ability to choose any protein as a puffy taco filling. Of course, there will be salsa options, too. “[Guests] can finish them off with our “Signature” Six Shooter salsas. These are six homemade salsas to dress any taco. In Mexico, a good taco is only great if topped with a good salsa.”
You can be sure as soon as puffy tacos earn a place on Señor Locos’ menu, I’ll be one of the first customers in line, primed not only for the airy, crunchy treats brimming with lettuce, tomato and cheese, but also for the carnitas, the Baja-style fish, the shrimp and what’s being advertised as a ceviche taco.
Señor Locos Tex-Mex Icehouse
701 W. Parker Road, Plano
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.