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Taco Internet: National Taco Week Edition

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TacoWeekBannerFrom east to west and points north, tacos were first and foremost on everyone’s minds this week. The New York Times even got a piece of the action with its Taco Issue. One of the articles printed in that section ruffled a few feathers by claiming the Big Apple was just as great a taco capital as Los Angeles. Bill Esparza fired back with a pat on the head: “it’s cute that you keep trying over there.” Gustavo Arellano tempered things with a shoulder squeeze, reminding us that New York’s place in stateside Mexican food history had been secured with Buffalo Bill and Juvencio Maldonado. The latter secured a patent for a tortilla-frying device in 1950 (why is such a significant milestone so easily forgotten?).

We took the opportunity to ramp up activity with interviews, a review, a recipe, a National Taco Day roadmap curated with the help of friends across the United States and Canada. Local publications repackaged old content. For a taste of other Taco Internet goings-on, make the jump. Continue reading

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Smartphone TacoQuest App Available Now

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Taco locator smartphone applications aren’t new. I have yet to find one that works. TacoQuest might be that one. The new app by Kitchener, Ontario-based DinDin Kitchen Inc., allows taco enthusiasts worldwide contribute their local tacos and taco joints with the TacoQuest community. Taco photos, comments, check-ins and reviews are submitted by users around the globe with Foursqure-powered venue data. Think of it like a cross between Untappd and Foursqure, but, better—obviously.

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“Tacos can be good and tacos can be great. With TacoQuest, we’re building a platform to help customers find the most amazing taco experience possible,” says Alex Kinsella, DinDin Kitchen Inc., co-founder, “With TacoQuest, we’re building out a micro-search platform that our community can extend in an infinite number of ways.”

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Taco Ticker: The South, The Revamped & The Stolen

Another Friday, another Taco Internet roundup of the week’s news. Around these parts, I reviewed the Taco Pronto Cafe, a Tex-Mex diner in the Medical District, and El Pueblo Restaurant along East Jefferson Boulevard. The former trades in top-notch handmade flour tortillas, while the latter serves the best carnitas in Dallas. Alice Laussade, the Dallas Observer’s Cheap Bastard answers taco-related questions of considerable import (to me, anyway) in the latest installment of Lengua Sessions. She’ll be serving her pizza creations (mutations?) at Cane Rosso, Monday, Oct. 29, as part of the restaurant’s guest chef series. Proceeds will benefit the National MS Society.

Nearby, Teresa Gubbins shares her thoughts about Tacos & Avocados in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram review. She says the tacos at Jason Boso’s upscale taqueria concept are “generous without being unwieldy.” City of Ate, shows us photos of the Taco Cabana re-design. Central Track takes one for the team, spending an entire day at Fuel City and discovers with gas station tacos comes gas station fashion.

Elsewhere, we have the intersection of Mexican and Southern foodways, Brad Pitt and free tacos for everyone. Continue reading

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The Cheesecake Factory

My family and I found ourselves in one of the oversized, church-comfortable booths at the Cheesecake Factory in the Parks at Arlington shopping mall. It was a choice convenient for my son’s great-grandmother, who was due to be picked up by her son at the adjacent Barnes & Noble after lunch, and aren’t eateries like the Cheesecake Factory about convenience? They’re also about intimidation.

With a menu including more than 200 selections the size of an overgrown First Holy Communion Missal and specialties running the gamut of culinary traditions, I was a bit taken aback by my options. Most menus I order from list less than 20 items. Rarely to they exceed two pages. So, I honed in on something familiar: Tacos. I went with the fish.

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Taquería Mezquite

When I’ve eaten at Ojeda’s, I’ve not noticed Taquería Mezquite, a small restaurant across from the Tex-Mex citadel on Maple Avenue. When I’ve lunched at Maple & Motor or at any of the other surrounding establishments. However, I did notice the small restaurant while wasting time along Maple before an unfortunate meal at El Rey del Grill. With advertisements utilizing rough representations of a ram on the fascade and on the side of the pastel-green building housing it, the eatery should have never been missed by anyone, especially not by my lunch companions and I. We were about to rectify the oversight, ready for Taquería Mezquite’s goods.

And the one-room joint, humorously identified as a sports bar above the entrance, certainly was good.

None of the dollar tacos disappointed, not even Mezquite’s chicharrón, one of the few palatable examples of the style—fried pork skin reconstituted in safety orange-colored salsa—I’ve consumed in Dallas.

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Lavanderia

The assaulting aroma of dryer sheets and bleach overpower any whiff of food advertised at Lavanderia, the laundromat at the intersection of Rosemont Avenue, 10th Street and Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff.

But if you walk up to the cashier’s stall, you can order tacos, pizza and ice cream. The tacos available, fajita and pastor, were initially pleasant. However, the demanding masticatory calisthenics revealed meat that was dirty—as if it had been run through a child’s sandbox before hitting the crusty grill—and got me sick.

Stay away from the laundromat tacos.

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El Rey Del Grill

I spend a lot of time among chipped Formica, cracked tile and sticky counters. And do so happily. The joy I find in tacos is the sense of amazement 1977 audiences experienced when the star destroyer filled the screen in the opening scene of Star Wars. There are a lot of woahs, holy cows and what the hells. Whether my time at a taqueria is positive or punishing, though, I always learn something.

During a recent outing to Maple Avenue, I stepped into El Rey Del Grill, a restaurant reeking of cumin and floor cleaner, serving tacos not much more palatable than the mop used to with said floor cleaner.

With only four options on the menu, which included quesadillas, burritos and a carne asada platter, I had my work cut out for me. Continue reading

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A Preview of the Rock and Roll Tacos/La Grange Menu

When I’m passionate something—um, like tacos—I go all in. In the realm of tacos, I’m passionate about Rock and Roll Tacos, the Dallas So-Cal-style taco truck that rolled out in December 2011.

Quickly, Rock and Roll and its owner James Quiñonez were everywhere, organizing food truck events, forming a loose confederation of like-minded mobile food vendors, partnered with Dos Equis for the 2012 Feast of the Brave semi-exotic taco promotion and now, as I’ve been detailing, is taking over LaGrange’s kitchen and opening a full-servicerestaurant.

The ambitious and indefatigable James and Mary Ann Quiñonez —with six kids, they need to be—aren’t content to replicate their truck’s menu in a brick-and-mortar setting. No, they’re going all out with a food program and a design scheme. Continue reading

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Café Maya Mexican Kitchen & Cantina

On our first date, my wife lured me back to her Brooklyn apartment under false pretenses. She said watching Secretary, a movie I’d never heard of, would be the perfect ending to a night of rollerskating and pinball. We’ve been together since. I hope the same goes for Café Maya Mexican Kitchen & Cantina, especially for the Oak Cliff restaurant’s punchy cochnita taco.

First featured by Teresa Gubbins on Pegasus News and recommended to me by Steve Cruz of Might Fine Arts Gallery, Café Maya sits in the former Ojeda’s space and is owned by Sergio Pinto, the grandson of the original Ojeda’s founders. In its dining room, replete with dark wood, black-and-white photographs and folk art—think Calaveras, jaguars, a map of Yucatan—is served a mix of traditional, old-country Mexican fare, Tex-Mex and playful hybrids. Cobb Maya salad, anyone? But I was there for the tacos.

Barely had I slid into my banquette, when I was asked if I liked spicy foods. My affirmative answer excited the waitress who soon brought me a bowl of a fierce habanero salsa, described by Pinto as perfect for the trio I ordered. Continue reading

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Go on the Lamb at Birrieria Aguiñaga

There are taquerías I pass again and again, always thinking, “I gotta check out that place.” Name, address (if I can see it from the passenger seat of my wife’s car) and cross street are quickly jotted down in my pocket notepad.

 

Life takes over at that point—and POOF. I don’t make good on my statement. Continue reading

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