Before Dylan Elchami sold his Scotch & Sausage restaurant concept, he converted part of the space housing it into a taqueria specializing in tacos de guisados. For Elchami, it was a dream come true. For me, it was a chance to eat more tacos de guisados, a massive and unwieldy class of taco filled with homey slow-cooked stews and sauced preparations. Chorizo and papas is a guisado. Bistec en salsa de chile pasilla is another. So are chile relleno and picadillo. And this new operation, S&S Tequileria, put picadillo on the menu. Unfortunately, the kitchen’s idea of picadillo was sauceless, dry crumbles of over-salted beef. It was, in a word, terrible. The rest of the tacos ordered that day weren’t as memorable.
Then I noticed something peculiar, the Scotch & Sausage social media channels had almost no taco images. Had they realized how disappointing the tacos were? Not long after that I received a press release for Le Taco Cantina, a new taco concept taking over the space. It described the food as having a “triage of flavors” melding Mexican and Asian cooking techniques and ingredients with a little French flare. While I’m sure who ever wrote that release was trying to make the food come across as compelling as possible, the use of medical disaster terminology probably isn’t the way to achieve that goal. “Sortie” might have been better.
Shortly thereafter, the blogs began to announce the taqueria’s opening. There was a lot of oohing and ahhing because handmade tortillas and moo shu duck confit. Interesting, right? Not really. Handmade tortillas by themselves aren’t that big a deal. They’re difficult to make well consistently, and a smart taquero knows that if he can’t have them produced in-house perfectly it’s better to find a tortilleria that can meet his standards. Continue reading
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.
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
Myriad restaurants and bars have hosted highfalutin beer dinners with sticker shock price tags, but rarely have they offered affordable dining events, especially locally. (The Common Table’s Pour Man Dinner series is one exception.) Lobster and Dogfish Head Noble Rot are a fine and dandy coupling, but who eats like that everyday? Beer, like the taco, is for everyone. The two belong together. That’s why I hosted taco truck and beer extravaganza TacoCon (Cerveza) at Four Corners Brewing Co. And I’m not done yet. Now I’m partnering with Urban Taco and Deep Ellum Brewing Co. to present a proper tacos and beer dinner.
The five-course “Tacos + Beer” dinner at the Uptown Urban Taco is a one-night-only event showcasing beer-inspired dishes, among them Urban Taco classics and new items created specially for the event, alongside DEBC’s local craft beers. The latter includes Holy Mole Brew, an exclusive release that pays tribute to Urban Taco owner Markus Pineyro’s mother’s mole poblano recipe. That delightful concoction will be served with the Churrnut, a churro-doughnut filled with housemade cajeta and topped with chocolate Abuelita. Also on the menu—and this one I’m really jazzed about—it is the Double Brown Stout six-hour braised barbacoa matched with Dallas Blonde ale. The contrast works beautifully. A salsa and beer trio kicks off the meal.
Seating and the commemorative custom pilsner glasses are limited. So make your reservation for the $45 dinner by calling 214-922-7080 or visiting the Eventbrite page.
WHEN: Wednesday, October 2, 6:30—9:30 p.m.
WHERE: Urban Taco Uptown, 3411 McKinney Ave., Dallas, TX 75204
COST: $45 per person. Reservations required
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
|Image: Courtesy of Strauss Marketing Public Relations
“Do you know something about me?” Tiffany Derry asked me, laughing, as if I was privy to a secret. I had inquired about the tacos possibility of seeing on the menu of her delightful restaurant, Private Social
, open to the public today. It was Friday afternoon and the staff of the new Uptown eatery, which was to hold a red-carpet grand opening that night, was electric with camera crews, the last-minute rotating of vases and a kitchen staff supplemented with Top Chef alumni.
Chef Derry, though, was ebullient as ever. After the formal interview I presented in my capacity as a writer for another media outlet, I raised the taco question. Her answer was straightforward: While it hasn’t been finalized, there will be a taco section on the lunch menu.
That wasn’t the kicker. Derry offered more bits.
“I have a love for tacos,” Derry said excitedly. “I want to open a restaurant built around tacos.” She hinted at possible offerings. “Mmm…lengua. And you don’t see nopales around here. You have these places that do tacos but they don’t make their own tortillas. Why? I have fantastic ideas about tacos.”
If Derry’s tacos are anything like her pork buns, an appetizer I’d like to crawl inside of for nap, then there is promise (there is certainly room in the DFW market) for more specialty tacos.
No timeline for the new project has been set.