Head’s up. It’s taco time.
“One Shot” is an occasional series reviewing non-taquerías’ tacos.
The last time I saw my maternal grandfather, a hulk of a man, I was 5 years old. He had walked through the house carrying a lechon—a spit-roasted whole pork—across his shoulders into the backyard and on to the table where the rest of the food for the family feast was arrayed. He gently set down the pig in the center of the table while I stood at the end barely tall enough to look over the top. And in what seemed a continuous motion from the crispy brown animal to his placing his leathered hands under my arms, lifting me onto the table and sitting me crossed-legged face-to-face with our meal. No sooner had he said, “You’re first, Joseito,” than I had clasped the face of the pig behind the cheeks and yanked the whole thing off. In one piece. It was glorious. I gnawed on the ears and tried to pull the snout, a few singed bristles sprouting from it off the rest of the rough, salty skin. The cloudy white pad of fat on the backside of the face brushed my lips and chin. I loved that day.
When dinner plans were recently thrown for a loop and a friend mentioned the crispy pig’s head at John Tesar’s Knife steakhouse, I relived that day in an instant and said, “Yes.” 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
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
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
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).
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.
With a name like Burritos Locos, I didn’t have high hopes for the Grapevine restaurant. Mentally ill donkeys, after all, seem better suited for a margarita-soaked refuge for co-ed buffoonery with a foundation of chile con carne than a restaurant offering solid tacos of suadero, trompo and hidago con cebolla. The latter being liver and onions.
I was pleasantly surprised by Taqueria Burritos Locos, not just because of the quality of the tacos but because finally I was able to enjoy liver and onions, mildly mineral in taste. The birria, however, was dominated by a metallic flavor. Continue reading
I’m beginning to re-think my list of Dallas’ top taco joints, thanks to Los Torres Taquería , a family-owned spot that opened in June. The restaurant specializes in the cuisine of Sinaloa state in northwest Mexico, serving barbacoa roja de chivo (goat barbacoa seasoned with chiles), birria de chivo (a cauldron of chest-warming goat meat in an orangy-red broth) and chivo tatemado (the roasted equivalent of birria cooked in a large clay pot). They’re available as platters, by the pound as well as in tacos in handmade tortillas, if requested. Request them. Continue reading