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
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.
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.
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
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
Nearly two years ago, the corner unit at 525 E. Jefferson Boulevard, formerly a furniture store, had windows blocked by craft paper and a sign promising El Pueblo was coming soon. I watched for months as construction progressed until the restaurant was ready to serve customers and—for some unknown reason—waited a few more months to visit the restaurant. I shouldn’t have done that. I had deprived myself of a worthy addition to the east end of Jefferson, one offering marvelous carnitas tacos. Why I waited until now to write a review is anyone’s guess. El Pueblo is one of the few Mexican restaurants I patronize often and have made it a stop on a taco tour of East Jefferson joints, just for its carnitas.
Every bite of the pork fried in lard was crunchy, salty and silken, a sight to behold in soft, bumpy yellow corn tortillas fresh enough to make a destructive oil bath unnecessary. Staring down at the strips of mahogany, sienna and black coursing through the filling it was obvious, here was taco beauty. If only the tortillas were fluffy and irregularly shaped handmade rounds. Continue reading
Amid construction, industrial workshops and medical office buildings sits the Taco Pronto Café, a greasy spoon with house-made flour tortillas and specialties like spam and beans. A wood-carved portly, bearded man, tattooed with the years of greetings and messages from customers and adorned with religious paraphernalia stands just inside the entrance. It’s the kind of eating establishment that even when frantically busy is a place where one can take a load off, sip coffee and decompress with comforting tacos, maybe menudo.
Although we didn’t request the stomach soup, my family did order the fresh flour tortillas the waitress recommended. “The corn tortillas are store-bought. Go with the flour.” They transformed what could have been mediocre tacos into meritorious ones packed with stick-to-your-ribs goods, particularly the long list of breakfast tacos served all day.
The yellow, peach and blue restaurant at Jefferson Boulevard and Tyler Street isn’t shy about advertising its daily specials, whether on the windows or a sidewalk board on which the deals are scrawled in permanent marker. Prominent among the announcements is that the flour and corn tortillas are made by hand—not in a press. By hand.
“Platters only,” the woman explained as she patted her hands back and forth demonstrating the method used to shape the tortillas. Unfortunately, I hadn’t ordered any entrées and she told me this nugget of critical information as I was paying my bill.
I knew I should’ve ordered the rajas con queso, I thought to myself. Better yet, another of the house specialties, like quail, grilled or fried with optional salsa roja. The pozole, a hominy stew believed to have originated in Michoacán state, the homeland of Mi Fondita’s owners, was also tempting.
It only takes one layer—gazing at the Davis Plaza storefront—to realize that El Cebolla Taquería doesn’t exist, contrary to what the red and green letters above the door indicate. And don’t bother asking the pregnant woman who stops peeling tomatillos to take your order what El Cebolla refers to. (My research indicates a soccer player.) She only knows that it should get the feminine article. The restaurant is under new management, she’ll say, after explaining you can sit wherever you’d like.
“We’re really Mi Tierrita, now. Who knows what the old name meant?” Continue reading
Image: Ben E./Yelp
The writing is on the wall at Fito’s #2, a West Davis Street taquería with walls bearing Spanish aphorisms. My favorite translates to “Look at your mother-in-law with the same wonder you look at the far-away stars.” Above the kitchen door: “Love enters through the kitchen.” A mural of lotería cards (resembling a Tarot set but used to play a Bingo-like game) conceals the bathrooms.
It’s all very sweet. It also shouldn’t have been a surprise. The building’s colorful façade was a dead giveaway I ignored. What I couldn’t ignore and what led me to Fito’s #2 was the promise of trompo, pork that takes its name from its shape (a spinning top) and the vertical spit on which it is prepared. Essentially, trompo is traditional pastor, a local rarity. Not many Dallas-Fort Worth restaurants have the space and patience to allow heat to work its quiet art on a large hunk of pork. Continue reading