It’s not difficult to find handmade or housemade tortillas in Dallas-Fort Worth. Tortillerias are plentiful, and any business offering them will make sure you know it. Taqueria Laredo along U.S. Highway 67 in south Oak Cliff is one such establishment. The words are painted large across a retaining wall on one side of a parking lot usually full of cars, pickup trucks mostly. The same wall bears a menu in the form of painted signposts. It’s a fanciful touch that has Taco Trail written all over it.
As its name suggests Laredo Restaurant serves Rio Grande Valley-style eats, namely barbacoa and flour tortillas with the radius of the wheel from a child’s bike. Those items, and by the looks of the food on tables, pozole,are the hits of the house, available only on specific days at a taqueria whose days of operations are Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. Laredo is a special place. 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
The whistle of the A-Train blew seconds before the lady behind the counter called to us: “Quieren cebolla y cilantro?” Do you want onion and cilantro? My brother and I both responded with a childish “Si” and returned to our table, each with a plate of three corn tortilla tacos.
La Estrella Mini-Mart serves up the taco basics: barbacoa, chicken, carne asada, lengua and al pastor.
At $1.25 for a single two-bite taco, La Estrella’s tacos may seem pricey. But what the tacos lack in size, they more than make up for in quality.
La Estrella’s meats are seasoned just enough to allow for the natural flavor of beef, pork and chicken to poke through to the taste buds.
For my first round (because I did go back for another round of tacos), I ordered one chicken, one carne asada and one al pastor.
The carne asada, the standard of any taqueria, is tender, lightly seasoned and contains almost none of the annoying bits of chewy fat that sometimes get in the way of fully enjoying a carne asada taco.
The chicken meat is cut into even little squares that seem to blend into the cilantro and onion and, when covered with the house salsa verde and lime juice, the taco undergoes a refreshing transformation.
My favorite was undoubtedly the tacos al pastor. The succulent pork almost melted in my mouth. With or without salsa, the tacos al pastor significantly stand out because of how well the taste of pork is delivered via the corn tortilla, onions and cilantro. Even when covered in either the green or red salsa, none of the taste is lost.
Needless to say, the texture of the tacos is not exaggerated in any way and the simplicity only adds to the taste by not raising expectations.
Unless you grew up eating in dark but colorful taquerias, you may find it difficult to appreciate the cozy atmosphere at La Estrella. Seating inside is limited, with only three small tables and beat-up chairs.
The best taquerias aren’t always pretty. What the best taquerias do is serve the superlative tacos above all else.
Seeing as how this is my first review of a Denton taqueria, it is too soon to give the “Best of Denton” title to La Estrella. But this colorful convenience store/taqueria certainly set the bar substantially high for future reviews.
La Estrella Mini Market
602 E. McKinney St.
Denton, TX 76205
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
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
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).
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
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
Today, Marshall Scott Owens (@WestTX_BBQ on Twitter) drops a guest post on the Taco Trail. The Lubbock resident is a financial adviser at a Fortune 500 company. More importantly, he likes “BBQ, tacos, burgers, and brew,” and, he says, “If college football was a food I would eat as much as I could.” You can read Owens’ guest post on Full Custom Gospel BBQ here. Before you do that, though, read his review of Taqueria Jalisco in Lubbock. It might come in handy during the Texas Tech games against Oklahoma University and University of Texas this fall.
I went to Jalisco under the guise of a “romantic” date with my girlfriend, but I was really there to review what I think are the best tacos in Lubbock.
Taqueria Jalisco isn’t your run-of-the-mill Tex-Mex restaurant. The menu tends to offer more than the typical “food smothered in cheese then ran through a pizza oven.” People commonly refer to Jalisco as Tex-Mex, but those people tend to think all Mexican food in Texas is Tex-Mex. Although I have never been to Guadalajara, I would like to think Jalisco lives up to the name, and it is anything but just Tex-Mex. Continue reading