Tag Archives: tacos

The Santa Fe Taco Trail

Photography: José R. Ralat

Eloisa’s pastrami tacos

There are state-sanctioned roadmaps for New Mexico’s green chile burgers and breakfast burritos. They are points of pride, and going Christmas-style on the breakfast burrito at Tia Sophia’s Restaurant, considered the home of the tortilla-wrapped morning behemoth, is proof enough. No such document exists for The Land of Enchantment’s tacos. But they are just as worthy of recognition as any of New Mexico’s signature foods. That’s what I realized during a trip to Santa Fe last week for the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta. Indeed, nearly all the Santa Feans I spoke with while visiting the city raved about their city’s tacos. I took their advice and hit the trail for Santa Fe tacos, beginning with the most recommended of the bunch.

The chicken guacamole taco at El Parasol.

The chicken guacamole taco at El Parasol.

El Parasol

Mention tacos, and Santa Feans enthusiastically ask if you’ve been to El Parasol for the chicken guacamole. After tasting it myself, I understand why. Rich stewed chicken is folded into a corn tortilla and then gets crisped up on the flattop until it’s this side of crunchy. A cool dollop of guacamole, lettuce, and tomato are added before the shimmering yellow parcel is wrapped, bagged, and handed over the counter to the customer to go. (There isn’t much in the way of seating at the nearly 60-year-old restaurant.) The chicken guacamole taco is Santa Fe’s tacos. Equally as good is the beef, which, unlike its treatment in the standard crunchy taco, is served shredded. 1833 Cerrillos Road, 505.995.8015

El Chile Toreado's barbacoa taco.

El Chile Toreado’s barbacoa taco.

El Chile Toreado

While this taco spot is housed in a trailer, El Chile Toreado isn’t going anywhere. The rig is lacking wheels. Perhaps some happy patron absconded with them because they didn’t want to lose the ability to order mouth-puckering beef barbacoa, served shredded and best topped with ribbons of indigo-hued pickled onions. Their tang balances the richness of the beef.

Also superb is the carnitas, a crunchy yet mellow and juicy assembly of pork that sings with the Christmas salsa, a New Mexico-style pico de gallo heavy on the fiery green and red chiles.

If the special green chile-chicken chipotle taco is available, give it a chance. Its filling starts as traditional chicken tinga, chicken stewed in smoky chipotle chiles, before getting dressed with New Mexico green chiles’ fruity heat. It stunned me — in a good way. 950 W. Cordova Road, 505.500.0033

La Choza Restaurant

La Choza, The Shed’s laid-back, down-home sibling, offers almost the exact menu as its Plaza-located big sister, including fork-and-knife soft blue corn tacos. The trio of blue corn tortillas laid flat bearing mildly seasoned ground beef is served with a coat of melted white and orange cheese and smothered with red or green chile. A standard order is a great example of a New Mexico specialty. But that’s not what you want to request. Instead, ask for the chile sauces on the side. This customization allows you to apply as much chile as you would like without muddling the dish’s flavors. The result is a comforting chorus of punchy chile, salty cheese, and taco meat. 905 Alarid St., 505.982.0909

The Plaza Cafe's Indian taco.

The Plaza Cafe’s Indian taco.

The Plaza Café

Santa Fe’s oldest restaurant has plenty of nearby competition, namely The Shed and the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi restaurant. Neither offers an Indian fry bread taco. I’m especially keen on this truly American taco, having delved into its history and significance for Cowboys & Indians. So it was with great excitement that I sat down for a third lunch at The Plaza. At the booth across from my table sat an elderly couple. The white bearded gentleman wore the traditional embroidered Latin American shirt known as a guayabera and rested his right hand on his wife’s arm while discussing their afternoon itinerary. She had a shock of red hair and was all jangly Southwestern jewelry and patient smile. Between the two was a platter-sized Indian taco. I couldn’t help but think decades from now that might be my beloved wife and me. I was excited.

The taco was fine. Its golden base could have been lighter, as could have been the touch that applied the cheese. The lettuce was crisp but abundant. Still, the green chile, with its mouth-coating fire, was a delight. 54 Lincoln Ave., 505.982.1664

Anasazi's ahi tuna tacos.

Anasazi’s ahi tuna tacos.

Anasazi Restaurant

A full-scale renovation that extended to the menu has rejuvenated the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi’s restaurant. The space retains its Southwestern feel with a contemporary touch. The main dining room has been opened up and is separated from the bar area by an unobtrusive but fetching teak wood divider hundreds of pounds in weight. Buffering the dining room and the bar is the Tequila Table space. At the raised roundtable, aficionados and novices alike can relish the Anasazi’s extensive agave spirit collection alongside executive chef Juan Bochenski’s signature Latin American-influenced Southwestern cuisine. Sharing menu real estate with the must-order red chile buffalo empanadas are the snappy ahi tuna tacos

The pleasantly textured fried wonton wraps are packed with lightly seared tuna that finds a match in peppy black beans and bright mango salsa. Avocado and sour cream keep the heat from overwhelming the palate. The tacos are bar food elevated and pair well with a tequila flight. 113 Washington Ave., 505.988.3030


Hometown boy done good John Rivera Sedlar has proven himself a prominent figure in the New Southwestern cuisine movement, but he did so from Los Angeles until now. Earlier this year, Sedlar returned to his native Santa Fe and opened Eloisa in the Drury Plaza Hotel. If Anasazi’s makeover didn’t eschew a sense of place, Eloisa is appointed as unabashedly modern as modern gets. It’s white and sleek and expansive. But Eloisa — named for Sedlar’s grandmother, whose visage graces plates — serves food with a firm foundation in The City Different without forgetting L.A. The platter of mini pastrami tacos (above) in crispy blue shells, with its roots in the East L.A. Jewish delis of the mid-20th century — where workers were apt to put any kosher meat in a tortilla — is one example. The beef slices, thin and presented atop tangy sauerkraut, are the briny ribbons to the pickled serranos’ kicking bows. The mustard, a required condiment if ever there was one, added the finishing touch to my tour of Santa Fe tacos. 228 E. Palace Ave., 505.982.0883

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Strip Mall Oasis: Las Casitas and Ome Calli

Tinga and Consome de Borrego

Tinga and Consome de Borrego

I often say I’d give up all of the restaurants in Portland-proper for those of the suburbs and outskirts. A culinary school can’t compete with Korean, Mexican, or Indian grandmas.  Though when I say that, I’m usually not thinking about chain-dominated Tualatin. The only reason I had actually stopped in Tualatin, rather than just passed through, was to go to Chocosphere to will-call high-end chocolate.  But the benefits of running a Mexican restaurant that doesn’t use Velveeta is that customers entrust their food finds to you.  And so when I heard about Ome Calli serving authentic paletas and chamoyadas, I had to go check it out.  I didn’t know then that next door I’d also discover one of Oregon’s best taquerias. Continue reading


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DF in PDX: Los Alambres



Some of the best taco trucks and taquerias are found next to strip clubs and porn stores. It’s not because perverts are better judges of tacos—I don’t think. It’s that niche ethnic restaurants need cheap rent. In Portland, 82nd Avenue, which acts as a major north-south thoroughfare and quasi-feeder for I-205, has at least three porn stores, a couple strip clubs, and a half dozen or more “lingerie” modeling joints. It also has several of the best Vietnamese, Chinese, and Mexican restaurants in town. One of its newest loncheras is also one of the city’s best: Los Alambres. Continue reading

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Mexico City: Tacos de Guisado

A favorite tacos de guisado stand in Mexico City

Las Cazuelas tacos de guisado stand

While Mexico City may not have New York’s skyscrapers, it’s every bit as big — bigger — and its people every bit as busy. Urban life doesn’t always allow for a home-cooked meal. So in DF, the home-cooked meal has come to the street in the form of tacos de guisado. Continue reading


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The First North Texas Taco Festival (Photos)


Wow. Wow again. You made the first North Texas Taco Festival a success beyond our wildest expectations. Thank you, and thank you for the feedback on our inaugural taco celebration. A special thanks to the vendors, special guests and all who made the NTTF a fantastic event. The producing team promises to make the second annual NTTF even better, with more vendors and shorter lines. Before then, though, take a look-see at some photos from Taco Trail’s design honcho, Alex Flores.



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After Closing Its Bishop Arts District Location, El Padrino Is Moving to Pleasant Grove


Last August, Taco Trail brought you the news that El Padrino was ordered to vacate it’s Bishop Arts District. Well, there’s an update. This is just in from Juan Contreras, Jr., of El Padrino, in original press release form.

El Padrino Taqueria a casualty to the Bishop Arts District’s success

DALLAS, TX – El Padrino Taqueria, affectionately known as El Padrino (Mexican Godfather), a popular Mexican food stand in the Bishop Arts District since the 1990’s has lost their lease and has found a new home.  El Padrino was housed in an old original Jack in the Box shaped fast food stand located on 330 W. Davis St., and provided great Mexican fast food to N. Oak Cliff’s diverse clientele.

El Padrino lost their lease to Sarah Lombardi in May “We didn’t see this coming, but we were grateful that Ms. Lombardi let us operate through November. Which allowed us some time to look for a new location and for our employees to find jobs nearby.” says Juan Contreras Jr. El Padrino hoped to move to a new location in the Bishop Arts District or somewhere nearby, “Unfortunately it was harder than we thought. Our broker Charlie Perdue, from Perdue Equities worked with us to find us a home nearby, however, there were just no options to fit our needs.” says Juan C. Contreras Jr., Managing Partner.

The Contreras say that they decided to move to southeastern Dallas on 1215 S Buckner Blvd not only because they got a good deal in their new location but also because they also wanted to expand their locations: one in Oak Cliff and the other in Pleasant Grove. “One of our friends here in the community approached us with a deal we could not pass and well we decided to give it a try.” says Juan Contreras Jr.

The new Padrino’s expects to open May 3rd, 2013 serving the same type of original Mexican food items and more.

“We had a great run in the Bishop Arts District, and were surrounded by inspiring friends in the community and we expect to continue our success in our new location.” says Juan Contreras Jr.

El Padrino also has the original location located at 408 W. Jefferson Boulevard, which remains open.

Thank you,

Juan Contreras
El Padrino; Managing Partner

Twitter: ElPadrinoTejas

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The Best Tacos in Dallas, Give or Take

Dallas Observer Gives Some Taco Love in 2011 Best Of Issue

If you’ve picked up the February issue of D Magazine—and if you haven’t, you should—you’ve seen my feature, “The Top 20 Taquerias in Dallas.” Unfortunately, between press time and the newsstand date, two of the restaurants listed shut their doors for good, although both cited they have future projects in mind. Each cited lack of customer traffic. Taco Republic, which wowed me with the Thai Chihuahua and use of tortillas made from nixtamal, closed last month and was ranked number 7 on my list. Taco Republic didn’t make to its first anniversary. Owner Ron Guest placed the blame squarely on the fast-casual joint’s location. Taco Republic was a pain in the neck to get to. Café Maya, made it past the year mark before closing in January, but not by much. The loss of Café Maya hurt. When co-owner Sergio Pinto broke the bad news to me, it felt like someone had thrown hundreds of slap bracelet around my gut. It hurt. And not just because it meant I’d be missing the killer cochinita pibil. Café Maya was a family-owned joint that put it all out there. I hate seeing family restaurants shut down. We need more of them.

What follows are additional write-ups that could’ve been on the list for some reason. About the first: Had I visited the truck more than once before I filed my story, the mobile concern would’ve broken the top 10, as the best taco truck in the Dallas. The second, a Dallas institution owned by one of the standard-bearers of Mexican food and Tex-Mex in this city, was edged out by a late entry. Nevertheless, it’s worthy of an honorable mention, as are Birrieria Aguiñaga, Fito’s #3, La Tejanita and Taco Ocho (which I’ve reviewed in the past). Continue reading


Filed under Best of, Dallas, DFW, food truck, News, North Texas, one of the freaking best, Reviews, Texas

John Tesar’s Taco Tuesday at Spoon Bar & Kitchen

Spoon logo

If you’ve been watching Top Chef Seattle, you know of the three Dallas chefs competing on the reality TV cooking show. Week before last, John Tesar, one of those toques, was voted off the show, but was given a chance at redemption through a text messaging and a social media campaign. The latter counted the number of times the #SaveChefJohn hashtag was mentioned on Twitter versus that of his opponent. During the popularity contest’s run, I tweeted to Tesar that he’d have my #SaveChefJohn vote if he agreed to offer a one-night-only seafood taco special at his Preston Center restaurant, Spoon Bar & Kitchen. He did agree, and will have the taco available tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Before I share the type of taco, I’d like to tell you. Tesar knows his way around a taco. The chef John helped develop the Wild Salsa menu and concept before handing it over to Kelly Hightower. I’m expecting a solid taco born of his familiarity with the food and his expertise with seafood. The man knows his stuff. Continue reading


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Urban Rio Cantina & Grill

Mark Miller is to New Mexico’s cuisine what Stephan Pyles is to Texas foodways. Each is a big shot in the Southwestern cuisine movement that swept the country in the 1980s and ’90s. Pyles opened his latest restaurant, Stampede 66, in early November. This summer, UrbanRio Cantina & Grill, part of part of an entertainment and culinary complex in the Old Downtown Plano Ice House, seated its first guests within sight of the DART Downtown Plano station.

In the run up to Urban Rio’s opening, Miller was brought in as the consulting chef by owners Nathan and Bonnie Shea, who also own the Urban Crust pizzeria in Downtown Plano. His involvement in what was being billed as “Next Mex” had me excited. Recipes in Miller’s cookbook Tacos, are some of my family’s favorite and are in regular rotation at Casa Ralat. His The Great Chile Book is a concise, reference book. Then there was the fact that I could take light rail to its doorstep. Man, I was down right jazzed for a seat in its contemporary Rio Grande Valley-inspired interior.

So off I went from Dallas to Plano to meet a friend and hit up a couple of hole-in-the-wall taquerías before capping our day exploring a suburban taco scene at a well-received newcomer nurtured by a renowned chef.

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Veletta Forsythe Lill, Outgoing Dallas Arts District Executive Director & Mother of Dallas Food Trucks

Do you operate a food truck in Dallas? Have you ever patronized a Dallas food truck? Well, you need to thank Veletta Forsythe Lill. The outgoing executive director of the Dallas Arts District, home to internationally renowned arts institutions and free public events that she’s helped foster, fought to have food regulations reformed so that you could enjoy Dallas’ best-smelling truck and the whiz-bang of K-Mex, not to mention ignite the celebrity of at least one area blogger. So, thank her. Lill is a hero, a champion of arts, culture and cuisine and someone who knows what she likes in a taco.

What is your favorite taco-related childhood memory?
I confess that I grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s and ’60s so tacos were not a staple. Besides the standard casseroles and Jell-O dishes of the period, our ethnic food was more European Union than Latin American. My taco, Tex-Mex, Mexican food addition was born in the 1980s when we moved to Dallas. I am thrilled to say that our city and America has become far more sophisticated about our food over the years. Continue reading

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