When my family and I began to look for a place to set down roots in Dallas, Oak Cliff was a no-brainer. We had lived in Northeast Dallas for a year and a half, and it was a step down from our digs in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where we had all the familiarities of our Puerto Rican and Mexican heritages. A house in Oak Cliff would be a move in the right direction for us. It has been.
We have a 1920 craftsman bungalow that’s large enough for our small family, with a backyard for our dog and a pecan tree for our son to fall out of. The homestead is even on a fantastic, tight-knit block, with an outrageously kind Welcome Wagon. It’s so freaking bourgie, it’s sickening. I love it.
Again, we live within walking distance of several taquerías (a prerequisite) and again there are some gems. Tepa Mar y Tierra isn’t one of them.
Cold, damp and looking like it had been tossed in the sweet and sour sauce that is the bread and butter of Chinese fast-food joints before left to be neglected in a steam tray under flickering heat lamps for an indeterminate amount of time until some brave soul had the chutzpah to request it, the taco de chicharrón was terrible.
The carne asada fared little better, presented in a dice, like someone in the kitchen was showing off amateur hibachi-style skills. The beef filling was as rubbery as window tubing and as cold as the poor, aforementioned pork rinds.
The barbacoa was a graying, gelatinous slop, a coarse net of fat and cut-rate beef, that, while flavorful, had the texture of the warm vomit that creeps up your throat after doing one too many shots of whiskey then deciding it a good idea to take a quick hit off a six-foot glass bong, propped atop one of Tepa’s wood-paneled booths or the cheesy neon-framed bar.
Showing some improvement was the pastor, but even the pork preparation barely registered. The achiote condescending to reveal its flavorful head here and there, like some poorly calibrated game of Whac-A-Mole. Slimy onions and a mashed textured were a valiant effort toward mediocre success.
The lengua, piled in one-inch cuts, was pliant with nice papillae evident. It was the best of the lot at Tepa, thanks to the abundant application of conflagration-inducing salsa roja.
The two-ply corn tortillas in which the taco came didn’t help matters. The sloppy, peeling bunch were frigid and cracked at first rolling, pathetic vessels for a detestable meal.
The service, while not exactly friendly, was efficient and attentive. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for the awful meal.
Will the 99-cent breakfast tacos be an improvement? I’ll find out eventually, but next I’d like to go for the tacos al vapor in another neck of the nabe.
Tepa Mar y Tierra
428 S. Hampton Rd.