San Antonio and Tex-Mex are as inseparable as Philadelphia and cheesesteaks. The Alamo City’s influence on our homegrown cuisine is greater than any other Texas municipality. It thrust Tex-Mex into the national spotlight with chili queens, later with the puffy taco and the prized breakfast taco. The latter has been gaining traction in American cities such as New York but remains the wake-up meal of San Antone, where its burst free of the egg-and-one-protein (maybe some cheese) restrictions.
On a recent visit to San Antonio, that variety kept a friend, and I sated during a duo of breakfast stops.
The first, Taco Garage, can be best described as a Tex-Mex joint with a rock-n-roll sensibility slapped with grease lightning housed in a former auto mechanic’s shop. Jones, my amigo and driver, went for the huevos divorciados, a segmented platter of eggs, beans, bacon and green and red salsas he had lauded on the ride from Dallas. I went for a trio of substantial morning munchers.
The papas ranchera taco was a no-fuss combination of eggs, potatoes and a salsa roja that, on the way down, lit a match against the wall of my throat. The emanating heat reminded me to slow down. Meanwhile, the chorizo, egg and cheese was salty, earthy and warm in a dark-spotted, blistered flour tortilla made by the elderly Elia behind a Plexiglas booth. The smallest as well as least of the three breakfast tacos, the migas was a Spartan example of the classic of the messy dish, with tortilla chips, eggs and ribbons of onions, but lacking cheese.
In the middle-class King William section of San Antonio, Tito’s Mexican Restaurant, a sparsely decorated establishment with 35 breakfast tacos available was packed with neighborhood residents, families and single stranglers feasting on enchiladas, machacado and chilaquiles. I went for a house specialty, Niles Favorite, my favorite of the day. The two-dollar taco filled with refried beans, cheese, bacon and avocado offered a motley collection of textures, mushy, crisp, with a little punch. Even though the avocado wedge was cool to the touch, the combination, in its creativity and complexity, worked.
So well cooked was the chorizo and papas that the Mexican sausage and cubed potatoes were practically one in the same. Too bad, the order needed a pinch of salt.
While I’d return to Taco Garage, I’d make a point of taking my friends and family to Tito’s, where we’d order standard breakfast tacos as well as signature dishes I would have ordered had I not over-done it at the first stop. On my list would be Chela’s Favorite—eggs with potatoes bacon and chile de molcajete salsa—as well as a pork chop and egg taco. At the end of that meal, I’d be ready for a bike tour of San Antonio’s missions—or bed. Either way, I’d be happy.Taco Garage 8403 Broadway, San Antonio 210-826-4405 Tito’s Mexican Restaurant 955 South Alamo St., San Antonio 210-212-8226