Increasingly I see all antojitos and vitamin T comidas (tacos, tamales, tortas, huaraches, etc.) as being in this website’s wheelhouse. This is especially true when a restaurant makes something from scratch. Perhaps a taco spot serves mass-produced tortillas for its tacos but reserves handmade masa for tlayduas. The tacos could be outstanding while the tlayudas send one reeling into another dimension. Tacos are on the menus of most Mexican eating establishments but when it comes to a particular restaurant, perhaps they do something killer or so regionally specific an order of that signature item along with tacos, in my case, is the appropriate order. It should be the order.
Morales Restaurant in Oak Cliff’s Dells District is such a place. The rare spot in the Dallas area specializing in the food of La Huasteca, a region of Mexico encompassing parts of San Luis Potosi, Veracruz, Hildago, among other Mexican states and named for the indigenous group the Huastec, Morales came recommended by Obed Manuel, occasional contributor to the Taco Trail. His father hails from La Huasteca and swears by Morales Restaurant. The small eatery, about six tables in a sparse, narrow front dining room with two more rooms in the rear, is in the same commercial strip as Hardeman’s BBQ and my barber shop. It also shares a wall with another Mexican joint, Fito’s #3, an outpost of the local chain specializing in the food of Monterrey, Mexico (far from La Huasteca).
Morales’ specialty is zacahuil, a banana leaf-wrapped tamal prepared for celebrations—weddings, baptisms, quinceñeras—because they feed large parties. How is a tamal supposed to serve 10, 20, 50 people? When the tamal in question is a behemoth that can reach up to 15 feet or longer. It’s a gold mine of a food. The serving I enjoyed was spooned from the larger tamal and came packed with shredded pork cooked in a stew of chile colorado chunky with pearls of fragrant masa. The aroma of banana leaf lingered warmly, as did the spice, which was constant but not crippling. For this alone Morales is remarkable.
But it’s more than a bastion for such a regional dish and kin like bocoles and migadas.
Morales’ menu bears Mexican restaurant standard after standard, including gorditas, enchiladas, and, of course, tacos, which range from admirable to “a platter isn’t enough” quality. Tacos de carnitas and de barbacoa came with handmade corn tortillas. The former looked to be traditionally prepared but was dry, while the barbacoa, here beef, was solid, mellow and worth repeat orders. Tacos huastecos were larger parcels of handmade flour tortillas filled with cecina, onions that had met a flattop griddle long enough to be considered sautéed but only just so to retain a pleasant bite, and a sufficient amount of melted white cheese to conceal some of the beef. The stuff oozed out of the taco still hot. To the side a cup of warm, cooked salsa roja too thin for the taco to retain.
Also available, but not from the menu handed out by our waitress, rather from a piece of copy paper bearing an image and a price point, are tacos de canasta. These little bites are thought to be descended from tacos de mineros—the first tacos—and are a common breakfast taco in Mexico City. A friend and I weren’t there on National Taco Day for the morning meal. When we sat down in the booth, time was flirting with the snacking hour. We skipped them.
But the clear champion during our late lunch at Morales was the platter of tacos rojos. (Zacahuil was enjoyed during a second visit.) The several small tacos of red tortillas (the color derived from the chiles used in the masa, but not made in-house) wrapped around perfectly seasoned mashed potatoes came disguised with a mound of shredded lettuces, queso fresco and a couple of slices of tomato then bordered by paper-thin rounds of potatoes mixed with chorizo. Warm, light, yet jammed with all the fixings. The peppery chorizo and quarter-sized potatoes played nicely with the tortillas and mashed potatoes within. The tortillas did not crack when pinched. They weren’t even oily. As a matter of fact, the tortillas were the best they could’ve been short of freshly prepared. Had my lunch companion and I not eaten all the aforementioned bites, we might have requested another order of those ruby parcels, perhaps with another of the optional fillings. That opportunity will come. Like I said, Morales is next to my barber shop.Morales Restaurant
612 Schooldell Dr.
Dallas, TX 75211