By now you’ve seen Donald Trump’s Cinco de Mayo tweet (see above). In it, he declares his love for Hispanics while eating a taco salad—taco meat, tomatoes, cheese, whatever Mexican-like ingredients in an edible vessel—in his office. The self-contained very American food he was insincerely enjoying was set atop what looks like an image of his swimsuit-clad ex-wife, Marla Maples. Behind The Donald, we see desk drawers partially open. What a mess! Trump’s tweet came on the heels of his becoming the presumptive Republican nominee for president. You can look at taco salad in one of two ways. First, like the tweet, the taco salad is a pandering product of cultural mutation intended to make the mass consumption of Mexican-ish food and Latinidad palatable to the dominant Anglo culture. Or, as a result of endless cross-cultural culinary innovation, something that occurs when two traditions meet and get down. It’s neither good nor bad. The taco salad just is.
The dish began its slow journey to Trump’s desk in the 1950s when it was known as the Ta-Cup, an invention of Elmer Doolin, the founder of Fritos, as Gustavo Arellano writes in Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Ta-Cups were sold at the Fritos restaurant in Disneyland. There was no stopping Fritos and the taco salad.
Not so fast. The edible tortilla-like bowl wasn’t yet the default vessel. One of the earliest references to “taco salad” was a recipe run by the Los Angeles Times. Submitted by a Mrs. Marilyn Jones, it was family favorite during hot weather. The salad utilized corn chips—not a fried tortilla bowl. A recipe serving 40 to 50 people published in the March 11, 1965, “Add a Touch of Old Mexico” installment of The Washington Post’s “Cooking for Crowds” column called for tortilla chips. Continue reading
Filed under History, News
The astonishing taco ahogado de birria estilo Sinaloa.
The home to the best taco in Dallas is gone. It closed last week. Speaking over the phone, co-owner Ramiro Torres said despite their best efforts, the family could not come to a new lease agreement with the landlord. Moreover, Torres told me, his sister Eva, could no longer manage the restaurant. She was burned out. Luis Perez, owner of La Norteña Tortilleria, the provider of Los Torres’ default Northern Mexican-style tortillas, said the family placed their final order last Saturday. This confirmation comes after I rode the bus past the restaurant Thursday night, noticing it was dark. The news does more than sadden me. It makes me physically ill.
Los Torres was the best taqueria in Dallas and served the best taco in Dallas, but to me it went beyond superlatives, beyond naming the taco ahogado as one of Texas Monthly’s top 10 tacos in the Lone Star State in their December issue. The little taqueria opened in 2012 at the rundown intersection of Clarendon and Edgefield. It’s neighbors were an elementary school, an auto shop and a laundromat. It was also 10 blocks from my house, and I was the first writer to review it. It was a helluva find. It reaffirmed traditional tacos while challenging American notions of Mexican food and tacos. The Sinaloan-style tacos heavy on the earthy-spiced goat meat served in gauzy handmade flour tortillas changed everything. Eating there forced me to reevaluate my list of Dallas’ great tacos, and I couldn’t help returning again and again, usually with my son. Los Torres became the father-and-son hang. Eva and the other woman overseeing the day-to-day operations doted on my then four-year-old boy. It’s at Los Torres that he earned the nickname Taquito. He had the run of the place, and would play among the tables and ride his bike inside between bites of carne asada and barbacoa tacos. Continue reading
El Bolero’s tacos al pastor.
John Tesar is a no slouch. He is owner and executive chef at Knife. He has a cookbook in the works with Jordan Mackay, co-author with Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto. He is developing an Italian restaurant concept. And he is partner-operator at Apheleia Restaurant Group’s Oak. There he has tweaked and streamlined the kitchen and menu and business is improving. Now comes news that he is doing the same at El Bolero, Apheleia’s upscale Mexican spot, after ownership and El Bolero’s opening executive chef parted ways last month.
My only dining experience at El Bolero was the restaurant’s first night of service, when the menu was limited and the service extremely attentive. I had ample time to speak with co-owner John Paul Valverde (whose Coeval Studio also designed the gorgeous space) that night. We talked about the need for a variety of salsa options. I lobbied for a plethora of choices like those available in Mexico City: whole beans, French fries, salsas of every color and Scoville heat unit. I spoke with a manager about agave spirits, and he customized a mezcal flight for me. All of this from the best seat in the house—at the bar in front of the trompo, where I got to watch the taquero work his knife against the spinning top of marinated pork. The tacos al pastor on fresh corn tortillas were good but the execution needed flare. Part of eating these Mexico City favorites is the show taqueros put on for customers, flicking knives this way and that, attempting to catch pineapple slices behind their backs.
I don’t know if the spectacle has been upped since El Bolero opened, but I do know that the trompo isn’t going anywhere. As Valverde told me via Facebook, “[The] trompo is always going to be there.” While that is a relief, like many with deep love and respect for tacos and Mexican regional cuisines, I was leery of how an Anglo chef—no matter how talented and respectful—would treat the food. Anglo-driven “Modern Mexican” has show more disregard than understanding when it comes to the tradition and history of Mexican food.
During a phone conversation, Tesar went a long way to assure me of his seriousness.
After seven days of North Texas Beer Week, you’re gonna need some tacos. Your amigos at Four Corners Brewing Co. and the Taco Trail got you covered during everyone’s favorite night of the week, TACO NIGHT, Thursday, Nov. 6.
Dallas’ best taquerias will serve el verdadero sabor (the true taste) of Mexico with tacos de trompo. In their Dallas debut, Dos Primos Tacos will present their northern Mexico style of trompo; featuring pork seasoned with a paprika-based marinade. Mexico, DF-style tacos will be well represented with three top Dallas taquerias including El Tizoncito, El Come Taco and Urban Taco. We’re excited to bring them all together.
You need tacos and tacos need beer! Four Corners will have a plenty of variety on hand. Seasonals, special TACO NIGHT release and year-round offerings as well.
General admission, $25, gets you a taco from each vendor, sides and garnish and four 12-ounce pours to wash it all down. Tacos-only passes cost $15. Hot dog truck Eat Jo Dawgs will sell franks for the kiddies. Nos vemos pronto!
When: Thursday, Nov. 6, 6 p.m.
Where: Four Corners Brewing Co., 423 Singleton Blvd., in Trinity Groves
Tickets: $25, $15, available at Prekindle.
Photo: Markus Pineyro
I’ll be giving a fun little chat about tacos at the next Slow Food Dallas event. The cross-posted shindig info is below.
Slow Food Dallas is proud to present a Taco Talk with José R. Ralat at Four Corners Brewing Co. on May 8th from 6pm-9pm. José will share the story of the taco, from its humble Mexican beginnings to its place in Dallas food culture today.
As José puts it, “the story of the taco is one of religion and sacrifice, of conquest and reconquest, of multiculturalism and nourishment, both dietary and spiritually. It doesn’t recognize borders, but it is specific to time and place. The taco in Oaxaca is not the taco in Los Angeles or Gutherie, Oklahoma, and at its base is corn: a food that transformed the way humanity eats and lives.”
In addition to José’s presentation, we’ll be enjoying food from Taco Party, featuring some of Dallas’ best tacos al pastor.
Tickets are $15 and on sale now. Tickets include admission to the presentation and two tacos, one al pastor and one fried potato. Beer will be available for sale before, during, and after the presentation.
This event has limited availability, so please purchase your ticket in advance at http://tacotalk.eventbrite.com./
6:15pm- 7:00pm: Tacos + Beer
7:00pm- 8:00pm: Presentation and Discussion
8:00pm- 9:00pm: Beer + Conversation
Get your ticket today and join us for an evening of history, lore, and most importantly, tacos!!
The corporate-manufactured holiday National Taco Day, October 4, offers us a greater opportunity to share our love of tacos and the taco life. Today through Saturday (when we’ll offer our Taco Internet roundup), the Taco Trail will feature interviews with culinary professionals, bloggers, writers and a documentary filmmaker. We’ll offer a grandote taqueria list, drop some tacos illustrated, post a review and make an announcement. Of course, we can’t forgot the Oct. 2 Tacos & Beer Dinner at Urban Taco Uptown (RSVP here) as well as deals from your favorite taco shop (Taco Cabana’s Oct. 1 offer comes to mind). Taco Day’s got nothing on Taco Week.
Catch up on Taco Week posts.
Myriad restaurants and bars have hosted highfalutin beer dinners with sticker shock price tags, but rarely have they offered affordable dining events, especially locally. (The Common Table’s Pour Man Dinner series is one exception.) Lobster and Dogfish Head Noble Rot are a fine and dandy coupling, but who eats like that everyday? Beer, like the taco, is for everyone. The two belong together. That’s why I hosted taco truck and beer extravaganza TacoCon (Cerveza) at Four Corners Brewing Co. And I’m not done yet. Now I’m partnering with Urban Taco and Deep Ellum Brewing Co. to present a proper tacos and beer dinner.
The five-course “Tacos + Beer” dinner at the Uptown Urban Taco is a one-night-only event showcasing beer-inspired dishes, among them Urban Taco classics and new items created specially for the event, alongside DEBC’s local craft beers. The latter includes Holy Mole Brew, an exclusive release that pays tribute to Urban Taco owner Markus Pineyro’s mother’s mole poblano recipe. That delightful concoction will be served with the Churrnut, a churro-doughnut filled with housemade cajeta and topped with chocolate Abuelita. Also on the menu—and this one I’m really jazzed about—it is the Double Brown Stout six-hour braised barbacoa matched with Dallas Blonde ale. The contrast works beautifully. A salsa and beer trio kicks off the meal.
Seating and the commemorative custom pilsner glasses are limited. So make your reservation for the $45 dinner by calling 214-922-7080 or visiting the Eventbrite page.
WHEN: Wednesday, October 2, 6:30—9:30 p.m.
WHERE: Urban Taco Uptown, 3411 McKinney Ave., Dallas, TX 75204
COST: $45 per person. Reservations required
While we recovered from the smash hit that was TacoCon (Cerveza) at Four Corners Brewing Co., Taco Trail visited Taco Wagon‘s new incarnation. We also began planning TacoCon Fort Worth. Entree Dallas has news that our friends at the aforementioned brewery will be the exclusive beer provider at the Texas Discovery Gardens during the State Fair of Texas. City of Ate ran a post about Taqueria Conin, the joint that took over the original Tacos La Banqueta space on Carroll Street, when the latter operation was evicted. Fans of the longtime Dallas favorite shouldn’t have to wait long (depending on your level of patience) to once more relish excellent suadero and slurpy, fatty cabeza. There are whispers East Dallas will soon have a new taco spot and, yes, TacoCon is rolling into Cowtown.
Elsewhere, Julia Child’s favorite taco spot has long lines, Chicago Tacos goes for tinga, steamy DF has its place in Santa Barbara and more.
It’s been a week of ups and downs. Taco Trail got the details on Salsa Limon‘s expansion into Dallas directly from the owner and dug the signature taco, El Capitan, a pan-Mexican treat pulling from several regions. However, we had to experience a big bummer in the form of dry pastor (which might or might have not come from a sparkly clean trompo).
Nearby, Rusty Taco beat out Fuel City in the Dallas Morning News‘ taqueria popularity contest. Our compadres at L.A. Taco catch up with Jarrod and Mando from Taco Journalism. A Canadian experiences one of the greatest moments of his life (after the jump). After hitting crypto-Jewish kosher tacos in El Paso, explaining the Navajo taco and visiting the cradle of the breakfast taco, KJZZ in Phoenix wrapped up their excellent taco week with K-Mex. The segments, on the development of tacos on this side of the border, are short and well worth the listen. And before we move on to the roundup, if you’re in Dallas-Fort Worth make sure to RSVP for the taco truck and craft beer festival presented by the North Texas Taco Festival and Four Corners Brewing Company, TacoCon (Cerveza). Admission is free. Continue reading