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An Ode to the Concha Burger

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Here’s the first couple of paragraphs of a little something I wrote for the day job, Cowboys & Indians magazine, where I am the food & drink editor. Enjoy and click on to the read the full story.

Nothing is perhaps as emblematic of the cross-cultural exchange that occurs at the U.S.-Mexico border as the food. We can thank the border for the creation of Tex-Mex. Getting more specific, we can also thank the border for regional dishes such as the Sonoran hot dog (aka dogo), the use of shredded Muenster cheese on tacos in El Paso, Texas, and fried bacon-wrapped burritos stuffed with carne asada and, if requested, slathered with Philadelphia brand cream cheese (aka queso Philly or “Philly cheese”). Most recently, though, is the concha burger.

“We were bored,” says chef Adrian Cruz, who along with his brother, Bobby, concocted the concha burger in 2016 because they had downtime while working at the Orchard Lounge in McAllen, in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

Read the rest of “An Ode to the Concha Burger.”


Photography: Cristi Brinkman/Courtesy Four Corners Brewing Company

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Taco Festival Best Practices

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Get the most out of your taco festival experience.

Festival season is here and with it fiestas of every sort. That includes taco festivals, such as the one I curate, Taco Libre in Dallas, Saturday, April 27, 2019. You should go. It’ll be fun. Tickets are available here.

To increase your chances of a great taco festival experience, I have put together a list of best practices.

Consider the crowd. Taco festivals draw large crowds. Lines are given. If you’re going to a taco festival, go early. The lines will be shorter and you’ll be happier.

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Again, lines are given. Go early. Go with friends. While you’re waiting in one line, have a friend in another taco line. Order enough tacos for the group. A third friend should be in the bar line. First get water. Next come the silly drinks. Then get more water. Continue reading

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Taco Parties

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Dallas’ premier taco party.

My taco work involves more than reviewing tacos and taquerias. It’s more than documenting history and diversity. My work includes championing the taco operations that deserve support. This is has largely taken the form of co-hosting or curating taco festivals. It began with 2013’s North Texas Taco Festival in Deep Ellum and the taco truck and beer fiesta TacoCon Cerveza at Four Corners Brewing Company. I have since been involved in more events at Four Corners, including Taco Night and a Taco Talk presented by Slow Food Dallas. Most importantly I partnered with Sonar Management/Kirtland Records to curate the taco and music festival ¡Taco Libre Dallas!

Now in its third year, ¡Taco Libre!, has set to expand to Austin, Sunday, May 14. That’s Mother’s Day—and what better way to celebrate mama than with tacos, tacos, tacos? More about Taco Libre Austin later.

Taco Libre joins a series of taco parties from South Carolina to New Orleans, and beyond. Here’s a bunch.

Arizona Taco Festival

Perhaps the largest and most important celebration of tacos nationwide, this annual Scottsdale happening welcomes more than 40 taco vendors slanging two-dollar parcels for all taco lovers—with plenty of tequila, luchadores, eating contests and Chihuahuas to boot. www.aztacofestival.com

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Takumi Taco

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Taco or not a taco?

Is a gyoza-wrap fried shell taco actually a taco? That’s the question I asked myself as I sat at the counter of Takumi Taco, a Japanese-inspired Mexican food stall in New York’s Chelsea Market. The “taco” in this instance was a chilled slap of big-eye tuna sashimi brambled with jicama, avocado, cucumber and more. It laid askew in a basket on Takumi’s counter. The food’s fresh frigidity fluttered across the sides of mouth juxtaposed by the crunch of the golden, ridged shell surprised and perplexed. A sashimi taco?

I took a smaller bite, this time focusing on the other elements. Everything someone would want in an interest-holding lunch before returning to the predictability of the workday was present: the push of jicama, the avocado, breezy cucumbers and radish coins to cleanse the palate along the way. A dusting of sesame seeds for added bite (and the potential for filling space between gaps in one’s teeth. Remarkable? Yes. But, a taco? Continue reading

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The Original Revolver Taco Lounge to Remain Open

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Photo: Revolver Taco Lounge/Facebook.

Reports of Revolver Taco Lounge’s closing at the end of the year were among 2015’s biggest taco stories. Lovers of the Fort Worth, Texas, gem suddenly presented with trichotillomania. The future of the critically and popularly praised taqueria was in doubt, but then came word that Regino Rojas, Revolver’s owner, was going to move operations to Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. There was a collective sign of relief.

I’m pleased to announce that while plans for the new Revolver Taco Lounge with its exclusive rear dining room, Purepecha, is still on track, the original location will remain open. Yesterday, Rojas signed on a six-month lease extension with the option to renew. He says Revolver’s continued operation is due to public support. “I was ready to walk away. The main one was the building owner was indifferent to me. So I was ready to change the skin of Revolver and open a new one in Dallas,” Rojas told me during a phone interview late last night. “But the people made noise,” he continued. Continue reading

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Tacoqueta [Update]

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A Tacoqueta taco plate.

When a neighbor asked that I give Tacoqueta a second chance after the taqueria changed ownership as a replacement for Los Torres Taqueria, which closed in late November, I asked whether the tortillas were made in-house as they were at Los Torres. The response was “100 times cleaner, for starters.” Tacoqueta does not make fresh tortillas for its tacos (that craft is reserved for gorditas, sopes and garnachas). I wouldn’t call it cleaner than Los Torres either, as my follow-up visit to the taqueria was met with the stench of sewage mixed with cleaning solution unsuccessfully applied to mask the smell. It was strong. Thankfully, the salsa verde with spurs’ bite heat was stronger.

The salsa played well against the sweet barbacoa de res but coated the diced carne asada until the salty beef was almost nothing but pebbly texture. Better was the taco al pastor advertised as taco de trompo for a Taco Tuesday promotion. Continue reading

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Join Me at Urban Taco’s Agave Trail Dinner Co-hosted by Texas Monthly, With Special Guest Revolver Taco Lounge

Los tacos. A La Tuma y Bistek Campechano

Campechano and a la Tuma tacos with elote/Courtesy Urban Taco

By now you’ve read Texas Monthly’s December issue, “The 120 Tacos to Eat Before You Die,” and you’ve begun sketching an itinerary to scarf them all. Thursday, December 10, you’ll be able to check off your list Urban Taco’s taco al pastor a la Tuma, one of top 10 tacos in Texas. You’ll do so at the multicourse Agave Trail Dinner at the taqueria’s flagship location on Dallas’ McKinney Avenue. The dinner is something Urban Taco, Lala’s Cakes and myself—a contributor to the issue—along with Texas Monthly have put together to celebrate tacos, Texan and Mexican, and the wonder that are agave spirits.

Each course will be paired with an agave spirit (e.g., mezcal, tequila, raicilla) in the form of a flight, cocktail and/or in the food, including the appetizer of mezcal-cured ceviche over a chicharrón tostada, a dish created for the dinner. The details follow. Continue reading

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The Taco Trail to Texas Monthly

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The taco de colita de pavo at Flores Meat Market in El Paso.

¡Saludos! Welcome. You likely arrived here via Texas Monthly’s The 120 Tacos You Must Eat Before You Die issue. Thanks. I began working on that editorial package more than a year ago, when Pat Sharpe, the magazine’s food critic, and I initiated a conversation about what form a taco issue would take. Eventually we designed an evaluation sheet (printed in the magazine for your use); set about organizing a team (small but mighty); a schedule (grueling); and what I would contribute (a joyful lot). It was a dream come true for me.

I kicked off my exploration of Texas’ taco landscape in 2010, shortly after moving to the state. Initially I focused on exploring Dallas via public transit. Then I widen my scope to suburbs like Richardson and Addison. Fort Worth was next. Along the way, I ate tacos across Austin, where I have family and friends. Eventually I set my sights on San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley.

Texas and its tacos are beautiful, I thought.  Continue reading

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Dia de los Puercos

Photo: Four Corners Brewing

For a couple of years now, I’ve partnered with Four Corners Brewing Co., maker of my go-to IPA, El Chingón, for taco events. I can’t seem to stop. Sharing tacos comes with my job description. The last one was Taco Night, a trompo taco-and-beer fiesta featuring Dallas’ best practitioners of tacos al pastor and tacos de trompo. Next up I’m helping out with Four Corners’ third-annual Dia de los Puercos on Sunday, November 1.

Inspired by the tradition of Día de los Muertos, it’s a day where we invite people to come celebrate “el día de hoy”…the “here and now”…with friends and family. For us, that simply includes fun people, great music, pork-centric eats and some tasty brews. Continue reading

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Twister Tacos

Twister Tacos in Odessa is housed in a former fast-food joint building.

Twister Tacos in Odessa is housed in a former fast-food joint building.

Taquerias can find homes anywhere the local health department will allow them to set up shop. In the case of Twister Tacos in Odessa, Texas, it’s an old Mexican fast-food spot with a new paint job. The ruined concrete on the front patio remains where it fell, perhaps during a previous incarnation. I imagine it as a result of an AT-AT with a driver in need of his eyes examined.

The eyes are deceiving at Twister Tacos. The 11-year-old taqueria, whose current owner took over for her sister in January, advertises tacos al pastor straight from the trompo, but no trompo is visible on the premises. When I asked about the contraption, the owner’s daughter, who was running the cash register, stalled answering and when she did answer, her speech trailed off into mumbling.

The look of the pork filling deepened my doubt of the al pastor’s provenance. It looked more like pork chop resting in house-made chewy, flavor-neutral corn tortillas.

There is a winner here, though. Continue reading

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