Tag Archives: breakfast tacos

My Favorite Tacos of 2014

Tacos!

Get me talking about tacos and see me light up like a child who receives the exact gift he wished for Christmas morning. From their history and folklore to their variability, there is much joy in tacos. In no particular order, these are the tacos that brought me that joy in 2014.

A plate of tacos at Los Torres.

A plate of tacos at Los Torres.

Taco de Barbacoa Roja Estilo Sinaloa at Los Torres Taqueria
Unlike the barbacoa commonly available in Texas, this specialty of Sinaloa (where the Torres family has roots) is a mix of beef and pork, dark red from chiles colorados and fragrant spices. It’s always included in my order at Los Torres, where homey braises and handmade tortillas band together to give Dallas it’s best taqueria. When you visit the little spot in Oak Cliff—and you will—resist the urge to order tortillas de maiz hechas a mano. Go for the thin, nearly translucent handmade flour tortillas characteristic of Sinaloa.

Taco de Barbacoa de Cabeza at Gerardo’s Drive-In
The table-hushing barbacoa at Gerardo’s on Houston’s east side is among the best I’ve had in Texas yet. It’s silky and full, though delicate, and pulled directly from the cows’ head. My visit to Gerardo’s included a kitchen tour from Owner José Luis Lopez—Gerardo is his son—who obviously has pride in his work. He propped the cow heads for photos taken by the crew I was running around Houston with that morning, amigos in food J.C. Reid and Michael Fulmer, cofounders of the Houston Barbecue Festival, and photographer Robert Strickland.

Taco al Pastor at Taco Flats
Austin isn’t a taco al pastor town. It’s strength resides in breakfast tacos and Tex-Mex. So this killer version of the undisputed king of tacos on a housemade tortilla from Taco Flats, a new Burnet Road bar with taco-focused pub grub came as a surprise. Sit at the far end of the bar for a view of the trompo. Continue reading

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Filed under Austin, Best of, Dallas, DFW, Fort Worth, Houston, one of the freaking best, Reviews, San Antonio, Tex-Mex, Uptown

Taco Stop

Make time for Taco Stop.

Make time for Taco Stop.

There are taquerias I visit for years before writing about them. It’s not that the taquerias are played out or that I want to keep them to myself. Sometimes, when juggling a day job, a family and get-in-the-way adult stuff, I just want to eat at a place I know is good and don’t get around to completing a review. Taco Stop, a two-year-old walk-up joint in the Dallas Design District, has been one of those taquerias. But it’s more than good. Taco Stop is fantastic.

It’s been that way almost since the beginning. Weeks after its 2012 opening, a friend and I dropped into Taco Stop for breakfast and had our ordered bungled. It didn’t matter. An order of Taco Stop’s breakfast tacos are a great way to start the morning, especially if you’re going “all in.” This deluxe breakfast taco is equipped with bell peppers, onions and bacon or chorizo, giving you bites of sweet and salty. A follow-up visit did not disappointment. Continue reading

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Filed under breakfast tacos, Dallas, Design District, DFW, Reviews, Texas

La Tacopedia Author Alejandro Escalante Talks Breakfast Tacos

Alejandro Escalante at the North Texas Taco Festival/Alex Flores

There’s been a lot of talk about breakfast tacos lately. Much of it has focused on the people who prepare and sell Texans their favorite way to start day. The interviews amassed are crucial to the archives. We need the stories after those folks are passed. But what about the taco motherland and the breakfast taco analogs (tacos mañaneros) in Mexico? They exist, and not just in the sense that you can throw anything in a tortilla and call it a taco. Taken together, the work of culinary historians and taco experts Jeffrey M. Pilcher and Alejandro Escalante show that breakfast tacos were likely the first tacos. The word taco came into print and common usage in the 18th century with tacos mineros, named in favor of silver miners who subsisted on them and after the gunpowder-filled paper rolls (tacos) workers used to clear rock. (Of course, there are other theories.) With time, tacos mineros morphed into tacos de canasta, which today are regular morning noshes found on the streets of Mexico City. But they aren’t the only ones. In Michoacan, carnitas in freshly fried hard-shell tacos (tacos dorados) are a favorite breakfast food. In Jalisco, lamb tacos dorados are common.

Escalante, contributor to Mexican online food journal Animal Gourmet and author of the first comprehensive encyclopedia of the taco, La Tacopedia, took time to discuss Mexico’s other breakfast tacos. The interview that follows was conducted in Spanish and is presented translated into English.

Taco Trail: Tacos are eaten at all times of the day. In Mexico, tacos mañaneros, what we call breakfast tacos in the United States, include tacos de canasta. What are other tacos mañaneros, and what goes in them?

Alejandro Escalante: Tacos de canasta are the most common breakfast tacos in Mexico City. Tacos de guisados are perhaps equally popular in the capital now that they’re practically the national breakfast food: corn tortillas with one or two leftover guisados. They’re always accompanied with rice, beans, salsa and chiles…

Classic: chicharrón in a Green, red or mixed salsa; beef picadillo, rajas con crema; chorizo with potatoes, mole with shredded chicken, tinga, cochinita, bistek in salsa (pasilla, green, red, etc.), moronga [blood sausage], sausage, milanesa… Continue reading

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Filed under breakfast tacos, interviews, Lengua Sessions, Mexico City

Stripes/Laredo Taco Company

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I have scads of gripes about long lines. Mainly due to their cultish aspects. The way I see it, if I’m going to wait in a long line hours before a restaurant opens it will be at a place where a specific food was invented, like La Fogoncito, birthplace of the gringa taco (a taco al pastor with cheese in a flour tortilla). However, lines are a rarity at a good taqueria.

Breakfast tacos weren’t invented at Stripes gas stations with Laredo Taco Company outposts and there are long lines, but the lines move quickly. When I visited a Stripes/Laredo Taco Company in the Rio Grande Valley, I waited maybe a couple of minutes between getting in line and receiving my tacos. With large flour tortillas that are fresher than that. Your tortillas are made after you order. And don’t be surprised if the woman taking your order breaks some bad news: they’re out of what you want but will be have another batch in 10 to 15 minutes if you’re willing to wait. This kind of freshness can be difficult to find in quiet hole-in-the-wall taquerias in Dallas. Continue reading

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Filed under Brownsville, Reviews, Rio Grande Valley, Tex-Mex, Texas

Taco-Mex

TacoMexWindo

This is a hole in a wall. Really. Wedged between a laundromat, a hair salon and a convenience store, Taco-Mex is an orange color-framed walk-up taco window. From the menu at the right are available $1.75 vinegar-spiked cactus strips embroiled in scrambled eggs, refried beans speckled with whole pintos and a network of melted cheese, peppy chorizo and egg as well as migas minus the Scoville slap of jalapeños. The $2 barbaoca is a greasy cowhead-lovers dream and would make admirable hangover salve.

The bacon and egg and ham and egg breakfast tacos by comparison are standard fare for the varied clientele of university students, young adults who have pioneered gentrification of surrounding East Austin, locals tapping their feet to the rhythm of the washers and dryers next door, and the fashionable lot who prefer not to shop at in.gredients, the hip grocer across the street. Ratchet up their satisfaction with the creamy salsa verde, a lung-puncher of a condiment. Continue reading

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Filed under Austin, breakfast tacos, Reviews, Texas

Taco Wagon

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“Yeow! That’s hot,” screamed the young man working the fryer at Taco Wagon, which opened in June after a more than a year of renovation and taunting fans of the original Taco Wagon with its coming soon sign, the $5 pony rides in the old drive-in’s parking lot adding a new twist to the anticipation. His pain was a good sign. It meant the crispy taco I ordered would come with a freshly fried shell.

TacoWagonComingSoonSign

That taco dorado is the anchor of the Tex-Mex menu that includes breakfast tacos and guisos to be eaten under the corrugated metal roof patio with wrought-iron outdoor furniture adjacent to the 1950s building in a shape reminiscent of an old covered wagon, a reminder of the original occupant, the Chuck Wagon. A car under the drive-in shelter in the gravel parking and to-go are the other dining options. Continue reading

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Filed under Dallas, Oak Cliff, Reviews, Tex-Mex

Taco Internet: Canada, Tacos on the Radio and Eating Chicano

TacoInternet

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

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Filed under News, Taco Internet, Taco Ticker

Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop

JoesBakeryTacos

A group of wait staff broke out into a ranchera when they learned it was a customer’s birthday. There was clapping. The clapping spread. As did the singing. To my left was a photo of Vicente Fernandez, the king of ranchera music. In front of me, at Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop in East Austin, was a platter of incredible breakfast tacos, flawless homemade flour tortillas—thick without being dense, fluffy without being mistaken for an old pillow—and all. Within one envelope was snappy dredged in flour bacon, firm eggs that bore a sheen, the heavy-handed spread of captivating refried beans. The pictured round breakfast sausage patties are one of only a couple of items not made in-house, but they have to be on the menu. Reportedly, sausage patties are among the first ingredients placed in a tortilla in Texas to create a breakfast taco.

There are myriad theories on the origins and appropriate composition of breakfast tacos. Some believe that Austin can rightfully claim Texas’ favorite day starter. This declaration is justified, they insist, because Austin is where the breakfast taco was perfected and popularized. Support is found in food writers in cities like New York who slap the qualifier “Austin-style” before mentioning our homegrown staple, tourists who return to their hometowns oohing and ahhing about them, and Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop. Continue reading

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Filed under Austin, one of the freaking best, Reviews, Tex-Mex, Texas

A Brief Post About Rusty Fenton’s Passing

Rusty Taco/Facebook.

Rusty Taco/Facebook.

As many of you know, Rusty Fenton, founder of Rusty Taco, passed away early Monday morning of cancer. When I learned about his condition, I was floored. How could one of the nicest guys I know have cancer? I thought. When I read Carol Shih’s SideDish post about Rusty’s death, I was having a post-work beer. I cried in that beer.

I knew it was coming, but awareness doesn’t soften the news of such an event.

Rusty had been diagnosed with the disease while developing his successful taqueria brand, Rusty Taco, and its first store on Greenville Avenue. Since then, he dedicated his life to his family and Rusty Taco, making sure that his wife, Denise, and his four daughters, would be taken care of when he was gone. All the while, he smiled.

I work across the street from the Greenville Avenue Rusty Taco. It’s my regular breakfast taco spot, and when Rusty was alive I’d sometimes rush down there for lunch in hope of catching Rusty to see how he was doing and to see his smile.

The last time I saw him was during one of those lunchtime pop-ins. We shook hands, talked about a food he fell in love with during a recent trip to Mexico City. He was considering adding it to his menu.

Before that, we saw one another at the North Texas Taco Festival. He and his wife walked up to me in the middle of the madness, they said hi and Rusty, sensing I was frazzled, gave me a hug. It helped.

I can’t say Rusty and I were friends, but he sure made me feel like one whenever we spoke.

Rest in peace, Rusty, and thanks for the tacos. You will be missed.

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Filed under News, one of the freaking best

Ten Joints With Great Breakfast Tacos

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Breakfast in Texas means tacos, and breakfast has been on my mind a lot lately. So, I’d thought I’d offer my current top 10 places for the proper way to begin a day—anywhere, not just in the Lone Star State.

Taqueria La Salsa Verde
Although its appearance shows otherwise, the taquera working this Richardson gas-station counter claims the taco de cabeza (above) is prepared al vapor. Whatever its preparation, the taco is still excellent. Which is really all that matters to me first thing in the morning. The choriqueso is the cabeza’s equal. 14225 Coit Road, 972-330-0403

San Juanita
The chorizo and cheese at this South Congress shack offers buckshot heat in a large tortilla, giving any road trip a fiery start. 4406 S. Congress Ave., Austin, 512-443-9308 Continue reading

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Filed under Austin, Best of, breakfast tacos, DFW, East Dallas, North Texas, Oak Cliff, Plano, Richardson, San Antonio, Tex-Mex, Texas