Tag Archives: tacos

Where to Eat Nationwide on National Taco Day

Taco placero at Taqueria Izucar

This is list is good beyond National Taco Day too.

You might not know this but tomorrow, Thursday, October 4, is the silly sad fabricated food holiday known as National Taco Day in the United States. It offers Mexican restaurants and taquerias an opportunity for promotion, while offering multinational restaurant chains like Taco Bell an even greater boost. There are insane specials available across the country mañana. Google them.

But before you do so, consider this list of taco suggestions across the style spectrum collected while traveling for research for my forthcoming book, American Tacos: A History and Guide to the Taco Trail North of the Border (University of Texas Press). Visiting them all might even be possible if Star Trek transporter tech were real.

B.S. Taqueria

A downtown restaurant with an airy space, B.S. Taqueria has a communal table that stands tall. It makes for an excellent vantage point from which to watch the kitchen staff quietly work to send out the sprightliest churros you’ve ever had and the spice-charged brine-pouch that is the clam and lardo taco. You might even get a glimpse of chef-owner Ray Garcia. A serape pattern-stylized U.S. flag hangs on a nearby wall. The back room offers a respite from the urban center with walls decorated as the loose, open curtain of a bright forest. Plants hang from the overhead wood beams. I did not sit in the rear dining space. During my visits to B.S. Taqueria, I’ve always sat in the front room, where I’ve enjoyed the aforementioned clam and lardo taco but also the cheese-covered chorizo and potato taco, both of which came on a blue corn tortilla. It’s a taco of rich swells, showcasing Garcia’s expertise with classic preparations. Meanwhile, the bologna taco recalls Garcia’s upbringing. It was one of the first things he learned to make for himself as a kid. Heating up a tortilla, maybe a little bit burned, warming up bologna (“or not,” he tells me during a phone interview), rolling it up—and that was a snack. With rare exception, Garcia says in regards to the bologna taco and other menu selections, “there are not a whole lot of things that were a replica of a dish that my mother or my grandmother made that are still on the menu.” 514 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014, 213-622-3744, www.bstaqueria.com

Barrio Café

My favorite at this Phoenix institution is the Baja-style shrimp lightly enchased in a Tecate-buoyed batter, offset in texture by fans of avocado and knots of cabbage. The taco is finished with a classic chipotle cream sauce that gives the pocket zing. The restaurant’s signature cochinita pibil, pork bathed in achiote and sour orange juice that is then roasted in banana leaves is as close as one gets to the traditional in-ground preparation. The finished meat is pleasantly puckering and topped with cuts of pickled red onions. 2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006, 602-636-0240, www.barriocafe.com

Boca Tacos y Tequila

Sitting along the city’s Fourth Avenue, Boca Tacos is chef Maria J. Mazon’s misperception-busting tortilla pulpit. The Tucson-born, Sonora-raised Mazon sees tacos as more than quick curbside noshes. They’re refined eats presented in tortillas, whether those be corn or flour. Mazon and crew do an excellent job of balancing renderings of traditional tacos, especially the regional sort, with interpretations of favorite foods and ingredients applied differently, beginning with house-made corn and flour tortillas. My number one out of the 24 options is the Taco Dog. This take on the beloved Sonoran hot dog comprises a bench of bacon-wrapped hotdog upon which rest a union of onion twists, tomato-dominated pico de gallo, and whole beans. Vegetarians are sated with grilled tofu lathered in honey mustard, a breakfast taco of sorts in the hash browns and fried egg taco, and my preferred choice, a ladle of poblano and Anaheim rajas and corn enveloped in cream. Don’t sleep on the northern Mexican-style discada with a beef-chorizo base or specials like the sliced rib-eye with a peanut sesame-basil salsa. 533 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705, 520-777-8134, www.bocatacos.com

Carnitas Lonja

One of the greatest meals I’ve had this year was at a tiny San Antonio specializing in one dish—carnitas. Served as plate or as tacos, the carnitas at Lonja are mellow, juicy, and, as is true of the best tacos, world-silencing. Go early. Carnitas Lonja sells out. 1107 Roosevelt Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210, www.facebook.com/Lonja17

Chacho’s Tacos

In Corpus Christi, the flour tortillas are often thicker—like an actually comfortable futon—but they vary in width. It is here that super tacos stuffed with a ridiculous number of items become common. An extreme example of the super taco is the namesake at Chacho’s Tacos: 14 inches of squishy flour tortilla straining to harness its motley innards of everything else on the menu. It’s a gloriously intimidating wonder ideal for college-buddy dares and treating hangovers. Another option is weenies and eggs. 3700 Ayers St, Corpus Christi, TX 78415, 361-888-7378

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Filed under Best of, breakfast tacos, National Taco Day, Taco Tours

The Santa Fe Taco Trail

Photography: José R. Ralat

Eloisa’s pastrami tacos

There are state-sanctioned roadmaps for New Mexico’s green chile burgers and breakfast burritos. They are points of pride, and going Christmas-style on the breakfast burrito at Tia Sophia’s Restaurant, considered the home of the tortilla-wrapped morning behemoth, is proof enough. No such document exists for The Land of Enchantment’s tacos. But they are just as worthy of recognition as any of New Mexico’s signature foods. That’s what I realized during a trip to Santa Fe last week for the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta. Indeed, nearly all the Santa Feans I spoke with while visiting the city raved about their city’s tacos. I took their advice and hit the trail for Santa Fe tacos, beginning with the most recommended of the bunch. Continue reading

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Strip Mall Oasis: Las Casitas and Ome Calli

Tinga and Consome de Borrego

Tinga and Consome de Borrego

I often say I’d give up all of the restaurants in Portland-proper for those of the suburbs and outskirts. A culinary school can’t compete with Korean, Mexican, or Indian grandmas.  Though when I say that, I’m usually not thinking about chain-dominated Tualatin. The only reason I had actually stopped in Tualatin, rather than just passed through, was to go to Chocosphere to will-call high-end chocolate.  But the benefits of running a Mexican restaurant that doesn’t use Velveeta is that customers entrust their food finds to you.  And so when I heard about Ome Calli serving authentic paletas and chamoyadas, I had to go check it out.  I didn’t know then that next door I’d also discover one of Oregon’s best taquerias. Continue reading

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DF in PDX: Los Alambres

Pambazo

Pambazo

Some of the best taco trucks and taquerias are found next to strip clubs and porn stores. It’s not because perverts are better judges of tacos—I don’t think. It’s that niche ethnic restaurants need cheap rent. In Portland, 82nd Avenue, which acts as a major north-south thoroughfare and quasi-feeder for I-205, has at least three porn stores, a couple strip clubs, and a half dozen or more “lingerie” modeling joints. It also has several of the best Vietnamese, Chinese, and Mexican restaurants in town. One of its newest loncheras is also one of the city’s best: Los Alambres. Continue reading

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Mexico City: Tacos de Guisado

A favorite tacos de guisado stand in Mexico City

Las Cazuelas tacos de guisado stand

While Mexico City may not have New York’s skyscrapers, it’s every bit as big — bigger — and its people every bit as busy. Urban life doesn’t always allow for a home-cooked meal. So in DF, the home-cooked meal has come to the street in the form of tacos de guisado. Continue reading

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Filed under Best of, Mexico City, Reviews

The First North Texas Taco Festival (Photos)

NTTF2013-4925

Wow. Wow again. You made the first North Texas Taco Festival a success beyond our wildest expectations. Thank you, and thank you for the feedback on our inaugural taco celebration. A special thanks to the vendors, special guests and all who made the NTTF a fantastic event. The producing team promises to make the second annual NTTF even better, with more vendors and shorter lines. Before then, though, take a look-see at some photos from Taco Trail’s design honcho, Alex Flores.

NTTF2013-4926

NTTF2013-4945

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Filed under Dallas, Deep Ellum, DFW, Downtown, events, festivals, North Texas

After Closing Its Bishop Arts District Location, El Padrino Is Moving to Pleasant Grove

elpadrino

Last August, Taco Trail brought you the news that El Padrino was ordered to vacate it’s Bishop Arts District. Well, there’s an update. This is just in from Juan Contreras, Jr., of El Padrino, in original press release form.

El Padrino Taqueria a casualty to the Bishop Arts District’s success

DALLAS, TX – El Padrino Taqueria, affectionately known as El Padrino (Mexican Godfather), a popular Mexican food stand in the Bishop Arts District since the 1990’s has lost their lease and has found a new home.  El Padrino was housed in an old original Jack in the Box shaped fast food stand located on 330 W. Davis St., and provided great Mexican fast food to N. Oak Cliff’s diverse clientele.

El Padrino lost their lease to Sarah Lombardi in May “We didn’t see this coming, but we were grateful that Ms. Lombardi let us operate through November. Which allowed us some time to look for a new location and for our employees to find jobs nearby.” says Juan Contreras Jr. El Padrino hoped to move to a new location in the Bishop Arts District or somewhere nearby, “Unfortunately it was harder than we thought. Our broker Charlie Perdue, from Perdue Equities worked with us to find us a home nearby, however, there were just no options to fit our needs.” says Juan C. Contreras Jr., Managing Partner.

The Contreras say that they decided to move to southeastern Dallas on 1215 S Buckner Blvd not only because they got a good deal in their new location but also because they also wanted to expand their locations: one in Oak Cliff and the other in Pleasant Grove. “One of our friends here in the community approached us with a deal we could not pass and well we decided to give it a try.” says Juan Contreras Jr.

The new Padrino’s expects to open May 3rd, 2013 serving the same type of original Mexican food items and more.

“We had a great run in the Bishop Arts District, and were surrounded by inspiring friends in the community and we expect to continue our success in our new location.” says Juan Contreras Jr.

El Padrino also has the original location located at 408 W. Jefferson Boulevard, which remains open.

Thank you,

Juan Contreras
El Padrino; Managing Partner

Twitter: ElPadrinoTejas

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The Best Tacos in Dallas, Give or Take

Dallas Observer Gives Some Taco Love in 2011 Best Of Issue

If you’ve picked up the February issue of D Magazine—and if you haven’t, you should—you’ve seen my feature, “The Top 20 Taquerias in Dallas.” Unfortunately, between press time and the newsstand date, two of the restaurants listed shut their doors for good, although both cited they have future projects in mind. Each cited lack of customer traffic. Taco Republic, which wowed me with the Thai Chihuahua and use of tortillas made from nixtamal, closed last month and was ranked number 7 on my list. Taco Republic didn’t make to its first anniversary. Owner Ron Guest placed the blame squarely on the fast-casual joint’s location. Taco Republic was a pain in the neck to get to. Café Maya, made it past the year mark before closing in January, but not by much. The loss of Café Maya hurt. When co-owner Sergio Pinto broke the bad news to me, it felt like someone had thrown hundreds of slap bracelet around my gut. It hurt. And not just because it meant I’d be missing the killer cochinita pibil. Café Maya was a family-owned joint that put it all out there. I hate seeing family restaurants shut down. We need more of them.

What follows are additional write-ups that could’ve been on the list for some reason. About the first: Had I visited the truck more than once before I filed my story, the mobile concern would’ve broken the top 10, as the best taco truck in the Dallas. The second, a Dallas institution owned by one of the standard-bearers of Mexican food and Tex-Mex in this city, was edged out by a late entry. Nevertheless, it’s worthy of an honorable mention, as are Birrieria Aguiñaga, Fito’s #3, La Tejanita and Taco Ocho (which I’ve reviewed in the past). Continue reading

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Filed under Best of, Dallas, DFW, food truck, News, North Texas, one of the freaking best, Reviews, Texas

John Tesar’s Taco Tuesday at Spoon Bar & Kitchen

Spoon logo

If you’ve been watching Top Chef Seattle, you know of the three Dallas chefs competing on the reality TV cooking show. Week before last, John Tesar, one of those toques, was voted off the show, but was given a chance at redemption through a text messaging and a social media campaign. The latter counted the number of times the #SaveChefJohn hashtag was mentioned on Twitter versus that of his opponent. During the popularity contest’s run, I tweeted to Tesar that he’d have my #SaveChefJohn vote if he agreed to offer a one-night-only seafood taco special at his Preston Center restaurant, Spoon Bar & Kitchen. He did agree, and will have the taco available tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Before I share the type of taco, I’d like to tell you. Tesar knows his way around a taco. The chef John helped develop the Wild Salsa menu and concept before handing it over to Kelly Hightower. I’m expecting a solid taco born of his familiarity with the food and his expertise with seafood. The man knows his stuff. Continue reading

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Urban Rio Cantina & Grill

Mark Miller is to New Mexico’s cuisine what Stephan Pyles is to Texas foodways. Each is a big shot in the Southwestern cuisine movement that swept the country in the 1980s and ’90s. Pyles opened his latest restaurant, Stampede 66, in early November. This summer, UrbanRio Cantina & Grill, part of part of an entertainment and culinary complex in the Old Downtown Plano Ice House, seated its first guests within sight of the DART Downtown Plano station.

In the run up to Urban Rio’s opening, Miller was brought in as the consulting chef by owners Nathan and Bonnie Shea, who also own the Urban Crust pizzeria in Downtown Plano. His involvement in what was being billed as “Next Mex” had me excited. Recipes in Miller’s cookbook Tacos, are some of my family’s favorite and are in regular rotation at Casa Ralat. His The Great Chile Book is a concise, reference book. Then there was the fact that I could take light rail to its doorstep. Man, I was down right jazzed for a seat in its contemporary Rio Grande Valley-inspired interior.

So off I went from Dallas to Plano to meet a friend and hit up a couple of hole-in-the-wall taquerías before capping our day exploring a suburban taco scene at a well-received newcomer nurtured by a renowned chef.

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