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In April 2001, Texas Monthly ran a feature on tortillas, including a list of local factories in selected cities in Texas where you can buy freshly prepared masa for making tortillas or tamales. Here is an updated list of the factories that were still open for business in November 2001.
In Texas cities with large Hispanic populations, there are many more factories than this, especially smaller neighborhood ones, but this will get you started. Remember when you are making your purchase that you need to specify “masa for tamales,” as the latter is more coarsely ground than the “masa for tortillas.” The numerical ratings refer to the quality of the factory’s prepared tortillas, on a scale of 1 to 5.
DOS HERMANOS TORTILLA FACTORY AND RESTAURANT 2730 E. Cesar Chavez (E. First), 512-474-9655. This simple, brightly painted little factory on the east side has a handful of packaged goods like mole for sale, as well as pan dulce (“sweet bread”) in astonishing colors, and a tiny restaurant on the side. It feels like Mexico in here (ratings: corn 3, flour 4).
EL MILAGRO OF TEXAS TORTILLA FACTORY 910 E. Sixth, 512-477-6476. This storefront hops on weekends, when customers line up to get giant bags of chips for parties, masa dough for tamales, and baked goods. Mexican polka music blares out a cheery bip-bip-bip. White corn tortilla rating: 4. Yellow corn: 2.5. Flour: 4 (the factory makes spinach and tomato as well as plain).
LUNA’S TORTILLAS 1615 McKinney Avenue, 214-747-2661. Founded in 1924 by Maria Luna and run by her grandson Juan Luna, this factory makes 120,000 corn and flour tortillas daily for hotels, restaurants, and other corporate clients (ratings: corn 3.5, flour 3). Anyone can stop by for tortillas, masa, chorizo, pan dulce (“sweet bread”), and other goodies. Breakfast taquitos in warm flour tortillas cost a mere $1.35 each.
LA ROTATIVA TORTILLA FACTORY 2010 Montana Avenue, 915-533-2317. Because the thin corn tortillas made at this factory have no preservatives or dough conditioners (chemicals and enzymes that improve the dough’s texture), they have a pure, almost nutty flavor, but they also dry out quickly (rating: 3). Thinner than other local flour tortillas, La Rotativa’s stand out for excellent flavor and fine layers (4).
TEMO Y TEKA TORTILLA FACTORY 172 N. Moon Road, Socorro, 915-858-9479. It’s hard to imagine better flour tortillas than these big, thin, golden circles with brown splotches from the grill. They taste buttery (though it’s bound to be lard) and tear easily (rating: 5). The soft, thinnish corn tortillas are equal to restaurant quality (4). Mexican food to go too.
VALLE REAL 11881 Socorro Road, San Elizario, 915-851-0333. This factory’s teensy corn tortillas are real cuties, with a sweet, toasted flavor (rating: 5). Its oversized flour tortillas are so puffy they’re like dinner rolls (4). But the real specialties are the corn-flour-and-whole-wheat tortillas, which have a unique texture that makes them seem more like crackers than tortillas (4).
CARDONA FOODS 850 Meacham Boulevard, 817-625-6477. This longtime commercial tortilla factory in an industrial park northwest of downtown became a hot lunch place a few years ago. The smooth, somewhat thick corn tortillas bear tread marks from the machine belt (rating: 3); the soft flour tortillas are run-of-the-mill (rating: 2.5).
MARQUEZ 1730 E. Division, Arlington, 817-265-8858. The late Jose Marquez, a poor immigrant from Piedras Negras, built a multimillion-dollar bakery operation in San Angelo, Odessa, and Arlington. Today his family’s Arlington factory turns out more than 10,000 flour tortillas daily (rating: 3.5). You can buy them in bulk or enjoy one as a hot, soft-but-sturdy jacket for your breakfast burrito in the bakery’s airy little cafe.
RODRIGUEZ FESTIVE FOODS 899 N. Houston, 817-429-1980. This commercial supplier also sells retail customers average-quality corn and flour tortillas (rating: 3).
AYALA’S TORTILLA FACTORY 5616 Fulton, 713-691-2676. Although Ayala’s is just a factory and not much to look at, it does sell retail. Its tender Torti-Mex brand flour tortillas—with a top layer that actually separates to form a pocket, like pita bread—are far better than the typical mass-produced version (rating: 4). Its corn tortillas are pretty average (2.5).
LA POBLANA TORTILLA FACTORY 7648 Canal, 713-921-4760. If you don’t eat more of these tender, golden flour tortillas than you intended, you just aren’t hungry (rating 4.5). The lovely, soft corn tortillas are addictive (4.5). Allow time to grab a taco or a plate of good carnitas (pork tips) at the appealing, ultracasual restaurant up front.
SANDY’S FLOUR TORTILLAS 5711 McPherson, 956-727-7441. The entrance to this strip-mall spot is inconspicuous, but the factory inside is huge and bustling. Basic flour tortillas (rating: 3) are sold raw, to be cooked at home. Local restaurants El Taco Tote and Danny’s buy custom-made tortillas from Sandy’s.
Rio Grande Valley
DON PEDRO’S 4120 N. Twenty-third, McAllen, 956-686-8936. In the small restaurant in front of the factory, everything from fragrant pan dulce (sweet buns) to barbacoa is sold. Even though the space is basic, carved Mexican furniture perks it up. The corn tortillas are average (rating: 3), but the thin, multilayered flour tortillas rise above the norm (rating: 4).
EMILIA’S RESTAURANT 605 W. Elizabeth, 956-504-9899; and 5182 E. Fourteenth, 965-838-2221, Brownsville. The heavenly smell of corn envelops you when you walk into the tortilla factories at the back of these two bright, cheery restaurants. One of the monster flour tortillas will fill you up (rating: 4), but you’ll need more of the teensy and oddly salty corn ones (3).
EXQUISITA TORTILLAS 700 W. Chapin, Edinburg, 956-383-6712. Valley residents are big fans of Exquisita, a local brand sold in grocery stores. The factory is on Chapin Street, but you can also get the products, plus tacos and pan dulce (“sweet bread”), at the company’s Tacofé restaurant-bakeries in McAllen (525 N. Twenty-third and 703 Dove) and Edinburg (320 N. Twelfth). The medium-thin corn tortillas are good (rating: 3), the nicely layered flour versions better (4).
GARZA’S TORTILLA FACTORY 1010 S. F, Harlingen, 956-425-3313. The affiliated restaurant next door has a big local following for its barbacoa, even though it is near a highway and very basic. The corn tortillas are standard but good (rating: 3). Garza’s does not make flour tortillas, but other companies’ brands are sold here.
LIMON’S TORTILLERIA 34 U.S. 281, 956-544-2969; and 603 E. Jefferson, 956-542-8497, Brownsville. Tiny and painted yellow, Limon’s factory could pass for a Mexican raspa (snow cone) stand. Most people use the drive-through; you can smell the corn from your car. Locals like these mild, standard quality tortillas for making nachos and migas (rating: 3).
TREVIÑO’S RESTAURANT AND TORTILLA FACTORY 54 Boca Chica Boulevard, Brownsville, 956-544-7866. Treviño’s is a bit out of the way (you’ll pass the intersection called the triangle if you’re coming from downtown; look for a former convenience store with old gas pumps outside), but you can get excellent, almost pita-like flour tortillas here (rating: 4.5) and grab a taco in the unprepossessing restaurant.
ADELITA TAMALES AND TORTILLA FACTORY 1130 Fresno, 210-733-5352. In a tidy, painted cinder-block building near I-10, you’ll find this little tortilla factory with a neighborhood clientele. Its flour tortillas, with a good, fresh taste (rating: 4), are better than the slightly stiff corn (rating: 3). Adelita also sells masa, barbacoa, and bundles of steaming tamales.
SANITARY TORTILLA MANUFACTURING CORPORATION 623 Urban Loop, near I-35; 210-226-9209. Although both corn and flour tortillas are sold, only the corn are made at this simple place, one of the oldest factories in the city. Quite thin, with good corn flavor, they are also admirably pure, having no preservatives or additives (rating: 3.5). Tamales, masa, chicharrones, and other foods are sold to go.