Daniel Vaughn welcomes José R. Ralat into the Texas Monthly fold as they chat tortillas, culinary coverage, and what it’s like to have the best jobs in the world.
Dallas-based writer and tortilla connoisseur José R. Ralat is one of five recent additions to our staff.
Chilorio, PicosType: Classic MexicanRating: 5Price: $10Chef Arnaldo Richards recently moved his popular self-styled “Mex-Mex” restaurant from the southwest side to a more central location on Kirby Drive and gave it a new slogan: “Seven Regions of Mexican Cuisine.” One of those regions is Sinaloa,a coastal state in northwestern Mexico
Pre-1,200 BCE: People in the New World discover nixtamalization, a process of soaking maize in water with wood ash that vastly increases the nutritional value of anything made from it, including corn tortillas. 1520’s: In recounting Hernán Cortés’s conquest of the Aztecs, Spanish historian Bernal Díaz del Castillo observes that
Chicken Tinga, El Taco del Rincon de VillaType: Classic MexicanRating: 4.25Price: $1.99Chicken tacos generally inspire monumental indifference. But you won’t be able to get enough of these corn masa pockets filled with juicy, chipotle-smoky shredded fowl. For an extra kick, add the orange-tinted chile de árbol salsa. 6867 Greenville
Carne Guisada, Southside BarbacoaType: Classic MexicanRating: 4Price: $2.49On Saturdays, the carne guisada tacos, filled with cubed beef in a rich and spicy chile gravy, come with a sound track: music from the Southside Farmers’ Market band, a homespun ensemble that includes harp, banjo, accordion, and violin and plays just steps
Potato and Egg, H&H Car Wash and Coffee ShopType: BreakfastRating: 5Price: $4.99/platePut aside the fact that H&H is a half-century-old restaurant/car wash whose co-owner, Maynard Haddad, is a supreme grouch (if one with a soft heart). Ignore the time-scuffed Formica tabletops and the aging counter stools. Then strip
The lexical evolution of a most delicious word.
Carne Guisada, Jesse’s Taqueria and BakeryType: Classic MexicanRating: 4Price: $4.25Burrito-size tortillas stay hot in a large Tupperware container as they wait to be filled with tender, well-seasoned carne guisada. The finished taco, tightly rolled in shiny foil, resembles a missile. Be careful unwrapping it later, lest the soupy contents
Lengua, La PosadaType: Classic MexicanRating: 4.75Price: $2.80La Posada is hidden between a liquor store and an insurance agency—blink and you’ll miss it. But don’t: this taco is a real find. Braised with onions, peppers, and tomatoes to stewlike consistency, the sliced beef tongue is cradled into a thick, lightly griddled
Barbacoa, Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-QueType: Classic MexicanRating: 5Price: $3 for 1/4 pound (makes 3 to 4 tacos)Fans from far and near know that humble Vera’s is the only place in the state, maybe the country, that still does traditional “barbacoa en pozo con leña de mezquite,” or cow’s head
Brisket, Mi Cocula Mexican GrillType: Modern AmericanRating: 4.5Price: $12/plateAt this hidden shopping-center gem, tender shreds of smoked beef mingle with grilled onion inside miniature corn tortillas, glistening with melted jack cheese (add a dab of the salsa de chile pasilla). The tacos al pastor, pork tips loaded with grilled pineapple
Baja Fish, The Original Mexican CaféType: Modern AmericanRating: 4.25Price: $10.25/plateFounded in 1916, in a rambling two-story building downtown, this place claims to be the oldest Galveston restaurant still in its original location. It has the gusto of a margarita-happy-hour haunt, but the food is a draw too, especially the
Chicken Cilantro, Chela’s TacosType: Classic MexicanRating: 5Price: $3.50You can barely count on consistency in anything these days—gas prices, the weather, Cowboys wins—but you’ll certainly find it in the fire engine–red taco truck that’s usually stationed at the food-trailer park and beer garden known as the Block. This little
Al Pastor, Taqueria GuadalajaraType: Classic MexicanRating: 4.25Price: $2At this American Graffiti–meets–Mexico joint, the baskets of cinnamon-and-achiote-spiked tacos al pastor are even better with a dash of chile de árbol salsa. (Your order is delivered carside but not on roller skates, alas.) 1301 S. Crane Ave, Odessa, 432-335-8808. Sun–Thur 6–11, Fri
Al Pastor, El TejavanType: Classic MexicanRating: 4.75Price: $8.99/platterHere in cattle country, it’s beef—not pork—that’s cooked al pastor. The well-marinated steak is elevated by simple cilantro, onions, and freshly made corn tortillas; there’s also chunky guacamole, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa served on the side for you to create your own
Pastor a la Vegetariana, El Quinto SolType: SpecialtyRating: 4Price: $6.99/plateMexican restaurants do not usually cater to vegetarians and vegans; El Quinto Sol is a happy exception. Corn tortillas enfold wheat-gluten “meat” spiked with a spicy adobo, pineapple, and gooey mozzarella, topped with the classic onion, cilantro, and lime. Even carnivores
Núóc Mam Dipping Sauce3/4 cup Squid brand fish sauce (núóc mam, available at oriental markets) 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar 2 tablespoons chopped scallions (green onions)Whisk ingredients together and set aside.Vegetable Platter1 head leaf lettuce 1 bunch fresh mint 8 ounces bean sprouts 8 thin spears fresh pineapple, cut lengthwise
Dallas’ Seventeen Seventeen has mastered the art of the catfish taco.
Sixty-three of them, to be exact: from picadillo in Dallas and brisket tinga in Houston to carne asada gringa in San Antonio and chorizo-and-jalapeño in McAllen. Be sure you don’t leave this earth without trying each and every one.
Taco Cabana pioneered patio dining—a winning formula of Tex-Mex food and margaritas in the open air. When competitor Two Pesos introduced its look-alike layout, the lawsuits started to fly.
From El Paso’s ingenious taco trays to Austin’s uplifting breakfast tacos, each Texas city celebrates this noble creation in its own way.
You want tacos with carnitas or cactus pads? Beef barbecue or bacon and eggs Come to San Antonio, where tacos aren’t just an afterthought on a Tex-Mex munue—they’re a way of life.
The last word on tortillas: how to make them, when to eat them, and why they should be in every artist’s studio.