Yes, we must stay home to save lives. Yes, we must plop on the couch or climb into bed to flatten the curve. Binge-watching content is practically our patriotic duty. We each must play at least a tiny part in the fight against coronavirus. Yet many of us can’t help but bristle at being told to keep ourselves indoors. To make this temporary inconvenience a little easier, we’re recommending this collection of taco-flavored streaming content to help you get comfy and hungry.
Austinite Ali Khan, who has hosted shows on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, is boisterous, knowledgeable, and open-minded. Those characteristics make for compelling television, and that’s what you get when you watch Ali Versus the Dome. In each episode, Khan must eat a surprise dish that is at first concealed by a domed platter. The first installment sees him confronted by a taco of chapulines (roasted grasshoppers) with guacamole and cilantro from La Condesa. After jumping around the room freaked out at the prospect of eating bugs, Khan overcomes his fear and takes a huge bite. “I’m savoring that bug. It’s scrumptious,” he says. In episode two, he meets his “nemesis,” hot dogs, specifically T-Loc’s over-the-top Sonoran-style hot dogs. In episode five, he digs into Flamin’ Hot Cheetos drenched in chamoy, a saucy mixture of sweet, spicy, and savory components whose texture and flavor complexity can be off-putting. Khan’s YouTube channel also features vignettes about the Austin food business via his recently launched Bitesize program. YouTube.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
For Austin, nostalgia is as important as breakfast tacos. The Austin episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations is chock-full of both. The legendary chef and traveling food personality took on Austin during South by Southwest in 2012 and met our very own barbecue editor. He chowed down with rock bands and waited in the infamous hours-long line at Franklin Barbecue for what he later described as “supernatural” smoked meat, but Bourdain also munched on breakfast tacos at the now closed Tamale House on Airport Boulevard alongside Aaron and Stacy Franklin. (Unfortunately, they didn’t order the tacos with rice.) Bourdain also has mourning dove at the shuttered El Taco Rico. The episode has us missing not only Austin businesses of yore but also the great Bourdain. Hulu
Samantha Brown’s Places to Love
Longtime travel show host Samantha Brown returns to Dallas, the city where she was born, for gourmet feasts and shopping sprees. Of note is Brown’s visit to Revolver Taco Lounge, home to one of Texas Monthly’s top ten tacos, where multiple James Beard–nominated chef-owner Regino Rojas and his family cook their signature twists on classic Mexican food at the reservation-only back-room dining space Purépécha, complete with Rojas’s father working on his gun-engraving scrollwork and his mother’s mole. PBS
Although Netflix’s Taco Chronicles docuseries takes place almost exclusively in Mexico—inexplicably the only exceptions are forays into Southern California for the “Asada” and “Guisado” episodes—there is a connection to Texas in the second episode, “Carnitas.” It’s where we are first introduced to Carnitas Don Raúl, a family-run shop in Morelia, the capital of the Mexican state of Michoacán. Established in 1991 as a street stall, the operation is now housed in a two-story restaurant and just last year opened a food trailer in San Antonio. I’ve visited the original restaurant and the trailer and can tell you, the Alamo City outpost puts out carnitas that taste exactly like the food served in Morelia. Here’s the even better news: Carnitas Don Raúl in San Antonio is open for pickup service. And the whole series is a brilliant, whimsical piece of work—with some of the best English subtitling of Spanish I’ve seen on a streaming network. Netflix.
Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives
Guy Fieri has caught a lot a flak for his hyperbolic food and personality, but there’s no denying that the Food Network star has done much to shine a spotlight on mom-and-pop restaurants. Nowhere is that more obvious than in his long-running series Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Not all seasons of the show are available on streaming platforms. What is available is on Hulu. In the fifth episode of season 27, Fieri visits San Antonio’s La Panaderia, owned and operated by Mexico City natives David and José Cáceres, who balance a sense of Mexican baking tradition with a sense of flair. In season 28, episode two, “Delicious Discoveries,” Fieri pops into the original location of Tijuana-style taco specialist Tacos Mariachi on Dallas’s Singleton Boulevard. Taqueria owner Jesús Carmona runs the show’s host through the recipe for the popular pulpo (squid) taco. Carmona and Fieri save the best for last, though: Tacos Mariachi’s mole fries. “I came for the tacos, but I come back for the mole fries,” Fieri says. Hulu
Before El Paso native Aarón Sánchez published his memoir, Where I Come From: Life Lessons From a Latino Chef, he made his name on the Food Network and Cooking Channel. One of his shows, Taco Trip, sees Sánchez visit his hometown in season two’s second episode. He pops into the legendary Chico’s Tacos, the modern Tacoholics, and institution Lucy’s Cafe, where the signature Tacos Antonia are made of Lawry’s seasoning-dusted fried shells filled with machaca and Muenster. In a subsequent episode, Sánchez visits Austin’s Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, chows down on breakfast tacos, and goes highfalutin at La Condesa. Apple TV
The Final Table
Hosted by Austin transplant and Bon Appétit editor at large Andrew Knowlton, this cooking competition premiered on Netflix in 2018. The format features teams of two chefs who must cook dishes in accordance with each episode’s theme. The first episode required contestants to make tacos. Chefs rolled chapulines in edible gold. They covered tortillas in a layer of trout roe, and they fused Mexican with Japanese gourmet elements. There were plenty of surprises, and more than one Mexican chef. Including “L.A.’s taco king” Esdras Ochoa, who has restaurants in Southern California, Hong Kong, and Mumbai, opened a restaurant last year in Austin, Reunión 19. Ochoa and his chef-partner Rafa Gil, a Brazilian, served two tacos: one pork al pastor on a fresh flour tortilla and the other lamb barbacoa with ponzu sauce. The pair didn’t win the challenge, but they did make it to the penultimate episode of the series. Along the way, they won the “U.K.” and “Brazil” episodes. Reunión 19 is currently offering takeout and delivery service alongside dry goods. Netflix.
United Tacos of America
On El Rey Network’s United Tacos of America, cohosts and Austinites Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece travel the country to tell the stories of the people making tacos. Each episode takes viewers to a new city, three of which are in Texas. The episode covering the Rio Grande Valley is particularly poignant, as it puts border politics front and center. Have the tissues within arm’s reach. Amazon Prime
Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi, of Bravo’s Top Chef fame, takes to online streaming platform Hulu with a new show for which she visits “indigenous and immigrant communities to find out what American food is today.” Among the restaurants profiled in the show is Elemi in downtown El Paso. We’re fans of what owners Kristal and Emiliano Marentes are doing and are clearly lovers of their pato al pastor. There isn’t much that they can say about the episode, though. The only solid information we have is Taste the Nation’s premiere date: June 19, 2020. If we’re all still sheltering in place at that point, by all means, we’ll check it out. Hulu.