The San Antonio Current featured the food options at West Side tortilleria San Antonio Colonial, which supplies beloved taquerias such as Taquitos West Ave and Cuantos Tacos. The Current‘s Ron Bechtol described the salsa de chile de árbol as “take-no-prisoners.” Tamales are on hand by the dozen. Then there are the empalmes (melted cheese and beans squeezed between two corn tortillas), sweet gorditas, and the outstanding chicharrones and chiles rellenos.
It’s not unusual for tortillerias to offer a few food options utilizing their own products. Doing so can bring in extra revenue in a volatile market. La Nueva Fresh & Hot on Dallas’s Webb Chapel Road, for example, started out by selling several tacos de guisados options for takeout. There was no seating. While the tortilla-making business remained steady, food sales grew, and eventually, the owners remodeled their space to include a small dining room open to the creaking tortilla machine.
SA Colonial, as it’s colloquially known, may not have the space to add tables and chairs. During my visits, it looked like every available square foot was already being used. However, the tortilleria is renting space and time to Ancient Heirloom Grains, a small-batch, Oaxacan-corn tortilla operation that sells its vacuum-sealed, non-GMO products to restaurants, retailers, and via its start-up sister company, Tacos Cucuy.
You can expect to see more tortillerias diversifying in the future. Everyone will come out a winner: small businesses on either side of the border will grow and support their communities, and Texans’ demand for handcrafted products, especially tacos, will increase, making more taste buds happy. Soon enough, we’ll all be grabbing a nosh or two when we pick up our fresh tortillas.
The recent spate of armed robberies at food trucks in Austin continues. The latest case was at Raul’s Taqueria on Rundberg near Interstate 35 in North Austin, where a man robbed an employee at gunpoint. Police believe that he’s the same person behind recent attacks at taco trucks, and say they’re concerned that he is becoming more violent. The suspect was caught on camera wearing black clothing and a black face mask. He is considered to be between five-eight and six feet tall. The robbery underscores how vulnerable small businesses are to criminal violence. Taqueros need to be vigilant, and anyone with information is urged to call Austin police.
Brazas Taco House can’t catch a break. Central Texas’s late-March hailstorm damaged the Austin taqueria’s roof and flooded the restaurant. The mid-February winter storm caused more damage, according to an employee, but that was mitigated with insurance. Pile on the pain inflicted by the pandemic, during which Brazas closed temporarily, and Brazas is one of many Texas restaurants struggling to remain open.
In better news, Austin Monthly named Cuantos Tacos the city’s best taco operation. In the last two years, Cuantos Tacos has moved from a converted little yellow truck on Manor Road near Airport Boulevard to a larger trailer at the Arbor Food Park. We at Texas Monthly are longtime fans of Cuantos, especially their lengua tacos.
The magazine also got hip to the machete trend and spotlighted some of our favorites, including Doña Leova. The description of machetes as quesadilla-gordita hybrids isn’t quite right; they’re pretty much just crazy-long quesadillas. Nevertheless, it’s great to see these small businesses and this Mexico City specialty gain attention.
Torchy’s Tacos has been on a full-throttle growth path that includes national expansion and a potential IPO. That doesn’t mean the Austin-born chain hasn’t forgotten about its hometown. The company recently announced that another South Austin store is expected to open this fall.
Two years ago, Taco Cabana claimed to be releasing a pickle margarita as an April Fool’s Day joke. Since then, the San Antonio–established, Irving-based fast food chain has released a series of temporary margarita specials, including pumpkin spice, candy cane, Dr Pepper, and Big Red flavors. This time around, they’re not kidding. “An old April Fool’s joke is this year’s sensation! The Pickle Margarita has arrived at TC,” the company posted on Instagram. While I admit to being revolted by the idea of a pickle marg, I applaud the chain’s creativity and sense of humor. Considering the success of pickle-flavored products like the Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer from Martin House Brewing, I might be an outlier. Some Texas Monthly staffers have expressed their interest in outings specifically for the new iteration of the Mexican cocktail. The concoction is available now, alongside other new margarita flavors. These alternate options include violet, dragonfruit, chili lime cucumber, and more accessible flavors such as orange and pineapple jalapeño.
Another concha burger has burst onto the scene. The latest iteration of the Rio Grande Valley–influenced border fusion, which swaps a hamburger bun for a concha, is a chamoy pickle–topped, nacho cheese sauce–smothered burger in a pink concha bun. Instagram influencer @sanantoniostephanie uploaded an image of her edible creation in a post sponsored by Rico’s Products.
Texas Monthly contributor Luis G. Rendon writes about the increasing popularity of chile- and chamoy-covered gummies and candies in South Texas.
The meme comparing O.G. Captain America and post–Steve Rogers Captain America has a taco version (probably one of many):
Here’s another San Antonio versus Austin taco comparison. This time it’s in reference to the NCAA championship game.
The expanded “evolution stores” from 7-Eleven, which include Laredo Taco Company’s South Texas-style breakfast and lunch tacos, have taken on the drive-through market. This latest development is a single store near Dallas’s Lake Highlands neighborhood. It is the first Laredo Taco drive-through. While opening a drive-through window might not seem like a big deal, it actually is. Part of the allure of Laredo Taco is watching the preparation of the fresh flour tortillas and seeing which fillings are fresh or in the final stages of preparation, and for which you’re willing to wait. A drive-through sucks the fun out of that. However, considering the increasing demand for drive-through food during the pandemic, this model makes sense—even if it’s a little late.
The Dallas–Fort Worth La Hechizera torteria mini-chain, purveyor of a torta filled with three tacos, is opening a store in Plano.
Houston breakfast taco institution Villa Arcos updated its operational status. The taqueria has been closed since February’s winter storm.
Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook declares the egg-and-Chinese-sausage taco at Koffeteria worthy of hall-of-fame status.
Chicago Tribune food reporter Nick Kindelsperger has made a career of eating the hell out of the Windy City’s food, detailing its history and culture, and then creating definitive rankings. Somehow he always goes back to tacos. He did so again recently with a story on Chicago’s top seven tacos. Folks, this is a difficult task. Chicago is the metro area with the second-largest population of Mexican immigrants in the U.S., with many residents having roots in Michoácan. That means carnitas, birria (the goat-platter kind), and a healthy dose of modern twists from younger generations are mixed in with suburban crispy tacos. Chicago is a Midwest mecca for any taco lover, and Kindelsperger is your journalist-guide.
Under the Volcano in Midtown New York takes its name and culinary cues from a British expat’s 1947 novel of the same name. But, as New York Times food critic Pete Wells writes, the restaurant’s native, Nahuatl-speaking chef, Irwin Sánchez, is producing traditional and creative takes on contemporary Mexican food. Some of the highlights include mixiote (wrapped and as an oven- or pit-cooked protein), lamb barbacoa, and, of course, beef birria. Wells writes of Sánchez’s previous restaurant, Tlaxcal Kitchen, “tlaxcal is Nahuatl for corn tortilla and the root of the word taco.” That’s an oversimplification that is best cleared up by author and Nahuatl scholar David O. Bowles. The short answer is that it’s all just a theory; we don’t know the full story behind the name of the perfect food.
Richmond magazine in Virginia dropped its taco issue, which includes editor’s picks and a peek at the diversity of the area’s Mexican food. Especially fascinating is the way the stories ground the taco scene and Latin American community in historical context. For example, the city’s first Mexican restaurant was established in 1972 by immigrants from Zacatecas, Mexico. Michel Zajur, son of the original owners of the now-closed La Siesta, went on to establish the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Clarksville, Tennessee’s Leaf Chronicle deployed five taco aficionados in search of the town’s best tacos. One taste tester name-dropped the cheese-covered alambres at Los Hermanos. Another is partial to the Thai Sweet Chili Taco at Taco Loco.
Cottage food businesses aren’t new, nor are such enterprises that specialize in Mexican food. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a Mexican family selling tacos and dulces enchilados out of their home was ratted out to the authorities, reports the Triad City Beat. We’re not saying the alt-weekly is partially to blame, but they did publish a rave review of the informal, social media–driven operation El Sabor Tabasqueño, which included the problematic analogy that finding the house “felt like scoring illegal drugs.” Now the Lopez family has been shut down; a GoFundMe page has been set up to make up for lost sales. Perhaps the family can go legit with a food truck. As any good Texan knows, you don’t share closely guarded culinary sources such as your preferred parking-lot tamales lady. Oak Cliff’s Trompo began as the backyard taqueria Dos Primos Tacos, a mile from my house. It did business out of the house as a cash-only operation for years. There was one rule: publicly sharing the name of the taqueria or its location was prohibited. Las Almas Rotas also began as a speakeasy.
Among the new concepts opening in Atlanta’s Politan Row food hall are a sushi stall peddling burritos and a Cajun Tex-Mex–style joint called Pretty Little Tacos.
Quesabirria is now served in the House of Mouse. Orlando Weekly collected a whopping 25 birria-slinging spots in the Florida metro area, including at Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs boardwalk attraction.
In our recurring coverage of taco poetry, this news roundup includes not one but two tortilla-bound lyricisms. The first is a love poem that kicks off with a diss of cheesy birria. The second is an ode to tortillas by José Olivarez.
Salsa macha has made its way to Tucson. Food writer Andi Berlin offers a brief history of the salsa, connecting it salsa de aceite (which, spoiler alert, is pretty much the same thing), with a nod to Texas Monthly. The story includes a roundup of businesses offering the popular condiment.
The lede on this short review of Amano in Caldwell, Idaho, from the Idaho Press newspaper, is beautiful: “If the Treasure Valley should be known for one thing, let it be tacos.”
Seattle musician Lupe Flores’s Lebanese Mexican pop-up, Lupe Situ Tacos, has found a permanent home at Tractor Tavern in the city’s Ballard neighborhood. On the menu are three tacos filled with spicy cauliflower, Lebanese brown-butter beef, or creamy garlic potatoes. For those might look askance at the words “Lebanese Mexican,” it should be noted that immigrants from Lebanon are credited with developing vertical rotisserie–prepped tacos árabes in Puebla, Mexico, in the early twentieth century. The tacos evolved into tacos al pastor when they arrived in Mexico City in the 1960s.
L.A. Taco embraced April Fool’s Day with gusto. The news site’s prank post declared that Los Angeles was going to declare the taco the official food of the city—with one caveat: the Taco Royalty Tax.
“The motion calls for a new ‘Taco Royalty Tax’ to be adopted on any new business wishing to use the word taco in its name or any version of the word, including ‘taquería’ and ‘taco shop.’
City officials tell L.A. TACO, ‘The funds will be funneled for use in our social programs.’ Amongst the allocations, three percent will be used for the city’s official pay raises. In comparison, 89 percent will help replenish the LAPD’s almost depleted stockpile of less than lethal ammunition they use to maintain the peace in the streets. The remaining eight percent will go towards dog parks.”
Whatever you call them, rolled tacos, flautas, taquitos, or tacos dorados have long been a favorite of Los Angeles diners. Perhaps the most popular restaurant to sell them is Cielito Lindo on historic Olvera Street. However, the old-timer has stiff competition from the matter-of-factly-named Los Dorados L.A. food truck. Open since summer 2019, Los Dorados is a favorite of my compadres at the L.A. Taco website and recently was featured in the Los Angeles Times. Owner Steven Orozco Torres makes his own tortillas for frying and fills the tightly rolled tacos dorados with traditional chicken tinga, mashed potatoes, or house-made chorizo and potatoes. The tacos are then bathed in creamy, avocado-based salsa verde and salsa roja. Orders are finished with a dousing of queso cotija. The creations might as well be the pearly gates to heaven.