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Texas’s northern Mexican culinary foundation manifests in tacos heavy on cuts of meat, be they fajita, tripas, or trompo. As great as those preparations can be, there are so many more interesting things with which to fill tacos. And San Taco, a five-month-old taqueria in San Antonio, proves that with its tacos de guisados. The unruly, difficult-to-define category includes stews, braises, stir-fries, and all-around homey dishes. 

Some guisados—like picadillo, mole, and chicharrones en salsa—are familiar to Texans, while others—such as vegetable fritters, rajas con crema, and huevos en salsa—might be more novel. All of them are comforting. “It’s the food that takes me back home and to family,” says San Taco chef and co-owner Carlos “Charlie” Gonzalez. The chef is a native of Aguascalientes, a state in Central Mexico, where tacos de guisados are also called tacos de colores, or colored tacos. They are so named because when displayed in rows of pots, they resemble a spectrum of fetching hues and tones meant to lure potential customers. That’s exactly what they do at San Taco. 

On my visit, I was struck by the two rows of covered cazuelas at the front. The decorated and glazed earthenware pots were releasing tempting steam and contained a vibrant array of guisados. I trembled with excitement as co-owner and chef Gabriela Hinojosa lifted the lids to reveal one appetite-whetting guiso after another. The rajas con elote contained strips of roasted poblanos and beads of yellow corn swimming in a delicate white sauce. The asado de puerco was a concoction of juicy pork floating in a rust-colored salsa. Curlicues of chicharron bobbed in an orangey-red salsa. Earthy mole bore shredded chicken. The barbacoa was composed of inky knots of beef cheek. The papas adobada—potatoes reddened by chile-based marinade—was fetching. Nopalitos, rectangles of cactus pads, glowed in salsa guajillo.

Gonzalez and Hinojosa, who are engaged, knew it was going to be tricky to sell the idea of tacos de guisados to San Antonians. “In the beginning, it was a little hard [for customers] to understand because they thought that it was buffet style,” Hinojosa says. “It’s not like the typical Mexican menu.” Except it is: Guisados are an elemental component of Mexican cuisine, available in the morning and afternoon. Call them the original breakfast tacos

Hinojosa says public reception is getting better. However, I can see why there might be confusion. The menu suggests ordering guisados by the pound with tortillas. The reason is simple: “Guisados are enjoyed family-style,” Gonzalez says. “They always take you to that family feeling.” Family is a significant part of what drives Gonzalez and Hinojosa and their business partner, Niceforo Antonio of La Milpa Tortilleria y Taquería. San Taco has one customer who brings in his Mexican father every day to eat picadillo. “He says it’s the best picadillo in San Antonio,” Hinojosa says. “It makes me super happy.”

There are options other than ordering by the pound. The San Taco Plate gives customers the choice of three guisados with corn or flour tortillas from Milpa. Go for the fresh, lightly aromatic corn. A selection of five guisado-topped mini tacos is also available, and they can be mixed and matched. Those are the best options for getting a general sense of San Taco’s craft. 

Assembling a guisado taco requires a little effort. With your San Taco Plate, ask for a side of rice, and add a spoonful on top of a tiny amount of refried beans on the tortilla. Then, scoop up the desired guisado and layer it on. The beans hold everything in place, while the rice soaks up the guisado’s sauce—both prevent the tortilla from tearing.

My favorite guisado was the red asado de puerco. It sent me reeling into comfort with its earthy spices and deep chile flavor. A close second was the rajas con elote. Meanwhile, the barbacoa was slightly sweet and perky with pepper. The picadillo was juicy, far from the Americanized ground beef taco filling. The mole was pleasantly thick and infused with tender chicken. “Everything here so closely resembles the dishes you’d find at my house and my friends’ houses growing up,” said an Aguascalientes-born friend of mine from across the table. “It takes me back.”

After 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, San Taco turns into a taqueria. It’s more than your standard pork-beef-chicken taco hut. The nightly offerings are again regional, offering customers a taste of the owners’ beloved Aguascalientes. The menu varies but can include specialties such as Tacos San Juan, composed of mashed potatoes and whole soupy beans; and hígado con cebollas, funky caramelized liver and onions. There can also be fried quesadillas topped with squiggles of crema and sprinkles of queso fresco as well as fiery chicharrones en salsa roja. Flautas in fideo are also available.

These are tacos found on the streets of Aguascalientes, according to Hinojosa. “We’re really fond of street tacos as well,” she says. “Every time we go home, we go on a taco tour. We talk to the taqueros and cooks and ask if they’ll show us how to prepare their tacos for however much money they want to charge.” Indeed, Gonzalez and Hinojosa are as dedicated to taking care of patrons as they are to taking care of their home state, and you’ll feel right at home at San Taco.

San Taco
114 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio
Phone: 210-314-3099
Hours: Sunday–Thursday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 8 a.m.–midnight