My mother-in-law didn’t cook dinner last Christmas, a task she usually shares with me. Instead she ordered a meal from Zavala’s Barbecue in Grand Prairie that she picked up on Christmas Eve. For me, she made sure to get the joint’s signature taco, the Sloppy Juan—a take on a sloppy joe that uses brisket and other cuts of meat in place of ground beef. The reheated, day-old taco was fantastic. Its flour tortilla retained pliability and elasticity, and traces of smoke lingered. But Zavala’s offers an even better version—the Sloppy Juan breakfast taco.
It’s an occasional special at Zavala’s Tuesday- to Friday-morning alter ego, Mas Coffee Co. Run out of the same storefront by pitmaster Joe Zavala’s wife, Christan, and family friend Bonnie Jean Witkowski, the coffee shop serves creative cups like a cinnamon-spiked snickerdoodle latte, as well as foil-wrapped brisket, egg, and cheese, and potato, egg, and cheese breakfast tacos on flour tortillas.
Surprisingly, as good as they are, the tortillas aren’t house-made. They’re sourced from an area tortilleria. “We know how to make tortillas,” Christan says. “The problem is space and manpower. We’re lightly staffed and trying to hire people who care. I’d rather do everything myself than hire someone that messes something up.” The Zavala’s Barbecue/Mas Coffee Co. space is small and aiming for perfection. The locally made tortillas allow for a consistent, well-crafted products that hold up overnight and are packed full of meat. It’s admirable when a restaurant knows its limits and opts to support a merchant who specializes in a key component.
On my last visit, the Sloppy Juan breakfast taco was a pork and brisket mixture cradled by eggs and a layer of melted cheese. A pleasant sheen of fat kept the scrambled eggs and protein from drying out. Every few bites included a crunch of bark. The meat itself wasn’t overly smoky. Too often Texas barbecue is too reliant on smoke. The filling shines and is worth the early morning, out-of-the-way stop (Mas Coffee Co. is open 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.) when it’s available. Keep an eye on their Instagram feed to get a day’s notice of its appearance.
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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another of their specials: Witkowski’s house-cured bacon. The torn, thick strips of peppery pork are framed by a punchy crust. That too is worth deviating from your usual morning routine.