Beef barbacoa can be a gelatinous mess and leave the eater feeling heavy. Or it can be lean and threaded but slick with its juices. Done right, it can be a true regional joy and highlight a cook’s mastery of beef cheek. The barbacoa at Adriana’s Taqueria y Tortilleria, in the small town of Breckenridge, is served in house-made flour tortillas, runs lean and slick, and is full of beefiness. It’s threaded, too, but also compressed from being folded into a paper wrapper.
About an hour west of Mineral Wells on U.S. 180, Adriana’s Taqueria y Tortilleria is an unassuming breakfast-and-lunch spot housed in a beige-colored stucco building on the corner of South Court Street and West Williams Street. I was drawn there for a small order of breakfast burritos, which are fine but left me wanting. So I took the word of the gentleman running the cash register. “You gotta try the barbacoa. It’s great,” he said, smiling, when I went back to the counter to order more food. It turns out that the order-taker was Jesus Acosta, who co-owns the restaurant and tortilla factory along with his wife, Adriana Acosta.
The barbacoa, which comes topped with cilantro and diced raw white onions, lived up to Acosta’s praise. It’s the kind of preparation I expect to find in a Mexican diner in South Texas, not so much in a small town at the edges of West Texas. That’s where I expect to encounter stellar burritos packed with chile-stewed meat or squished chile rellenos, ground beef crispy tacos, and flautas—or at least begin to come across them. Adriana’s barbacoa was a reminder that it can pay to heed the advice of the restaurant employee taking the order—especially if it ends up being the co-owner.