As more Americans get vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions loosen, taco festivals are once again welcoming attendees. It’s a strange thing to watch. Some festivals, such as Dallas’s Taco Libre, are taking the cautiously optimistic approach of publicly declaring that this year’s event is just on hold. Taco Libre organizers expect to announce a fall date once they feel comfortable with COVID-19 rates and safety measures. Meanwhile, other taco events are proceeding apace. They include this Saturday’s Fort Worth Taco & Margarita Festival, as well as the Texas Taco, Tequila & Musical Festival, which is set for May 1 in the Woodlands and June 5 in Conroe.
Many out-of-state events are going ahead as well. Some include the Jacksonville Taco Festival in Florida; the Cinco de Mayo Festival in Metairie, Louisiana; and the sold-out Taco Fiesta and Margaritas in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Twenty Lexington, Kentucky, restaurants are participating in Crave Taco Week, which runs through April 25. Businesses involved are serving $6 taco platters, which include traditional options as well as some head-tilting zingers: tacos al pastor, chicken barbacoa, churro waffle cone tacos, and, of course, birria. But the latter comes mixed with mac and cheese. We hope all events are safe and all attendees remain healthy.
When I’ve said that almost anything can be wrapped in a tortilla to make a taco, I wasn’t thinking of the surprise TSA agents discovered at Houston Hobby Airport earlier this month. The Houston Chronicle reported that someone attempted to smuggle crystal meth disguised inside a breakfast taco through a security checkpoint. The “taco” was in an aluminum foil wrapper with a Pappa’s BBQ label. As the Chronicle reported, “TSA has identified the item as a burrito, but a photo shows a breakfast taco…” If the journalist had simply read Texas Monthly, they would know that a burrito is a taco.
The Chron also rounded up some of the city’s best chilaquiles and migas—if you’re still foggy on the difference, we’ve got you covered—with suggestions from chefs Hugo Ortega of H-Town Restaurant Group and Alex Padilla of the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation.
Atlantic writer Andrew Exum has his own thoughts about chilaquiles versus migas.
Texas Monthly restaurant critic Patricia Sharpe wrote an article celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the frozen margarita machine.
Vaqueros Texas Bar-B-Q is hitting the road. On Tuesday, May 18, the food truck will be rolling from its usual spot at Hop & Sting Brewing in Grapevine to José on Lovers in Dallas for a collaborative pop-up. The event, which is ticketed at $50 per person, is bringing together great minds of Mexican food in North Texas. Pitmaster Trey Sanchez will be serving creative spins on his Tejano barbecue, while José executive chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman will riff and surprise, as she is wont to do.
Staff writer Dan Solomon wrote a roundup of Texas Minor League Baseball’s zaniest mascots, including the San Antonio Missions’ Henry the Puffy Taco. In some cases , he included a team’s MiLB’s Copa de la Diversión series name. Among them are the Round Rock Chupacabras, the Corpus Christi Raspas, and the El Paso Margaritas. We’d give honorable mention to the Missions’ fear- and chuckle-inducing Copa name, the Chanclas.
Brothers Dani and Miguel Cobos started Vaquero Taquero as a taco pushcart in downtown Austin in 2016. They graduated to a Hyde Park trailer that they renovated as they sold tacos cradled in handmade tortillas. In 2018, the brothers moved into a brick-and-mortar spot on Speedway in the North Campus neighborhood. Thanks to a steady stream of customers, they’re now expanding. The second Vaquero Taquero will open on Sabine Street between Sixth and Seventh streets, near the stretch where the Coboses first doled out breakfast tacos. In true Vaquero Taquero fashion, the remodeling will be done by the siblings themselves. The downtown outpost is expected to open in June.
Move over, tableside guacamole. You’ve been upstaged by tabletop trompos at El Patio Mex-Tex Grill and Bar in Lewisville. Although we take issue with the hyphenated abbreviation meant to convey superiority—Tex-Mex is a regional cuisine as worthy of respect as any other—we’re salivating over the trompo options of pork, beef, and chicken. The restaurant also offers beef birria (surprise) and brisket enchiladas (hello, Tex-Mex).
The Dallas Observer hails Casa del Vegano as a fine addition to the city’s burgeoning vegan Mexican food scene. The new restaurant is the second vegan concept from Anthony and Elizabeth Bookman. Their first, Vegan Food House, is in the nearby Bishop Arts District. Together, the businesses are part of a growing number of Black-owned vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Oak Cliff and South Dallas. Casa del Vegano has numerous mushroom options, as well as flautas filled with black beans. The birria choices are Beyond Beef or jackfruit.
The last day of business at the original Mariachi’s Dine-In, another vegan-friendly Mexican spot, in Fort Worth, is May 1. The new, larger space will open a few weeks later. Get your fill now or be prepared to wait.
Milpa, the food truck in San Antonio, now has a sibling, Milpa the restaurant. The new location of border-raised chef Jesse Kuykendall’s concept opened in a converted freight container in the Olmos Heights neighborhood’s The Yard complex. The menu features plenty of tacos, including arabes, sweetbreads, and carne asada. Elotes, charro beans, and fried quesadillas are also available. In the future, selections will expand to include tamales, moles, and other family recipes.
Austin’s Reunión 19 has gone the other way. The Cal-Mex–inspired restaurant opened a taco truck.
El Paso’s Taco Shop continues its streak of offering traditional but rare Mexican food. Iguana, anyone?
Propelled to fame by the tacos de canasta episode of Netflix’s Taco Chronicles, Marven, a Mexico City chef who identifies as muxe, an indigenous Mexican third gender, is now campaigning for a seat in the city’s congress. In an interview with NBC News, Marven said, “All my life I’ve been singled out for my sexual orientation and I’ve been persecuted for selling on public streets. … Why not fight, why not raise your voice?”
The New Yorker‘s Lauren Collins traced the history of French tacos. Filled with halal meat, the burritolike pressed sandwich may have originated in North African immigrant communities in the French city of Grenoble or the suburbs of Lyon. This is a fascinating food that mixes shawarma with sauces made from Gruyère cheese and fries and is easily customizable. Not everyone in France has a favorable view of the trendy dish, especially Mexican-restaurant-owning Mexican immigrants. What no one else seems to consider is that tacos al pastor developed from shawarma. Let’s look at French tacos through an anthropological lens. Perhaps it is the taco al pastor retracing its steps and expressing itself in an innovative fashion, something Mexican food is very good at. This should be celebrated as a unique manifestation of everyone’s favorite food. If you’re interested in watching the documentary mentioned in the article, all three parts are on YouTube, though only the first segment has English subtitles.
Funko is now selling a Tapatío Man figurine. Mine is already preordered. The Everett, Washington–based company also offers a likeness of Selena.
A Columbus, Ohio, woman is treating herself to ten days of tacos for her forty-third birthday. What began as a passing joke has become a mission for Amy Mehan. Now she is fully invested and has asked Reddit for suggestions. “I think I can mix it up enough to keep it interesting,” she told 614 Magazine. We believe in you, Amy. If you need tips, let us know.
Tastemade is upping the edible-insect ante with chapulines in a tortilla made with powdered bugs. Would you try a bite?
In a mind-bending slideshow of the nation’s 25 best taco trucks aggregated via staff picks, Yelp, and “local opinion,” San Francisco’s Far and Wide selected Austin and San Antonio trucks and a Houston mobile food vendor as their Texas choices. While Austin has great taco trucks, Houston’s taco culture is founded on them. It’s got a more exciting taco truck selection than other cities in the state. There is perhaps one rival: Fort Worth. Cowtown has an abundance of high-quality taco truck options, though it wasn’t included in the Far and Wide article. Mad respect to Alaska for getting a mention, though.
Washington Post food reporter Tim Carman quoted me in his review of Taqueria Las Gemelas. He described the restaurant’s strict dish policy as: “Chef knows best. Each taco on its compact menu is a self-contained bite, stuffed, garnished and salsa-fied just as the kitchen likes it.” It’s a concept that gives Mexican food the respect it deserves alongside Continental haute cuisine.
Oz Tacos & Tequila is slated to open at the end of the month in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Inspired by the titular city—a fantastical place full of wonder—in the classic Judy Garland film from 1939, the new taqueria will be a spot where “tacos without borders are served.”
Patissez in Canberra, Australia, is a bit of an open secret with big tacos. The cafe is known for serving large, flattop-griddled tacos filled with plump shrimp, layers of melted cheese resembling lace, strips of chunky guacamole, and more. You might just need a friend to finish one.
Birria tacos have come to Deutschland:
The marketing and innovative restaurant industry geniuses at Taco Bell have partnered with recycling firm TerraCycle “to give its sauce packets a spicier second life that doesn’t involve a landfill.” The details of the hot sauce packets recycling pilot program are few, but it will involve free shipping. Taco Bell also opened a digital-only store in Times Square. The location is equipped with ten touchscreen kiosks where customers input their order, then pick up the food by entering another space via separate double doors. This seems like a misstep for the transnational fast-food giant. We remain in a pandemic, and while surfaces aren’t a major factor in COVID transmissions, public touchscreens aren’t the cleanest of contact points. It all seems a little dystopian, too.