Thursday, June 25, 2009

Houston Taco Tour 2009

After three weeks of fighting and compromising with Movie Maker, I finished the Houston Taco Tour review.

FYI - The video below is mostly a music video because my computer really, really didn't want to make this review. That's why we took the time to write up an actual blog post.

I have seen a few ‘taco tours’ around Austin but have never had time to attend. I have been wanting to experience the camaraderie of such an event of people who like to eat food and then talk about it (thanks for the quip Mandy). Ironic that the first one I could actually attend was out of town. I had a reason to go to Houston. There was a Taco Tour. It was a date.

Well, needless to say, I need to go back to Houston for Taco Tour v2 because I ended up having such a great time Friday night with my cousins, David and Monica and their significant others Rick and Katie, that I really didn’t accomplish what I needed to get done in the first place (read: we had a good night. A reeeaaaaalllly good night). Let’s just say I was in the mood for a lot of tacos by the time the Tour de Houston Tacos came around (protein is good for hangovers—is there anything tacos can’t do?).

The brave team of tacologists that day included fellow foodies and bloggers from Austin Addie, Marshall, Jam, Mando, and Penny and the Houston crown included Dave and Katie, Katharine , Alison, Juan Carlos and Geraldina Reina and our fearless tour guide Jay P. Francis. Others joined us along the way but in true hungover tacologist style I failed to introduce myself and didn’t get their social networking handles. (sorry)

We started the day at Jarro Café. 10:30 sharp (ish). I heard the others around me talking about ordering the staple breakfast taco. HELL NO, not for me! I was going all out. I wanted to try something different.

EL Jarro Café has this great deal: 3 tacos and a drink for…..Shit, its been so long since the tour (and the beer goggles were, after all, just lifting) I forgot how much it cost. Anyway, my cousins and I thought it was a deal, plus we would each get to choose one taco and then share them…..remember we had to take it slow. We still had 5 hours and 4 more taco joints to check out.

The Tacos
Nopalito - Kind of embarrassed to say it, but I had never had this type of taco before. I was pleasantly surprised. The cactus was tender, the lettuce, cheese and tomatoes fresh. Great marriage of texture wrapped in two corn torts. I am a fan of the two corn tortillas taco. 4 out of 5 Tacoism

Chicharrón - Ok, One thing. This is not crunchy Chicharrón. Not that I was expecting it, I just wanted to clarify because I think crunchy Chicharrón tacos would be cool.
Again, kind of embarrassed to say it, but I have never had this type of taco before either. There's just something about soft fried skin that never really made me want to try it.... It was good. It was…um, soft. Blended nicely with the tomatillo sauce. I have to admit, it was better than I thought, but I probably won’t be ordering another one any time soon. Wrapped in two corn torts. 3 out of 5 Tacoism

Al Pastor - Al Pastor was Al Pastor. Nothing really exciting. Meat and torts. Good, just good. YEAH to the two corn torts. 3 out of 5 Tacoism

Who’s next? I got a belly that don’t appreciate teasin’. Then Jay offered up some help and guidance about some of his favorite places. Bring it on. Jay knows his way around here.

Next Stop, Taqueria Cuernavaca.
HOLY SMOKES, Does that taco truck really have a waitress? Does that taco truck really have a waitress actually going to cars in a dirt parking lot, taking orders , bringing back paper plates full tacos and extra snacks FOR JUST A DOLLAR PER TACO!?!?!? And the answer is yes. Yes, it did. (Pro Tip: don’t forget to tip your waitress, of course: they bite.) We sat there in disbelief. A Taco Truck waitress. Well, let’s order. Instantly my eyes saw Cabeza. The literal translation is Head. I thought to myself, I never had a “head” taco, but after some careful Tacologist consideration I realized that it was probably barbacoa. I was correct.

The Tacos
Let me first say that each plate had a side of grilled nopalitos, onions and a beet slice. Talk about presentation. After your taco, you still had more food to eat. (FOR A DOLLAR.)
Cabeza – T’was good. I think the sides made it better. It just felt and tasted nice with the side. After one bite I decide to put the cactus on top of the meat. AHHH, even better. 3 out of 5 on the Tacoism.

Beef Fajita – I didn’t get to taste it but David and Katie said it was good. I believe them. They had to leave after this place. Default 3 out of 5 on the Tacoism.

Ok, next place. Jay mentioned a South American fried chicken place we were going to pass on our way to El Ultimo Taco. South American fried chicken? We all knew this was a taco tour, but—seriously—how can you pass up South American fried chicken? Jay took us. We ate chicken. It was ok. Sorry folks that’s all you get. This is a taco tour.

Onward through the Houston heat. On to El Ultimo Taco. HOLY SMOKES! Is that taco truck parked in a car wash parking lot? Can I wash my car and eat a taco at the same time? Yes. Yes it is, and yes you can, though with some difficultly.
Now I figured, since we are in the middle of the taco tour, that I would take a quick survey of what the team thought about the places we have visited so far. It ranged from great to OK. Watch the video at the end if you wanna know *exactly* what we said.

After we ordered our tacos we decided to get out of the sun and heat by taking shelter in one of the car wash stalls. Please take note the these tacos were $1 as well. Juan had bought some Tecate, and we were in the shade of the car wash overhang, cooled by the occasional spray mist from somebody washing their car. It was nice. It just got nicer after we got our tacos because we all agreed this place was the best taco truck we had visited so far. You know it’s good when you order a tripas taco extra crunchy and they bring it extra crunchy. I have to say that I was impressed. Again,I had a mission to try tacos I normally wouldn’t eat. I could eat another one of these tacos.

The Taco
Tripa – Extra Crunchy and it was good. I dressed it up with salsa and lime. I have to say: best tripas taco EVER! Sorry, Dad AND two corn tortillas. 4 out of 5 on the Tacoism.

Ok, who’s next? We headed to El Hidalguense.
OH MY, what can I really say about this restaurant other than “Authentic Mexican.” We walked into a place full of entertainment. People are dancing in between tables to the live Mexican music. Instead of free chips and salsa, they prime you with free taquitos, salsa and tequila. HOLY SMOKES! Did you say free tequila? Yes, yes I did. Now mind you these tequila shots were about ¼ of an once but they kept bringing them and I kept drinking them. OK, maybe not too many, but enough to make the drive back to Austin—er—shall we say “smooth”?

This place specialized in lamb. They had a big vat of lamb that was slow cooked overnight. NICE. I was able to record Jay when he was explaining the process. This place was memorable. It was fun. I had a lamb taco but it was a little gamey tasting. For me, the atmosphere sold the food and made you accept it and made me like it.

The Taco
Lamb – A little gamey for me but totally went with the aura of the place. I recommend this place just for the atmosphere alone. One tortilla. I don’t remember if it was corn or flour.

4 out of 5 on the Tacoism BUT because of the atmosphere, not really the Taco itself.
So there you have it. My Houston Taco Tour. Check out the links above for the others’ version.

Next Taco Tour for me? Des Moines, IA. I hear they got some good tacos up there. (And a Taquería and Pizzaria combined….. We shall see)

OVERALL Tour de Houston Tacos: 3.5 out of 5 Tacoism
Thanks to Courtney Steen for her copy editing genius

Watch the review in HD
Watch the review.

Houston Taco Tour 2009 from Nelson Flores on Vimeo.

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