El Lucero – Begin Again

101 Old Robbstown Road, Corpus Christi, TX
Chorizo & Egg $1.45 • Carne Guisada $1.95 • Coffee $1.10

I’m 40. I know there are about half of you who wish you were 40 again, and the other half who dread the thought. My teen years were a time of trying to figure out where I was, and who I was. My 20s were a time where I still had hope and ambition that I would do something great. By the time I was in my 30s I was trying to adapt to the world, rather than bending it to my will – and I was managing my expectations. I’m not going to be a rock star. I’m not going to be a director, or an actor, or developer of some piece of software that would change the way we think. At 40, I’m lucky if I can make it through the workday. And I’m not just saying that. I do, now, feel lucky to walk out to my 10 year old pickup at 5, or 6, or 9, and unlock the passenger door because the keyhole on the driver’s door is jammed from when someone opened it with a screwdriver to steal my blue Fender Jazz bass many months back. I hop in, drive across the harbor bridge and the causeway with the sun over my left shoulder turning everything in front of me magenta and orange, looking at the water that is a different color every day. It never gets old.

So, in my 40s I hope it will be the decade where I start fresh – with a more solid footing and more realistic expectations, and wisdom. I don’t know everything, but I know more than I did yesterday. I see parallels in my experience and the American experience. We got kicked in the teeth 10 years ago, thinking nobody had the nerve to take a shot at us. Now we know what it’s like for every other country in the world – to not be untouchable. We got the wind knocked out of us, and got off balance when we tried to punch back. We took our eye off the ball, and by the time we came to we’d been had by the government, by globalization, by the banks and the financial industry, by the republicans and the democrats who feed us the illusion of choice, the fed, big oil, big pharma, and anyone else with a bar of soap and a towel at the blanket party. We’re not going out like that. We’re coming back, stronger and smarter. We will do what our country does best – reinvent ourselves.

Corpus Christi can do it too. I lived in Austin in the 80s, before it blew up. During the S&L crisis there were tons of new office buildings that were totally empty. They turned it around, and their population has doubled in that time. Austin looked forward, and embraced education, diversity, and the future. Corpus Christi could take a hint and quit holding on to the past and start looking forward. Youth is our future, and if we don’t make this city a place they want to stay in they will leave, and we’ll fade away. I’m talking to you, city council. Work together, instead of fussing like children. Texting? Really? Is that your job? Arguing about texting? When half of the buildings downtown haven’t been occupied in more than a decade and are uninhabitable, and no one does a thing about it? They should be brought up to code or razed, I don’t care who owns them. It’s disgraceful to see the Lichtenstein building with gaping holes all over it’s rear – and human feces all over the stairs from downtown to uptown, and the only people who seem to care is Bill H on the vacuum cart and the hellishly efficient meter maids. And Brad Lomax, and Alan Albin at the DMD, and the folks at K Space, and Joe Hilliard, and last but not least Casey ‘the Rooster’ Lain. These are the people who are keeping this cities’ culture alive. Even Produce, though they took liberties with my companies’ logo on the last artwalk poster, and let’s not forget Glassworx, cuz the 20 somethings like to smoke things while they wear their kicks and their weird baseball caps with the bills on the side, and the Yin-Yang Fandango because anachronism is entertaining, and pachouli smells better wafting off a hippiechick than an incense stick, and SegCity cuz segways are like big girls – your friends may not think they’re cool but they’re a hell of a lot of fun. As long as I’m just plugging, stop by the Treehouse Collective who are not, as far as I can tell, commies – in spite of their name. And while you’re there you could do worse than to stop by Surf Club Records, or if you want the really cool shirts, or to get your cooking or pocket knives scary sharp, Whetstone Graphics – where you can even pick up a Tacotopia Tee. Let’s not forget Aloe Tile, in the old Studebaker dealership; The only downtown business I know with a banjo-playing co-owner. The most important person in the whole scheme of things (not to sound like Fred Rogers) is you. Go out and do something cool, or help someone who’s doing something cool, or at least don’t be a jerk.

This weeks taco joint has reinvented itself too, even since the last time we were there when it was Chacho’s. Now it’s El Lucero, and the atmosphere is a little different. Where once there was Harley memorabilia and steel, now there’s blank walls and disenfectant. I don’t know which is better, though in my experience cleaner taquerias do not necessarily render tastier tacos.  The chorizo & egg was pretty bland, not much chorizo, not much salt, not much flavor. The carne guisada had a ton of salt, and flavor – though it was very food-servicey flavor. The tortillas were good, both flour and corn, both salsas were passable – the verde was excellent, creamy with some heat.  This was their grand opening so I should go back and see if it get’s better later in it’s lifecycle.

Sorry for the extended hiatus. I’ve started 10 different posts that haven’t made it online, but the world is turning around me and I’m trying to get back in the fray.

The taco award winner for the week is:

Adrienne Barbeau

Barbeau in 1981

Long overdue for some respect is the talented and beautiful Adrienne Barbeau – who at 65 is still able to lure monsters out of their hiding places as she did in Creepshow, The Swamp Thing, and The Fog. Monster movies weren’t her only outlet for performing, even though she was married to one of the elder statesemen of the genre – John Carpenter, as she was in the classic Cannonball Run seen here trying to talk her way out of a ticket. Before her scream-queen days, she worked as a gogo dancer in New York and as such worked for the mob. She also played Rizzo in the Broadway production of Grease, and wrote a couple of books, and even had a kid at age 51 with her husband who happens to be the brother of little Steven Van Zandt. Now that she and I are both married I guess our long distance romance will never be consummated but I will always have a spot in my heart for her massive talents.

Offer includes 2 tacos, an audience with the ‘tacoteurs,’ and a free tacotopia t-shirt. Please redeem this offer at  to tacos@tacotopia.net. on a Friday morning of your choice. Offer subject to cancellation by order of the wives of the tacoteurs.  Enter to win by emailing your name on the back of a copy of the European release of the Swamp Thing to.

Daniela’s #1 – Bald Ag Taco Frag Finale

4258 Baldwin Blvd., Corpus Christi, TX 78405 • 361-883-3050
Chorizo & Egg $1.50 • Carne Guisada $1.85 • Bottomless Coffee 95¢

Over the past four weeks we’ve broken fast at every taco establishment between Old Robbstown and Baldwin on Agnes. In that time we saw a plane crash that killed a significant portion of the government of Poland, and a volcano that ground the European air travel industry to a halt.

This little blog is insignificant in the face for that continuing turmoil and strife so many see day to day. In the words of the late, immortal F. Zappa, “there’s no way to delay that trouble comin’ everyday.” Locally, Corpus Christi (aka Tacotopia) was named by Men’s Health magazine the fattest city in the US. While I question the statistical veracity of their half-baked math. Men’s Health is typically populated with articles detailing how this or that haircut on a chick means she’s wild in the sack so to take this ‘study’ as anything approaching accurate would be about as smart as taking any of tacotopia’s statistics seriously.

That said, there is no denying there is a problem with obesity in Tacotopia. I have a novel solution: eat less and exercise more. Tacos are not the problem, any more than are forks. Processed food might bear some of the blame, as well as sugar – especially in the form of HFCS. You find very little of this in breakfast tacos. Most of the ingredients are not far removed from their source. I’m not saying breakfast tacos are, in a word, healthy but I’d argue they beat the hell out of a McGriddle. Combined with exercise and moderation tacos can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. And ask yourself this: is a world without an occasional taco a world in which you would care to live? I say no.

The final stop on the Bald Ag tour is Daniela’s #1.  Located caddy-corner at Badlwin and Agnes this sprawling restaurant has some serious serving capacity.  When I showed up there were the police cruisers in the lot, always a good sign. The walls were peppered with photos of Zapata and Villa. The food came out and we got down to business.

The salsa roja was good, not too spicy but not too bland and with a nice flavor. The flour tortillas were fresh and hot, very light and were little match for the filling, falling apart before the tacos were finished. The chorizo & egg was fair, but rendered good with the salsa and the tortillas. The real star was the carne guisada which had a great texture, a nice rich flavor and even big chunks of bell pepper stewed in.

This place was pretty darned good. It is certainly worth a trip if you haven’t been there. I’d say it could go head to head with many of the most popular local favorites. The graph directly below reflects Daniela’s numbers.

From the Hat

Is it just me or does it seem to anyone else that the more time you have to do something, the longer it takes?  We tacoed early, so I’ve had plenty of time to produce some profound prose about pico… or picadillo.  But NOO!  I’ve even considered taking a right turn towards Damascus for inspiration, but I know that lightning waits down that road.  So I’ll do what any good Tacoteur in my position would do, I’ll get to the tacos.

Some of you know that TSH and I have been touring the Baldwin-Agnes Taco Nexus – sampling the wares, putting our 2-cents in.  And it’s been delicious.  We hit Daniella’s this time and did we hit paydirt!  I have to admit; I was hoping to get that mollejas taco for the perfect four-of-a-kind and was a bit disappointed when I discovered it wasn’t gonna happen.  After several rounds with the waitress, I began to feel I was getting a bit too “When Sally Met Harry” so I opted for a huevos con chicharrones a la Mexicana on flour and a barbacoa on corn con cebollas y cilantro. When the booty showed up, I was pleasantly surprised at the chicha taco.  It was BIG and stuffed with the goods.  I managed to hold up my lack-of-mollejas-disappointment until the first bite.  After that, I was hooked.  The taco was great. Plenty of fresh sliced jalapenos – perfectly spiced so that it didn’t need any salsa at all.  It was difficult not to scarf the thing down.  The chicharrones seemed to be of the dried variety, but they were prepared perfectly – with just the right mixture of chichas and eggs and vegetables.  It was all wrapped up in a damn fine flour tort to boot.  Outstanding.

The barbacoa taco was Tacotopia average.  Served piping hot, the aroma of barbacoa burst out of the foil and made friendly eyes at my nose from the get-go.  It was juicy, but not too fatty.  It needed salt, but the onion and cilantro were snappy-fresh and with a bit of a good, smoky salsa roja, it too was a sound offering.  The corn tort was thin, and perfectly round.  It was fresh and flavorful of corn.  I wouldn’t mind checking out their tortilla-making process.  I bet you could determine the value of pi to 10 digits by watching them work.

It was the first time I’d been to Daniella’s, and had no idea what to expect.  The food was good, the coffee was good and but for a slight mix-up with the taco delivery, the service was excellent and with a smile.  I’m still thinking that I could have taken a bite of Ian’s misdelivered C & E, and traded him for one of mine.  But I’m glad I didn’t because I probably would have given away that delightful chicharrone taco.  That would have sucked.


And without further ado, whatever the hell ado means, I will list the rankings of the Bald-Ag Taco Frag.

In 4th place, with a grade of 87.70 is Yoli’s

In 3rd place, with a grade of 90.00 is Daniela’s

In 2nd place, with a grade of 90.45 is Chacho’s

and the winner of the coveted Bald-Ag Taco Title is

El Charro with a grade of 90.78.



Our free taco winner for this week is:

Ann Magnuson

One might find it easier to answer the question what hasn’t Ann Magnuson done, than to list the things she has. She’s a singer, actor, performer, artist, cultural signpost, raconteur and all around freak. She ran Club 57 in the East Village, a nexus of the NY art scene that influenced the trajectories of such giants as Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Fab Five Freddy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, before moving on to acting (Making Mr. Right, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, The Hunger) and Music with Bongwater and later as a solo act.

Offer includes 2 tacos, an audience with the ‘tacoteurs,’ and a free tacotopia t-shirt. Please redeem this offer at Whetstone Graphics on a Friday morning of your choice. Offer subject to cancellation by order of the wives of the tacoteurs.  Enter to win by emailing your name on the back of an autographed copy of Cabin Boy to tacos@tacotopia.net.

Daniela's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chachos – Bald Ag Taco Frag Part 3

101 Old Robbstown Road, Corpus Christi, TX
Chorizo & Egg $1.75 • Carne Guisada $1.95 • Coffee 99¢

Welcome to Round Three of the Bald-Ag Taco Frag. Today’s contender for the title of Champion of the Baldwin-Agnes breakfast taco corridor is the young Chachos Tacos.  It was been open for about a month at this location, though there are two others – one of which we reviewed before, and also mentioned in our spam taco marathon.

Sitting across the tracks on Old Robbstown, off Agnes, Chachos has an interesting atmosphere, with motorcycle posters and minature hand-made steel models, eschewing the typical traditional styling of most taco shops for a more modern and purely texas theme. The signage is some of the best sign-writing I’ve seen in this town. The entrance is flanked by an impressive array of gumball machines.

I showed up with Matt the Hoople, and this was the rare occasion where I was at the rendezvous point before the Hat. On a side note, I am back in the dodge in case you were wondering, and expect another 100000 miles from it. My wife is in Chicago, and I’m on school bus detail while she’s away which is good and bad for Hoops – good ‘cause he gets sit-down tacos on a Friday morning before school, bad because he’s got to get up early for them. I didn’t have to get up early, hadn’t slept in fact.  I was running a copy job all night and barely made it home in time to change clothes and splash some water on my face before I whisked the ready kid out the door and into the heart of taco country.

We live in Portland (no not Oregon or Maine, Texas dammit!). The closest restaurant to my house is a drive through only taco stand with two windows on opposite sides and both drive throughs are often found spilling out into traffic on weekend mornings. And while I like convenience (and some killer horchata) I almost never get tacos from here because the tortillas aren’t fresh.  There’s another taco joint here, I think it’s called plaza Guadalajara, but they’ve got the same problem. Then there’s la Iguana, ditto. Other than that there’s Taco Bell. This is why you haven’t seen a review of any taquerias in Portland. I expect when the pickin’s get thinner I’ll do a Portland roundup but no time soon. So we met this morning out on Agnes for another week.

On to the tacos. I had, as I always do, a chorizo & egg and a carne guisada. The tacos were slightly larger than average, and presented in the double D formation. The chorizo & egg was not spectacular; it was light on the chorizo. The tortillas were quite good. I suspect they aren’t made on site, but were still pretty fresh and dense – strong enough to stand up to any filling thrown at them. They also had a bit of flavor to them, that could be tasted even through the stronger flavors on top of them. We were given both green and red salsa.  Both were chopped fine, not quite pureed, and both were very hot. I choked up on the green. The flavor of both were also good, and revived the less than lively chorizo and egg. The carne guisada, on the other hand, was excellent. Especially with the Chachos tortillas and the killer salsa. The coffee tasted a little burnt, but was plentiful and refilled frequently.

Chachos is well worth the trip.

From the Hat

Life is good.  Today’s taco tour takes us back to the Baldwin/Agnes area for our third competitor in the Taco Frag.  I’m always relieved to find more cop cars than you can count on one hand in the parking lot of a taqueria. I mean, it’s much more likely that their presence is due to good food than to a hostage situation.  TSH was there when I arrived and since he wasn’t sitting on his hands in the back of a cruiser, or hiding from gunfire behind the open door of his mighty Dodge Ram, I figured the coast was clear.

My earliest memory of this building was when it was the Manhattan Steak House.  I’m dating myself because it hasn’t been a steak house for a very long time.  The building fell into disrepair and became the target of vandals after the Manhattan closed.  In the recent past, the place has been several Mexican restaurants, none of which lasted very long.  The current incarnation is as a Chacho’s.

So far I’ve been on a roll.  I’d been able to order mollejas tacos, and barbacoa tacos at both of the previous contestants.  I wondered whether I could keep up my streak since not all taquerias have mollejas on the menu. But this is Tacotopia and sure enough, both tacos were listed.  The place was comfy and even I could tell the quality of the signage and the motorcycle motif to the interior was kind of cool.  Not often does one get to gander at the gams of some gal splayed on a motorcycle while eating tacos, but it worked.  I was far enough away that I couldn’t tell who the blonde beauty on the bike was, but Matt the Hoople, who also ordered Mollejas, thought it was Paris Hilton. I liked it better not knowing so I didn’t take a closer look.  But I did take a close look at the tacos.

Both were ample.  A peek at the innards of the innards taco found some good-looking mollejas.  Like El Charro across the street, they were fried to perfection.  The texture was good, again like a perfectly-fried oyster, but they weren’t quite up to those of their neighbor.  But they could be.  The frying oil was a bit past prime.  There was a hint of burn to it, not too bad, but it was there.  And I hate to garner a reputation as a hater, but the onions were just short of as fresh as they could be.  Neither were terrible violations, but this is serious business.  The barbacoa, was Tacotopia-good. It had that cow head flavor, (mostly due to more cow head fat) found in a good barbacoa.  It also had a noticeable barbacoa aroma that spurred my desire to dig in.  Both were served on really good flour torts.  Sorry corn tortilla lovers, no hand-made corn tarps here.  But the flour tarps were dense and tasty and more than up to the task of keeping the goodies corralled to the very end.  The salsas verde and roja were excellent.  The green had a sharp twang to it as well as plenty of heat and the red, while not as hot, was plenty spicy.  Both were fresh and delicious.   I’m hoping Chacho’s sticks around the neighborhood.  They make a mighty fine breakfast.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Helen Mirren

Born in London, and descendent from Russian nobility Dame Helen Mirren is remarkably hot at 64. One might not realize after seeing her in so many prim and proper roles, winning awards for playing queens Elizabeth I & II, that in the earlier part of her career her choices were decidedly anti-establishment. I first saw her in Boorman’s Excalibur (which is being remade with Brian Singer to direct) where she played Morgana le Fay. Were one so inclined as to google image search her with safesearch turned off one might get an eyeful of any number of movies in which she was typecast as a woman not fond of wearing clothing, including Caligula, a film produced by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. In her personal life she has been uncompromisingly independent – choosing not to have children, cohabitating for more than a decade out of wedlock, getting a tattoo on her hand at a time when tattoos were only for bikers and sailors, and in a profession where a tattoo on the hand could end a career. Other great performances by Ms. Mirren include the Mosquito Coast, the Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover, and 2010 among others. Helen Mirren is one classy broad.

Offer includes 2 tacos, an audience with the ‘tacoteurs,’ and a free tacotopia t-shirt. Please redeem this offer at Whetstone Graphics on a Friday morning of your choice. Offer subject to cancellation by order of the wives of the tacoteurs.  Enter to win by emailing your name on the back of an autographed copy of Calendar Girls to tacos@tacotopia.net.