El Rodeo de Jalisco


101 Old Robbstown Road, Corpus Christi, TX

I drive a city bus for a living. One of the main routes I drive is the #12 Hillcrest Saxet Oak Park. After passing by Driscoll Middle School on my way outbound I make a right turn on Russell, and there’s a restaurant I’ve been to before right at the turn. This location has been a dozen different taquerias. You may remember it at El Lucero or Chacho’s. It has most recently been occupied by the crew that used to operate out of their location on Staples. The signs are painted very badly, but the food was excellent. The tortillas, on this visit, were some of the best I’ve had. Soft, hot, and fresh from the placa, they were perfect. I ordered a barbacoa taquito, and a chorizo and egg. The barbacoa was great, tender and consistently tasty. It sat on a homemade corn tortilla with onions and cilantro on the side, and a pile of finely chopped fat right in the middle. The C&E was also quite good. The salsa was a jalapeño salsa with some avocado, and was hot and flavorful. My server was on her phone, but this in no way hindered her as she asked my order in Spanish, and took it down as I responded in English.


After breakfast I drove around Hillcrest. It’s a neighborhood that was once a thriving area with stately houses next to more utilitarian dwellings. It was a neighborhood of colorLenders of the day provided mortgages to Blacks and Mexicans here who could not legally own homes in other parts of town. When Highway 37 was put in, it further isolated the neighborhood. Then refineries bought up huge swaths of land and bulldozed down the houses to make buffer zones, but this didn’t prevent an 80% higher rate of birth defects in the surrounding area. We don’t know how much of the toxic chemicals in the soil came from the adjacent refineries, but we do know they stored oil illegally in uncovered tanks for a decade. There are also elevated rates of cancer, immune-deficiency disorders, and reproductive system problems leading to hysterectomies in the community.

Now, to add insult to a long series of injuries, the new harbor bridge will be routed right through the middle of this neighborhood. This means more eminent domain, more displacement, more of the shit end of the stick. I realize this is the logical place for the bridge to go. I know the bridge will help the city, will provide jobs, tourism, access by larger vessels to the port. It will be a net benefit, but a huge loss to an already demoralized and broken piece of the city. It will be a loss that is, naturally, going to be carried on the backs of minorities.

I’m sorry to bring up something so serious in this forum which is totally flippant and insignificant. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of these issues, but this is my forum. This is where I say what I think, if only to myself. Hillcrest is a tragedy and a travesty. There’s no real way to un-fuck it. To the extent that I can, I apologize to its residents on behalf of my city. The Koch brothers should do the same – and they have more to apologize for, and the means to do so.

For more information on the defilement of Hillcrest, check out the Texas Observer, also their article on the Koch’s. Great info is also available at the TexasHousers.net blog, and thanks to Suzie Canales for being a tough broad. Below are photos of the neighborhood for you viewing enjoyment.

Southside Barbacoa

5954 Everhart Road, Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-334-088
Chorizo & Egg $1.35 • Carne Guisada $1.95 • Bottomless Coffee $1.15

Tacos are my business, and business is good.  So good, in fact, that we have eaten a lot of the low-hanging fruit, the taquerias that we pass every day on our trips to work and our favorite watering holes.  We’re in no danger of running out of taco shops any time soon. With turnaround we might be able to do this forever, but I do keep a lookout for untested taquerias as I travel around Tacotopia.  I was with my wife, picking up some arugula from the Southside Farmer’s Market and saw the Southside Barbacoa company.  I put it on the list, and then earlier this week I was talking tacos with Sandy from Water Street Corporate told me I should try this place.  I don’t have to be told twice, and I promptly bumped Kiko’s back a week to make room for Southside.

Being the third month of the new year I have yet to give up hope of reaching my goal weight for the year.  I’ve been walking downtown instead of driving, and climbing stairs to the 7th floor instead of taking the elevator, at least sometimes.  One of the most difficult sacrifices I’ve had to make is the cherished taco.  There was a time where I’d have a taco every morning, and Yaneth at Garibaldi’s would have my order waiting for me, her perfume wafting from the takeout bag.  Okay, that never happened anywhere but in my daydreams. Long story short – tacos are my motivation, my reason to push through the work-week.  I love the first time in a new taco shop, the first smell of the tacos and the particular ambience of the place, the kitsch, purses and belts for sale, candles and good luck charms, the endless supply of charming waitresses and of course the tacos.

As the name says, this is in the Southside.  And for those of you not familiar with the layout of Corpus Christi, which is perpetually confusing even to those who live here, the Southside is the part of town where all the new development is occurring.  It’s a little more caucasian than downtown and the Westside.  The police seem to spend a lot more time in that part of town even though they’re headquartered downtown.  There are tons of strip centers, and no meter maids.  All the buildings are less that 70 years old (most are less than 7).  Southside Barbacoa is different too. Spanish isn’t the primary language spoken, it is in a strip center (literally, right next to the Palace), and even though it is a barbacoa restaurant, they don’t have homemade corn tortillas.

None of these things are deal-breakers.  A taco doesn’t know where it came from.  The Hat and I settled in to see what this place was all about.  I can’t speak for the barbacoa, even though I had a bite – barbacoa taken out of context (sans tortilla, salsa, salt) can be misleading.  The chorizo and egg was good though.  The filling of the taco was above average but not spectacular.  The tortillas were the high point, fresh but with a little bit of crunch on the edges – and no loose flour which doesn’t bother me but which many find disagreeable.  The carne guisada was tender but not soft, and had just the right amount of tang so that the flavor popped, but didn’t resemble meat that had gone over.  The red salsa was unsuitable for human consumption – Pace or more likely a food service knock-off thereof, but the salsa verde was quite good.

The hat and I weren’t the only people there, there were a few take-out orders filled, and some apparent regulars including a cop, Loyd Neal and John Longoria.  We all know cops have excellent food radar, so maybe the politicians were using the cop as a bird-dog. The Hat and I headed out into the overcast morning, satisfied and looking forward to the next Friday, the next taco, if we can wait that long.

From the Hat

So it’s no secret I’m a Houston-phile.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Sparkling City.  But sometimes it does a body good to get to the big lights and enjoy the things that can only exist in the midst of a large aggregation of people.  The power of large numbers makes it possible to open anything from telescope shops to Scotch Tape Boutiques.  There are trade-offs though.  Houston, with a museum district as big as our school district, has traffic to match.  There might be a store for everything, but crossing H-town to get there and back can take hours.  Still, if you want stuffed cabbage and Matzo ball soup at 4:00am, you can get it.  If you need a lens cover for your German-made binoculars, you can get it.  And if you need a variety of stinky cheese, fine liquors, and the pate and caviar to go with them, you can get them.

And now Corpus seems to be seeing some move in that direction with the opening of Spec’s.  Spec’s opened this week Thursday and I admit, I had to sneak in around noon to check it out.  The place was pretty much what I expected.  It’s in a nascent stage with much growing to do, but I can see great potential.  The wine section seems to be extensive, but I’ll have to talk to an expert to know for sure.  The gourmet section is a start, but far from the Houston examples.  There’s some space on the shelves, but a conversation with one of the employees revealed that there’s much more to come.  I was impressed with the store and think that it will eventually approach the epic nature of Houston’s downtown example.  Way to go Spec’s, and CC!

-And now to the important stuff.  The Tacoteurs Friday tour stop was Southside Barbacoa.  I had to have the namesake and a chorizo con papas – both on flour.  The barbacoa was the low-fat version.  [I’d doubt it’s lowfat in any conventional sense of the word -iok] The mixed version, a fattier composition is only sold on weekends.  Made on-site in about 11 hours, it was very good.  My favorite though was the chorizo and papas.  It was sublime, loaded with chorizo and saturated potatoes.  It had that perfect vinegary taste I love in a good chorizo.  The torts were right up my alley, dense and with plenty of bite.  Both tacos benefitted from a fresh jalapeno green salsa, but I won’t waste any words on the red stuff.  All-in-all, a very good experience and I’ll have to go back to check out the mixed version of the barbacoa.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Fairuza Balk

A gypsy witch who, though overlooked by hollywood, still manages to get interesting roles in movies directed by auteurs who can appreciate her talent.  Check out Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans by Werner Herzog.  She had a promising start in the industry with significant roles in The Craft, Waterboy, Valmont, Gas Food Lodging, American History X as well as a slew of indy films.  She went on to run a wicca boutique in Venice, CA and do voice work in video games while occasionally showing up on the big screen.  She played undercover FBI agent Deborah Ciccerone briefly in the Sopranos and was retroactively replaced by Lola Glaudini who was re-shot in all episodes from that season.  Fairuza is a Turkish word for the color of her eyes, the first word her father spoke upon seeing her at her birth.

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 a gift certificate to Panpipes Market to tacos@tacotopia.net.

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