Marroquin Tortilla Factory – Raising the Bar

2737 Greenwood Drive, Corpus Christi Texas • 361-883-7051

We met up this morning at Marroquin Tortilla Factory & Restaurant on Greenwood Drive not knowing what to expect. Greenwood has a reputation for being somewhat unsavory and a little dangerous. Some of the best places to get tacos are sometimes in the worst places to get tacos, if you know what I mean. In any case it’d been a week since my last taco and I was ready for it. The weather has finally cleared up a bit, and the sun is out. It’s cool and drying off, and for a few days (I hope) it’ll be about as nice as it ever gets here in Tacotopia.

So I was in a pretty good mood when I pulled into the nearly vacant log this morning. The Hat had already ordered coffee and the waitress came over and spoke to us in Spanish. We both ordered in our pidgin Spanish, and though no one involved spoke the other language well, we all understood each other with no problems. The waitress was very charming, making it much easier to try and speak her language.

Though the interior is neat and has been remodeled in the last few years there are indications that it is still a bit in the hood. I attended a Leadership Corpus Christi event last night that was filled with local socialites and business leaders. Joe Hilliard and I nearly crossed streams in the can at the event, and Casey Lain showed up with his radiant wife Adrianne, and you could spot them from across the hall due to their height, even seated. I’ll be checking out the Joe Ely show over at House of Rock this Saturday, and I expect I’ll see him there. It could be that they’re both tall, or that they’re both walking 5 inches off the ground. Cecil Johnson was also circulating and conversating. And while I enjoy these events, I do love to be in a place where a t-shirt is well within the dress code, and where the food is head and shoulders above the level of banquet catering.

The tacos may have taken a whopping 8 minutes to get to the table, but the coffee was good and the tacos were worth the wait. I ordered, as I do every Friday, a carne guisada and a chorizo & egg. The tortillas were good. Not the best I’ve had, but better than average, and they’d have to be considering this is a tortilla factory that wholesales to other restaurants. The carne guisada was good too, with it’s focus being more on the meat than the gravy. This carne g wasn’t cooked so much that it falls apart, it was still chewy but not in a bad way; it was chew in the way that reminds you that it’s beef. The salsa verde was excellent, among the best I’ve had, and I had to resist the urge to try and swipe a squeeze-bottle of the stuff.

And then there was the chorizo and egg. In short it was exquisite. This is a food you’d think wouldn’t vary much from place to place and mostly it doesn’t, but this stuff was out of sight. The egg and the chorizo were grouped into distinct regions such that you could take a bite and taste the chorizo and the egg as separate parts. Plus the parts were both cooked and proportioned perfectly. Add some salt and that salsa and it was satori, illumination, a moment of clarity, the realization of the potential of all human endeavor. I wondered if there was prozac or MDMA mixed in with the eggs that might account for my overwhelming state of euphoria. In fact everyone in the restaurant was smiling and giggling, and the whole scene seemed a bit unreal.

From the Hat

Tacotopia is not all fun and games.  Sure, there’s the fame and fortune, and everything that goes with that.  I thank you all.  But there’s also a fairly consistent effort in the background.  Today at Marroquin’s Tortilla Factory, Ian gave a preliminary report on a taco slinger he’d checked out during the week.  I relayed that Shell and I are going to my other favorite Texas city, Houston, this weekend and plan to catch La Mexicana.  Johnny H., recognized regional taco expert says they have chicharrones that best CC’s famed Sonny’s.  I’m from Missouri on this so a visit is a must.  (Also a must will be a visit to Udi Pi Café for Indian food.)  Shell rooted out today’s spot, Marroquin’s in her travels around the city, always a keen eye out for potential tacotourism sites.  And she hit the paydirt with this one.

Marroquin’s Taco Factory was clean and bright.  I was optimistic and curious as to whether a “Tortilla Factory” at the taqueria was as good an idea as a brewery at the bar.  (The latter an enterprise that hasn’t made it past serial failure here in the Sparkling City.)  The pied tile pattern was reminiscent of a diner but the place was all taqueria.  I ordered a barbacoa on corn and the lengua guisada with cheese and onions on flour.  Shortly I was informed that no tienen the lengua so I ordered a chicharrone guisada instead.  The chicharron taco was very good.  I was surprised to see cheese on it until I realized that they had carried it over from my failed lengua order, and I’m not sure it worked with the chicharron taco.  The texture of the chicharrones was pleasant – some bite, but not chewy at all.  The savory gravy was an interesting reddish brown color and tasted very much of chicharrones.  The flour tort was excellent.  The barbacoa taco needed salt, but once properly dosed, it was very good.  The corn tortillas were made on-site and fresh.  They were in the style of packaged tarps, but so close to the source, I had to give them a try.  It took two to wrap the barbacoa.  IMHO, the star of the show was the green salsa.  It was served in a squeeze bottle and was a green that one rarely sees.  A green so bright that it shouted, “I’m the best salsa you’ve had in a while so eat me!”  And it was right.  It had good heat, but something else that gave it a really good body and heartiness.  Maybe a bit of aguacate.  I don’t really know.  I’m definitely going to have to go back and do a bit more research.  The coffee was café good and Ian only had to bellow once at the Senorita for refill.  There was one other person there, but I’ve seen the place packed on the weekends.  If you find yourself nearby and need a taco, I recommend it.


But it was all real (I think). It was really that good. I sat speechless for a while, and when the Hat asked me if I was okay I was speechless. I made small talk to try and pull myself back down to earth, and soon enough we were both stepping back out into the gorgeous morning, ready to do battle with the work week’s last fight. I don’t want to say that this is the best C&E I’ve ever had – it could be a fluke. I sure as hell will be coming back to double check it. It may take a lot of investigation.

Our free taco winner for this week is:

Marisa Tomei

This Italian-American product of Brooklyn, NY has won and Academy Award and been nominated for two more. This makes her a member of an exclusive club of female actors who win the oscar early in their career, most of whom fail to live up to the subsequent expectations of either/neither their acting or/nor their earning potential (see Mira Sorvino). Tomei, however, has performed in better and better movies, taken on more challenging rolse, has received parts in more lucrative films, and has become more beautiful with the passing of each year.

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 and an autographed dvd of ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead‘ to
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El Rodeo de Jalisco

El Rodeo Window

126 North Staples Street
Corpus Christi, TX 78401-3012
(361) 882-2199
Monday – Saturday 6:00AM – 8:00PM
Sunday 7:00AM – 2:00PM
Chorizo & Egg: $1.35, Carne Guisada: $1.60, Bottomless Coffee: $1.00

Back to work, nose to the grindstone… This will be the year I realize my life’s ambitions, write the great American novel, lose weight, get fit, learn Spanish, publish a comic book, make my internet t-shirt store profitable, host a ifoce breakfast taco eating contest, run a marathon.  Any one of these things would be nice, any two too much to ask for.  Really, last year wasn’t so bad but with the cold wind blowing cleanly through my shirt and my nipples harder than the male end of a pearl snap it occurs to me the year may hold some surprises for all of us.

Hat and I had agreed to meet at Brandy’s this morning at a later-than-usual 7:00AM. Brandy’s is about a block (the long way) from my shop so I parked at my normal spot and walked over.  The wind downtown has little to block it from the ocean and so it was whipping, and then I discovered my coat’s zipper wouldn’t zip – perhaps atrophied from neglect.  As I walked up to the rendezvous point I see no lights, and then no hours posted.  I was a little early so I waited in the freezing wind, huddled in the doorway of the derelict Center Theater with it’s graffiti and dead bird carcasses peering out through the locked glass doors hoping Kevin was eager enough for tacos to be early, if not on time, if not too late.  Sure enough, I see his truck pull up and I hop into the relief of still air and that distinctive Dodge aroma.

We headed up the bluff to El Rodeo de Jalisco which I was pretty sure was open.  A few years ago I was at a family thanksgiving meal and went looking for something open and found this place serving up tacos and coffee to bicycle police, always a good sign. The place is a little dingy, a little funky; none of the walls are quite plumb, none of the corners are quite square.  The ceiling tiles at the front of the last row are about a foot and a half wider than at the back.  None of these things necessarily reflect the quality (or at least the taste) of the fare.  In fact I’d argue a little funk adds flavor to the food.  Some of the best tacos I’ve had have been produced in grimy holes in the wall, and this place falls well short of the grimy threshold and is merely off-white.

El Rodeo Tacos

As always I ordered a Carne Guisada, a Chorizo & Egg, and a cup of coffee.  The coffee came in a small cup but I never saw the bottom of it, and our waitress may not have been as conversant in English as in Spanish but she nonetheless conveyed warmth and humor  as she worked expeditiously.  The salsa verde was a jalepeño puree that hit like a brick wrapped in sandpaper – I put as much of it as I could bear on my tacos. The tortillas were excellent: smallish but hefty and fresh as the prince of Bel Aire.  The Carne G was very savory. I’ve been holding that adjective out of circulation for a special Carne Guisada taco, and this is it.  The beef chunks were huge, and so tender they practically melted in your mouth.  The Chorizo & Egg was top notch as well, and let me explain my philosophy of C&E.

It’s like the Marx brothers.  The tortilla is Harpo, and never says anything but he’s just as funny as the other two and the music he makes is what sets everything apart – elevating the trio to a state of art rather than base humor like the 3 stooges (don’t get me wrong, I love the stooges – especially Iggy).  Then you’ve got Chico, who’s like chorizo: always chasing skirt, with a thick accent and a sharp wit he is the one that provides the spice and the kick – and plays a mean piano himself.  Finally there’s Groucho, the egg.  He’s got the attenuated lilt, and with his wise if misguided direction and beguiling patter he could convince you to eat a shoe-leather and egg taco, and think it was delicious.

We sat around for another thirty minutes after we finished our food, drinking cup after cup of coffee and hashing out the future, but all good things come to an end. As Groucho said, “I’ll do anything you say, I’ll even stay. But I must be going.”

From the Hat
Happy New Year to everyone.  I’d like first to thank Ian for keeping his taco blog up and running during the Holiday break.  While I fattened myself on the season’s bounty, he continued providing mobile mealtime missives for all of the Tacotopia readers.  Good job Taco Show Host.
Driving downtown early this morning felt strangely like a million years ago when I worked there setting type for a Quik Print shop on the bluff.  This week, though it was jury duty that had me by the bay.  I want to complain about the whole thing.  How it was uncomfortable, and boring, and we were treated like cattle.

But I can’t

I’d never made it to voir dire much less to a panel before.  And my only experience thus far had been with county or state district court.  And those experiences were, well, uncomfortable, and boring, and we were treated like cattle.   The Feds treated us courteously, with respect.  The courtroom was a meat-locker and I was happy I had my coat, but other than that we were fully coffee-and-doughnutted through the whole process.
It was not a long trial as they go.  I so wanted to hear someone burst out with, “Objection, your Honor!”  But the tone was muted and somber.  After 20 minutes of discussion in the jury room, I was “voted” presiding juror.  I don’t know why, but I hope it wasn’t just because I had the biggest moustache.  It took us most of two days to come to a unanimous decision.  (I hope that this also wasn’t just because I had the biggest moustache).  During that time we were all amazed, frustrated, irritated, and flabbergasted.  Adult stood helplessly by as Parent chided and chased Child around the room leaving me to wonder in the end if I was still OK.  But I was and once we decided, we were out of there in minutes.  I’m happy to have been a part of the process, but I’m even happier this morning to be judging only breakfast tacos.

.22 AC Vent in front window

.22 AC vent in front window

And El Rodeo de Jalisco was guilty of being good.  I ordered a nopalitos con huevos a la Mexicana on flour and a barbacoa con cebolla y cilantro on corn.  The barbacoa was typical, good but not out of the ordinary.  It was served with the freshest white onion and cilantro.  The corn tortilla was good but a bit more firm than optimal.  The star was the nopalitos taco.  The pear was soft and slightly acidic as if pickled.  But the slices were delicious in the taquito – not overshadowed at all by the generous mix of eggs, fresh onion, tomatoes, and peppers.  The whole business was wrapped in an excellent flour tort.  Of the two salsas, the almost excessively hot green was A+ material, the ranchero sauce, not so much.  I probably drank more coffee than I needed while we talked and bore witness to the cold outside via our .22 window vent.  Still, me gusto mucho!



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