3942 Leopard St., Corpus Christi, Texas
6:00 am – 2:00 pm, Mon – Sat • 7:00 am – 2:00 pm Sun

I have been out of sorts lately. The work I’ve been doing is frustrating, and I’ve had many obstacles come up to impede it’s progress. Machines breaking down, employee drama, scheduling problems, and on and on. That’s why it’s called work.  I have moved back and forth between working long hours and taking brief trips into the heaven of my wife’s great cooking, and perhaps a little irish whiskey now and then. I have, in fact, been so busy that I’ve been unable to put together a post for a while. The Hat has been picking up the slack. It’s not for lack of trying, though. I’ve been to one taqueria in particular three times trying to put together a post, but it hasn’t materialized yet.

Lila's Juevos Ahogados

I did, though, have a little time this morning to get my taco on so the Hat, his better half, and myself all converged near the Saxet Hall on Leopard this morning. Saxet is Texas spelled backwards for those who don’t know. It’s a tough little shopping center that has seen better days but is still kicking. The hall bears witness to the Hurricane Alley Roller Derby about every month. It also hosts countless quinceañeras, to which I have dropped off my stepson many times. Some of these quinces have bikers working security so there’s little to worry about in this neighborhood. Not your weekend bikers either, but bikers who couldn’t hide their colors if they wanted to, and they don’t want to.

The first thing we tasted was the coffee – which was a good deal stronger than most. The lady bringing out the coffee was Lila herself, the namesake of the restaurant. She was polite and dignified with perfect english. Hold on – before you get bent about that last bit – let me explain. I don’t assume she speaks Spanish, I know because she was cracking the whips with the other waitress and the kitchen crew in Spanish. I would guess this was her first language, and when people live in a country where they have to speak in a foreign tongue much of the time  they usually end up in one of three groups. The first is people who have a thick accent whose speech never grows closer to that of the host country (think of the governator). The second are people who assimilate perfectly into the host country so that by listening they could only be identified as non-native by a finely tuned ear. The third group are people who are able to speak as well if not better than the locals, but choose to retain a flavor of their first language out of respect for their own culture. Lila falls into the third group.

I ordered a chorizo & egg, and a carne guisada. Lila brought them out and they looked pretty typical of the taquerias in the area. The tortillas were the star of the meal, both flour and corn on a level with the best in town. The salsa, too, was distinctive: very hot, and pretty fresh. The carne guisada was subtle but good. The chorizo & egg was sharp and delicious, bringing me back to the first time I tried C&E as a child. It tastes exactly how it’s supposed to. I’ve had better, but not very often.

I asked Lila how long they’d been there, and she said 12 years – but that’s after 5 years as another location. Cesar, the co-owner was there too, dressed in a uniform shirt for another job. Do yourself a favor, like the numerous police who were eating there this morning, and drop in for a taco. You won’t be sorry. Watch the parking lot though, it’s hungry too, for cars.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Aria Giovanni

Aria Giovanni is one of the three most beautiful women in the world. Period. The other two are Salma Hayek, and my wife. I’m not going to reveal what order they’re in but you should note they all have black hair and brown skin, and they all have curves. If you look up cleavage in wikipedia, they have a picture of Ms. Giovanni. A compelling argument for blended marriage, she is Italian Yugoslavian French German Irish and Native American. Aria is a model, meaning she’s pretty much hot for a living.  She was briefly married to Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5. This makes him barely the winner of the ‘I divorced the hottest pinup girl in the world’ contest he had with Marilyn Manson himself who divorced Dita von Teese. A frequent guest at comic book conventions, she has served as a surrogate imaginary girlfriend for a generation of nerdcore fanboys. Be careful for the NSFW if you google her.

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 the September 2000 issue of Penthouse to

Restaurant El Charro – Getting Lucky

4105 Agnes Street, Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-881-6076

I’m in the midst of a case of snakebite, not a real snake, but the bite of the snake of fate. This happens to me every 9-12 months. I lost a valuable employee (though my other guy has picked up the slack well), my truck broke down, my newly remodeled bathroom backed up full of raw sewage. So I fix the truck, drive it for one day and it breaks down again. I get a plumber, he brings in a second plumber, and now it looks like we’ll need to bring in a tunneling crew that is likely to cost an amount comparable to a new car. Equipment at work is breaking down after years of trouble-free service.

I can hardly complain though, looking at the situation with a wider angle. I’m walking, breathing, working for myself, and I’m married to a lovely and charming woman, I’ve got a stepson who can nearly out-play me on the bass. I live in the greatest state in the country, in the greatest country in the world, in a time when the human race possesses the technological capability to do things we’d have assumed were miracles in olden times. In my life I have had some bad luck, but I’ve had some very good luck too.  Some would call it by another name; blessing; favor; fate.  I don’t presume to understand the hand of any power higher than myself – I know enough to know that I don’t know what I don’t know. Another thing I know is that it could always be worse. It just doesn’t feel like it that much this morning.

So in spite of (or perhaps because of) late nights of work all week and a steady stream of bad news I carved out time this morning to have some tacos. Of course I slept through the alarm (bad luck for the Hat, who waited for half an hour for my late ass to show up) but I eventually made it to the spot, El Charro on Agnes. This is the first of a four part series showcasing a cluster of taco shops located at the delta of Agnes, Baldwin, and Airport/Old Robstown – an area I call Bald-Ag.  We’ll review the local taco shops, and at the end a winner will remain standing – to go up against the winner of the next cluster (Kostoryz), and the next (Staples/Leopard). El Charro was scrappy this morning, though, and the rest of the boys on the block better step up if they have any hope of taking the title in the ‘Bald Ag Taco Frag’

Here’s the tale of the tape: the tortillas were tip-top, and the tacos were big. The carne guisada (“beef & gravy” according to our server) was very good – flavorful and dense while still having some spring in the beef, and I don’t think any caught in my teeth. The chorizo & egg was not quite as good but still well able to defend itself from all but the best in the city. There was good definition between the egg and the chorizo, everything was fresh to order, and there was a hint of sweet and spice. With some of the good burnt orange pickled salsa it was an A, if just barely. The atmosphere was nice too, big and comfortably clean – but not too clean.  I’d been here before on a weekend and it was packed tighter than a hong kong subway, but today is was good.  There were some snaking lines para llevar, but they seemed to move quickly. The coffee was fair, and refilled frequently.

All in all this place put its all into this fight. We won’t know until the other challengers get their licks in, but El Charro has nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe all this misfortune has started to turn around, starting with a couple of simple tacos.

Good luck!

From the Hat

Man, it’s my Lucky Day.  Got a couple of Scrabble games going with friends and havin’ a pretty lucky run.  On the way to the university this morning, I was lucky the driver texting in the car in front of me hadn’t caused an accident on our run down Ocean Drive. I dreaded  having to pass his meandering vehicle, but lucky for me, once he finished his mobile missive and hit send, he sped up to 60 and I didn’t have to deal with him.  Not the luckiest day I’ve had, but pretty good so far. Better than an unlucky day hands down.  Somewhere back in the distant past, I broke my neck.  Now that’s an unlucky day. Or was it lucky that I didn’t end up dead or paralyzed? Luck is interesting that way, depending on how you look at the same event, it can be either lucky, or unlucky.

Now before I run down a rabbit hole (in 3D) with this, it should be noted that I don’t believe in luck any more than I believe in astrology or their love child, “My Lucky Stars”. I understand the belief, but it just not sensible. When something bad happens, especially when several somethings bad happen, it’s all due to Bad Luck.  But if instead it’s a string of good things, it’s my Good Luck that’s responsible. We are creatures that by nature need an explanation. If we don’t have one, we’ll make one up.  Viola! Luck.  But as explanations for what goes on in the world go, Luck is pretty lame. I mean, let’s say I go to Cousin Clint’s Poker Night for a bit of Texas Holdem’.  If I have an unlucky night and loose all my money, someone else must have had a lucky night to win it.  So not only can the same event be lucky and unlucky for the same person, it can work this way for different people. Oh my achin’ head!  So was it bad luck that I broke my neck?  Absolutely not. It was stupidity that was responsible. Was I lucky that things turned out so well? Absolutely not. Brilliant surgeons, the care of countless nurses and the love of my family were responsible. And all of these people would have been there doing their thing regardless of my luck.  On the other hand, I had the best mollejas taco I’ve ever had today. Lucky?  Hmmm.

I did have the best mollejas taco I’ve ever had today at Charro’s Restaurant this morning. Fried very crispy – they were the texture of a perfectly fried oyster. Crispy on the outside, and soft and juicy on the inside. They came on an excellent flour tortilla with fresh onions and cilantro. Pure joy!  I also ordered the barbacoa taco. It was good, but missing the taste of cow’s head expected in an excellent barbacoa. It was lean and there was an unusual, but pleasant spice to it. Familiar, but I’ll have to have more to put a name to it. The salsa was served warm and colored that way too – spicy and orange with just the right amount of heat. A very pleasant breakfast and I thank My Lucky Stars.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Jennifer Tilly

We mentioned Ms. Tilly in the Eddie’s Review, and noticed a strange thing soon afterwards: about half of our traffic comes from google searches for Jennifer Tilly (née Chan). Since then we’ve awarded free tacos to a number of very impressive women but none has inspired such interest as has Jennifer. A compelling argument in favor of blended marriages, she is part Chinese, and all American. Some might confuse her squeaky voice as an indication of a lack of intellect, but they’d be stupid to do so. Though briefly eclipsed by her sister Meg after a casual interest in acting turned into an Oscar nomination, Jennifer has stood the test of time taking on brave and challenging roles in movies like Bound, Dancing at the Blue Iguana, Fast Sofa, and Bride of Chucky. She nearly stopped acting altogether after taking up professional poker playing, winning at Ladies-Only No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em in the World Series of Poker.

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 dvd case of a copy of Bound to
Restaurant El Charro on Urbanspoon

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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