Brandy’s – You’re a Fine Taco Shop

412 North Chaparral St, Corpus Christi, Texas
Chorizo & Egg $1.70 • Carne Guisada $2.35 • Bottomless Coffee $1.25

Brandy’s has been quite elusive. It’s a little hole in the wall on Chaparral, next to the old Centre Theater downtown. The hat and I had made a couple of runs at a review of this spot, and I’d posted a mobile update from here way back but we’d never sat down to do it up right.

The neighbor on the other side is the Sea Gulf Villa, home of some of the most interesting characters in the area – if you know what I mean.  To some extent Brandy’s has a captive clientele and even has a side door that leads into the courtyard of the ‘Villa.’ Downtown is a hard place to make a business work (believe me, I know) but Brandy’s has been around since 2006.  Before that it was where Dragonfly was hatched before moving to the island and ultimately to their new location on SPID about a mile further South.

You’ll find this place infused with Catholic kitsch and a DIY aesthetic. Piecemeal signage decorates the front of the restaurant, and anytime you walk in you’re likely to find Brandy herself doing the cooking, with a slightly troubled look behind her omnipresent smile. There’s every indication that she has put her heart and soul into this restaurant, as well as all of her time and resources. That said you should realize my opinion of this place is not unbiased. I want her to succeed, I want her to grow into other locations – namely Portland, but there is no hyperbole in my exaltation of Brandy’s tortillas which are transcendent. Made in house by hand every few orders they come to the table so hot from being cooked that you’ll burn your fingers trying to handle them. They couldn’t be more fresh, period.

The carne guisada was pretty good, and needed no salt. The hat didn’t like the salsa but I did – it reminded me of chíle I’d had many mornings in Dallas sitting around the Palafox table, with eggs and tortillas, and serranos from the the plant in the back yard. Heavy on the garlic salt, tomato sauce, and fresh peppers roasted on cast iron and crushed in a mocajete. The chorizo and egg had the perfect interplay between warring chorizo & egg factions – with both trying to stay independent but at the same time working to infiltrate the other.  The coffee was hot, fresh, and plentiful, as was the company. Over the course of the meal three people we know, each one a beach bum for life, stopped in just to say hi. It was as if there were a little pocket of good will inside Brandy’s that overwhelmed my normal distrust and cynicism and left me thinking the world isn’t hopeless.  I can feel it wearing off as the tacos are even now being digested, and the feeling like the tacos will pass on.

There was a theme that ran through our conversations, and through everything else that has followed this morning – that of imperfection and how it punctuates beauty. There’s the Texas coast blogged about by friend of tacotopia Joy. There’s the taco award winner this week who’s insanity and ability to overcome it is much more impressive than someone who’d ended up in the same place without having to travel to get there. There’s Brandy’s, which is rough around the edges and falls short of some of the nicer taco shops in Corpus in terms of polish but has all the heart of any place out there, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better chorizo & egg.

Barbacoa with a fried egg on top!

I just wanted to give y’all a bit of time to let that settle in your brainpan before I went on.  Ms. M. put the demon seed in my head to order this monster.  It must have been Mary Shelley she was reading on her new iPatty.  I don’t know but it was definitely Evil Genius.  There was onion and cilantro, but protein definitely ruled this taco.  I usually order my fried egg fried hard, but I decided that messy might be in order and ended up with over-easy.  Mess was right.  Halfway through, the tortilla was showing serious wear.  Not to dis the tortilla at all.  It was superb.  Made fresh with just a little sprinkling of flour on the outside.  Delicious.  But it was a mess.  Next time, and yes, I’m sure there’ll be a next time, I’m goin’ with fried hard.  The barbacoa itself was Tacotopia average.  Hard to separate the barbacoa from the liquid chicken, so I’ll just say I’ll have to try the barbacoa by itself before passing judgement.  But as a partner in crime with the egg, it was excellent.

There had been a crowd waiting to get in…again, and I could smell bacon from the street.  Funny, even the streets of D-town are better with bacon.  So I was optimistic.  I’d heard good things and that location seems to have some magic in it. It’s been the home to many excellent places to eat over the decades.  I guess TSH had been to Brandy’s many times – me, two.  The first time was on the highly rated and internationally acclaimed Spam Edition.  For only an instant did I consider a reprise of that event, but I settled on a chorizo and bean.  The chorizo and bean I’m beginning to discover is a good indicator.  Both are aggressive flavors and getting them to play nice without losing themselves in one another is hard to do.  Brandy’s beans bellowed, “Bacon!”  Bacon and Chorizo…Hmm.  I think there’s potential there.  Anyway, Brandy’s bacony beans faced down chorizo’s frontal assault ’til the very end.  The chorizo was good.  It didn’t jump up at me screaming “I’m the best chorizo you’ve ever had,” but those moments are infrequent.  At first, I thought the taco was a tad tiny.  But that was because it was hanging around with that fat barbacoa taco.  Once into it, I knew that any more of the dense beans and chorizo in that baby and I’d have to forgo eating for the weekend.

The good food was interrupted for brief moments with conversation.  The topics ranged from lamenting the loss of the greatest generation, to that nightmare in the gulf.  And the whole breakfast experience was punctuated with visits from friends Sawyer Ron and the Cool Breeze.  I wish I could have stayed and had another cup of Brandy’s cafe good Joe, but I was in a hurry.  If someone captured me and threatened me with torture, I might say the weak link was the salsa.  It was fresh, but mostly tomato had absolutely no heat.  Good Breakfast.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Margaret Cho

What can one say about Margaret Cho that she hasn’t said about herself in any of her standup routines. Nothing, that’s what – she is more intimate and fearlessly revealing than anyone who isn’t your cellmate in a penitentiary. There is no social convention she’s unwilling to eschew, while still showing respect for those that aren’t destructive to the people who are affected by them. The first asian-american to get a sit-com, she lost 30 pounds in two weeks in order to look thin for the 1st episode, only to suffer kidney failure shortly after. No one said she’s emotionally or psychologically unencumbered, especially not her. If you’re homophobic, or bothered by shockingly explicit descriptions of jaded deviant behaviour you should avoid her. I, though, would love to share a taco with her if she were ever to come to the Texas coast.

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 sticker (any one but the second from the left in the first row) to

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Brandy’s window on the world

Great little spot if you like funky little taco shops. My c&e came fresh made to order. Excellent chorizo, excellent tortilla, decent coffe, fun people-watching. The closest taco peddler to my shop. Not to mention Brandy’s a sweetheart.

La Bahia – Level 5 Illusionist


La Bahia

224 N Mesquite St

Corpus Christi, TX 78401-2541

(361) 888-6555

interiorI run a t-shirt shop called Whetstone Graphics here in downtown Corpus Christi, and we sell a shirt that from a distance looks like a skull – a typical emo/screamo declaration of angst – but when you look at it more closely you see it’s actually several nude women.  In a town like this it’s funny that the shirt that sells the best has naked ladies on it.  It’s a tawdry illusion, and it’s the illusion that makes it interesting (okay, maybe the naked ladies help).  The subject of our discussion this morning is La Bahia, and it is cloaked in illusion.

I told my wife’s family last night that we were planning on reviewing La Bahia, and ‘El Gran’ Dee said ‘Don’t make the mistake of calling it a Taqueria, it’s Tex-Mex.’  I think the main distinction between the two is that the latter mostly serves clientele who resemble me (gueros).  Si, soy un guero pero I know tacos and these tacos were the real thing.

We showed up at 6:15, and the place was closed – but a guy came out and said ‘if you want to come in you can’  and then  ‘but we won’t have any food until 7:00.’  Psych!  So we came back at 7:00 and it was already open.  Once inside we got coffee and ordered.  The place is huge and rambling, like the winchester mansion done Spanish Colonial.  The place gives the illusion of going on forever.  Not only that, but the entire interior is done in very good faux finish, with stone arches so trim they must be wood-framed but with keystones that protrude… Maybe it’s faux stone over real stone, who can tell?  The ceiling was real wood with a faux wood finish!

The inside of my tacos were about average.  The carne guisada was flavorful but not distinctive; the chorizo and egg was not bad but not great.  But both were wrapped in good, fresh flour tortillas.  Add some of the salsa, which could have been the ‘chile’ made by my ex-wifes abuelita con un mocajete, and they were excellent.  Throw in some good coffee, good service, ice water without asking, interesting patrons (cops & clergy), and good company and the whole experience came off as memorable.  Maybe it is Tex-Mex, I heard no spanish spoken in the place, but maybe that’s just what they want you to think.


From the Hat

Sometimes it’s hard to start this comment.  What I want to say seems to come out too negative – and that’s not quite fair.  Today’s taco mini flash-mob occurred at La Bahia, downtown CC.  The place is beautiful – sprawling, brightly-lit, very clean.  The service was very good.  Coffee was there quickly and was endless.  Our order was taken and delivered with no waste of time.

I know you’re thinking there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere, and I guess there is.  I had two tacos, a machacado and egg, and a chicharrone and egg; both a la Mexicana.  They were both ample, both served piping-hot on a pretty good flour tortilla.  But (there it is) something was missing,  I don’t quite know what.  I mean in the Platonic sense, they participated in the form of taco.  But they were almost touristy – made more for John Q. Public than an avid devotee of the genre.  You could definitely take these tacos home to mother and not offend, but there wouldn’t be any manly side talk with Dad about what’s under the hood.  It was a beautiful illusion, that hid a reality of not-too-exciting tacos.

For you nuts-and-bolts people, the chicharrones were of the air-puffed pork rind variety, the machacada was pretty good, but I should have had it without the a la Mexicana.  The a la Mexicana was good and fresh, especially the cilantro and onion.  Both came through as if they’d been chopped right before they went in the tacos.  The salsa was very good.  Might even be the highlight of the meal.  Lots of tomato and a good heat.  It made the tacos.

I heartily recommend you eat at La Bahia, though.  But make it with a crowd, particularly if they’re from Anchorage, or Ottawa, or some other place where true tacos might be unknown.  You’ll have a good time, You’ll enjoy the food and the beautiful decor, but its all an illusion.