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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.