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
Marroquin Tortilla Factory & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Linda’s – As In Pretty Damn Good!



4033 Golihar Rd
Corpus Christi, TX


Opens at 6:00 AM

Chorizo & Egg: $1.40
Carne Guisada: $1.85
Bottomless Coffee: 99¢

Interior‘The Hat’ and myself got a hot tip on a serious taco establishment from Louie at Executive Surf Club, who knows a lot about Movies as well as Tacos. A town like this is so overrun with taco shops you could eat at 1 or 2 a week for years and not have even heard of a place that’s about as good as they come. Linda’s is one of these places. I drove by a couple of taqueria’s we’ve reviewed before to get here but I didn’t recognize the place we I came up on it, and was surprised once I got inside. It was big, bright and clean – looking like it had less than 1000 miles on a remodel, though I hear tell of tacos being peddled from the same spot as far back as the 80s.

The pretty waitress, resplendent in her crazy lipliner, was quick with the coffee and accurate with the order and we sat and hashed out schemes and told stories without ever reaching the bottom of the coffee cup. We’d both had harrowing weeks, and I for one don’t see it letting up over the weekend. Life is exhausting – moving from work to driving a kid around to cleaning out the garage to digging through boxes looking for tools squirreled away years before. If you work hard enough you can get ahead but more often it seems like you just barely keep pace and I for one am so tired at the end of the week that I could sleep through the weekend and not feel too guilty about it.

I see these young people out in the street when I leave for work as the sun comes up and they’re running – probably before they drive around 2.5 times as many kids as my wife and I do and get more done at work (and paid more for it) before coming home, eating healthier and getting less sleep. My cardiologist might disagree but if fatigue is the price of living the taco lifestyle I guess it’s a price I’m willing to pay, while I can afford it.

My bag is sinkin' low, and I do believe it's time

My bag is sinkin' low, and I do believe it's time

And pay we did today. The tacos at Linda’s were the size of a thanksgiving turkey and just as likely to put you into a tacoma (noun – the condition of fatigue following the consumption of particularly satisfying or plentiful meal consisting of tacos). The tortillas were flawless, I saw Kevin’s homemade corn and mistook it for a flour. The salsa was good, a bright orange purée though not as bright as that of Nano’s. The chorizo & egg was the standard ratio of Chorizo to Egg, cooked together but the quality of the chorizo was very good, and the eggs were perfectly cooked and with the neutralizing flour tortilla topping it off the combination of the three was nearly ideal.

All of this is before I got to the carne guisada, a great example of how it’s supposed to taste. The beef tender and the gravy savory. I saw the hope of completing the meal fading due to the size of the tacos and put some shoulder into the eating and pushed through to the end. In the end all I could find wrong with the place is the lack of a hand-painted sign, a liquor license, and a hammock.

One taco took a piece out of the other and left a bloody mess.

One taco took a piece out of the other and left a bloody mess.

Linda's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

From The Hat

First a couple of items of business:  Louie, thanks for the recommendation. We’ve had quite a few referrals from the Executive Surf Club, all have turned out to be very good.  Is it that the ESC has an unnaturally high percentage of tacologists?  Hmm, I wonder if I spent an hour every day at the gym if I’d find great taco tips there too.  Probably, but not likely. I’ll let you decide whether “not likely” applies to me-at-the-gym or to great advice from athletic (taco) supporters.

Shelly, the love of my life and partner in crime for the last 18 years told me of this place long ago.  It wasn’t Linda’s then, and it was about Milanesa, not breakfast tacos.

“Back then” she says, “they had the best Milanesa in town.”

Now I love to cook.  To try new tastes, new ingredients, new techniques…the whole gambit.  I don’t have many rules, but there is one near-constant.  A wooden spoon.  It’s hard to say where I got them.  I want to say it was back when Corpus Christi had a festival called “Art in the Heart” – a weekend-long, three-music-stage party in downtown that had great music, great art vendors, and an all-around great time for all that went.  That’s another story.

Anyway, somewhere back in time I bought a couple of mesquite spoons.  Right-handed spoons.  They have the perfect shape.  (For a Rightie.)  I’ve used them for almost 18 years now.  It’s always the first thing I grab when preparing a meal.  I’m convinced that there’s magic in them.  Magic from years of cooking for the two of us.  Of great meals and of those not-so-great – either way done with care and love.  That magic is passed on to others as when a sick friend needs some Chicken-n-Dumplings, or at family gatherings.  We joke that now I can’t cook without them.  I don’t believe it, but Shell is quick to implore that double-X-linked genetic ability to find things when one comes up missing.

It’s not too far-fetched to think that the taqueria now known as Linda’s has some of that same kind of magic.  Nothing quantifiable, necessarily.  But due to years in the neighborhood, cooking for people.  And the people, in some way influencing the place in a positive way.  Who knows – and my scientific mind waves its arms around and screams “Danger Will Robinson!” at the thought.  But there’s magic in those spoons, and there was magic in the tacos this morning.

I had two tacos, as is my wont – a nopalitos, chorizo, and egg (It was on the menu.) and a carne asada.  Both were excellent.  They were both as big as a VW van hood ornament and stuffed with the goods.  There was plenty of nopalitos in the chorizo offering.  There was also a taste that took me a minute to recognize, Louisiana-style hotsauce.  It worked very well in the taco.  Might have overpowered the nopalitos a bit.  Ian wondered if the vinegary taste might be pickled nopalitos.  A possibility, but I’ll stick to my original assessment.  The corn tortilla surrounding the taco was very good.  As I ate it, it bled an oranger-than-chorizo orange that stained the waiting asada.  The asada taco was exactly how I like it.  Basically fajita meat with lettuce and tomato.  The meat was seasoned very well and held up its end of the bargain.  The shredded iceberg was fresh as were the tomatoes.  Both the green and orange salsas where delicious and each added something different to the party.  The coffee was cafe good and the guy behind me could have definitely used a cup.  He cat-napped between visits by the waitress, as evidenced by a low growling snore heard ’round the restaurant.  Nighttime noises aside, we’ll definitely be back.  I’m curious now if they have Milanesa.


Taqueria Bandas – Diamond in the Rough


1322 Leopard St.

Corpus Christi, TX 78401

(361) 882-2180

Chorizo & Egg: $1.05

Carne Guisada: $1.50

Bottomless Coffee: $1.50


America. In Mexico as a kid when asked where I was from I replied “I’m an American.”  The shopkeeper said, in perfect English, “So am I.”  It had never occurred to me before, Mexico was contained in the continent of North America.  My adolescent brain hadn’t bothered to make a distinction between American & U. S. Citizen.  Most ‘Americans’ never do. It’s a part of our character to grab what seems true and hold on to it, defending it to the death against attacks and sometimes logic and truth.  It’s what makes us strong, and what makes others hate us.  I hear the mantra of ‘family values’ repeated from every corner, much of the time used to sell things.  I hear condemnation of anything unfamiliar or different.  One thing many Christians get right is charity.  The problem of poverty is too big to fix without fundamental structural change in society, but it is being treated by many – some out of devotion to their faith, some out of dedication of humanity.  You see evidence of this on Leopard Street.  Any given hour on any given day you can see people asleep on the benches and sidewalks, and there are always the walking wounded – making their way down the circuit: Salvation Army, Metro Ministries, then to the bus station and back to panhandle.  As I stood next to my truck a man shuffled by me and the smell was overwhelming.  It wasn’t the smell of urine or filth.  It was the smell of desperation.

I gathered with three generations of family this morning.  My Father-In-Law, My Stepson and myself shared the table with fellow taco inspector Kevy the Hat.  We talked politics, we talked food, we talked about women and men, we talked about the past.  Dee, my Father-In-Law, grew up blocks away, and told us about how this restaurant used to be a diner called ‘Bunk’s’ that served up real root beer from a wooden barrel, back before they tore down the Sears and put in it’s place the city hall, years later, to cast a shadow on the overlooked and forlorn transients as they polish the  crumbling sidewalks with cheap shoes and bare feet.  The 1914 County Courthouse sits blocks away, empty for 30 years, again crumbling after a short lived effort to restore it lost steam a few years back.

My wife’s father is a man of respect with whom I carry on discussions on many things we both claim expertise in, if only in each other’s company.  He’d recommended this place – not for the tacos, but for the homemade corn tortillas.  Many years ago my family in a fit of wanderlust, which we had in spades already, and in an effort to prolong our short fall to the rock bottom of destitution sold everything we had, hopped in a camper van and crossed into Mexico where we traveled for months and months.  I remember eating fresh corn tortillas that were hot out of the tortilleria, right there on the sidewalk outside.  I haven’t liked a corn tortilla since, how could another compare? This changed today. These were big and fresh, and thinner than the typical corn tortilla.  It looked like it was pressed, and had no real irregularity of texture but tasted like it was kneaded by the hand of god himself (please forgive me).


The flour tortillas were the same way.  So thin it was as if I were trying to hold the egg and chorizo together with a puff of smoke.  Everything else was good, but hard to focus on in the company of the tortillas.  Carne Guisada – good, Chorizo & Egg – pretty good, Barbacoa – good, Coffee – pretty good once we got it.  The salsa was unremarkable but complemented the tacos.  If there was anything to complain of, it was that the waitress forgot our coffee for 5 minutes – and once reminded showed up quickly with a fresh full pot.  Banos
So don’t rely on conclusions built on the presumptions of familiarity and don’t let your routines protect you from experiencing the world outside your comfort zone. You might not know what you’re missing, and if you’re missing this place you’re missing out on a damned good thing.

From the Hat

Today was a good day to be a Tacoteur.  Ian’s Father-in-Law had suggested Bandas on Leopard and joined us there for tacos.  Once seated, he immediately ordered something not from the menu, barbacoa on a home-made corn tortilla.  I decided to listen to the table-talk and follow suit.  In addition to the barbacoa taco, I ordered chicharrones and eggs a la mexicana on a hand-made flour.

I’d been across the the street at Shaeffer’s Muffler Shop at least twice a year for state inspection stickers and had seen Banda’s many times while I waited.  I’m a bit bummed that I could have gone in there and had a high-quality taco while my car was being inspected.

While we waited for the tacos, I enjoyed a cafe-delicious cup of coffee or three.  I listened to tales of the area from way before I graced the region with my presence.  I could almost see what the place would have looked like back then.  Maybe a bit like it does now, without the guys sleeping on the sidewalk.

The tacos arrived and Wow!.  They were big and the smell of fresh corn tortilla was rushing off my plate.  I took aim at the barbacoa.  The best!.  I’d have more to say, but I think it’s summed up by my words at the time, “This is as close to barbacoa taco perfection as it comes.”  And I stick by those words.  The corn tort was fresh-made and thin.  Thinner than most corn tortillas I’ve seen – Twiggy in the world of tortillas, but packed with corn flavor and robust enough to handle the juicy barbacoa.  Served with cebolla and cilantro on the side it was exceptional.  You’d have to barbecue the head yourself to get better.  I did good to follow the lead of The Man.

Next to the chicharrones and egg a la mexicana.  This was the best in recent memory.  These were no fluffed-up air-brushed chicharrones, they were the real deal.  Their texture was almost gelatinous.  Exactly right.  There were plenty in the taco and they were not overshadowed by the eggs.  The flour tortilla was really good.  Thin and lacking nothing.  It broke on me during the taco, but that was probably because it was stuffed beyond carrying capacity with goodies.  I accented this taco with the excellent fresh red salsa on the table.

In closing, I’d like to say that next time I get a vehicle inspected, I’m not going to be hanging around the Shaeffer’s waiting room, watching the Judge-of-the-day dispense television justice.  I’m heading across the street where the television is playing a panel of five short-skirted women all talking español at the same time.  But they won’t distract me one minute from my taco.