Taco Rico – the iPad edition

4101 Greenwood Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas 78416 • 361-851-0612

How will the Apple iPad affect the breakfast taco industry? That’s the question we asked patrons and employees of Taco Rico on Greenwood. Our responses consisted mostly of “what is an iPad?” and “is this going to be together or separate?” It would appear, at least at this taco shop, that there has been little preparation for the coming of the fabled fifth screen, and employees of taco rico are ill equipped to take advantage of the remaking of the taco landscape that will inevitably follow tomorrow’s product launch.

Charles “Chepe” Martinez, longtime eater of tacos, responded to Tacotopia’s question of how he would use an iPad while ordering and eating tacos saying, “is that that kindle thing?” Representatives from Apple were unavailable for comment. Phillip Haagenschtütenvergeshtugult, who has been camped out in line for the iPad outside the Apple Store at La Cantera Mall in San Antonio for the last three days, felt the iPad would bring a sea change to taquerias. “People don’t know how much easier this will make eating tacos, but once they have a taco and an iPad together they’ll see how limitless the possibilities are,” said Haagenschtütenvergeshtugult, though he admits he isn’t purchasing the tablet primarily for use in consumption of tortilla related food.

We couldn’t find any of the technorati with advance production units in attendance at Taco Rico on Greenwood and Horne this morning, but we did find tacos. I had a chorizo and egg, and a carne guisada. The layout of Taco Rico is a bit unusual, with a cafeteria style steam table facing out into the dining area from which all the prepared fillings are dispensed into fresh tortillas plucked from a seemingly endless stack, wrapped in foil. I’ve been here a few times before, and each time the same elderly woman has manned the cash register. When asked if she planned on replacing her register with an iPad-based Point of Sale app, she offered us salsa. The salsa was verde, with a crisp and hot finish. It was good enough that it’d be hard to imagine any improvement could be made by utilizing Steven Colbert’s iPad Salsa making techniques. The tortillas, also, were very fresh and well made, with one being on the dark edge of charlie brown.

From the Hat

Oh the best-laid plans of mice and Tacotuers.  TSH had sent the self-destructing tape the day before and I was primed for a new adventure.  However the gods where having none of it.  “Closed” said the sign.  Since I had arrived early, I decided take a drive and see if the closure was a Good Friday thing.  The HiHo was chock-o-block, as was Soliz #1 so I knew we’d find a taco.  A FB fan had recently posted about Taco Rico, so I headed there.  Great minds think alike and as I pulled into the parking lot, I got the text instructing me to meet there.  I’d eaten at the “Richest Taco in Town” many, many, times.  A decade ago, it was an every-morning stop on my way to work.  I wasn’t surprised to see the same abuelita running the register.  In the day, she would add up the order and taxes on an LED calculator as they were called out by the taco-ista.  Today, she uses a cash register and she’s bent from the years.  We exchanged pleasantries, but I never caught her eye.  Not that she’d remember me after all this time.

There are two basic construction methods in taco preparation.  Some things are made ahead of time, like Carne G, or barbacoa and must be stored in some sort of warmer until served.  But other things lend themselves to be prepared at the time of order, like anything with eggs.  Taco Rico prepares everything ahead of time and keeps it in a steam tray until time to dose a tortilla.  This is not uncommon, think Laredo Taco Co, and is not necessarily a bad thing.  There is some benefit to seeing what you’re gonna get.  I generally prefer my eggs cooked for me, and me alone, mostly because I like the quest for the perfect mix of ingredients.  But the big pile of papas con chorizo looked good and the blue-collar, assembly line nature of the steam station seems to fit Taco Rico.  I thought briefly of ordering  my historical favorites, a chorizo and egg, and a carne guisada with cheese.  But the chorizo con papas looked good so I opted for them and the carne guisada (sans cheese).  Both were amply-filled with the goods.  The chorizo and potato had a sharp, vinegary chorizo flavor.  It worked well with the papas which were cooked to the perfect consistency.  With a bit of excellent salsa verde and wrapped in a very good tortilla, I snapped it up quick.  The guisada was a bit bland, but responded well to a bit of table salt and some salsa.  (I think that salsa would be good on a sneaker.)  The meat was tender and in big chunks.  There was plenty of thick gravy, but not enough to run out of the end when you take a bite.  Not a bad offering, but I think Ian will have more to say.

All in all, it was good to be back.  The humble kitchen of Taco Rico brought memories of a different life, and for that, I thank them.  I’ll return.


The chorizo & egg was less than inspiring, with very little chorizo and tasting a bit mealy but still edible. It was huge, though, and nearly crowded the other taco off the plate. The carne guisada was goldilocks, not too good, not too bad. The coffee had a touch of burn, but served its purpose – though only after it was self served from the coffee station. What this place lacks in straight up good food it makes up for in quirky atmosphere: The little old lady, the steam tray, etc… I’d swear there was a piece of sausage hanging from the ceiling behind the counter. And while Taco Rico is not the best taqueria I’ve been to, it’s worth a visit if you’re near the intersection of Horne and Greenwood, and you’re craving a taco, and you like funky little taco shops, and the taqueria you were planning on going to is closed.

Our free taco winner for this week is:

Photo Courtesy LisaBlackDesigns.com

Busty Biltwell

Corpus Christi’s own Busty Biltwell is a member of the After Dark Burlesque Review, a local group promoting arts and culture, and apparently a fan of Jean Claude Van Damme (who isn’t?). Ms. Biltwell’s ample talent has been presented most recently at the House of Rock, as well as shows in San Antonio and Austin. She brings classical grace and style to the oft maligned and under-appreciated art of moneymaker-shaking.  As is obvious from the tattoo on her thigh, she is a supporter of the Navy, and sailors everywhere. And while we don’t stock shirts that are made to accommodate her unique endowment, our jersey knit tees are stretchy. Thanks, Busty, for helping keep Corpus Christi beautiful and making infants hungry in your wake.

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 JCVD to tacos@tacotopia.net.

City Bakery – The Decline of Western Civilization

I think this may not have been painted by a professional sign painter

808 South 19th Street, Corpus Christi, Texas 78405 • 361-885-0128
Carne Guisada: $1.50 • Chorizo & Egg: $1.00

Corpus Christi is a wonderful city, filled with hard-working people, entertainment, and the best tacos in the world.  And while the taco scene here is better than it has ever been, many other things in Tacotopia have been in steady decline for decades.  It’s easy to point to (and I often do) the outsourcing of US oil profits to Saudi Arabia and the rest of OPEC as the cause of our problems but there is more to it than that.

The best decade for population growth in Corpus Christi was the 50s during which we added 60,000 people.  I’d estimate that we’ve added around 10,000 in the last 10 years. Young people don’t want to live here and our community continues to age as does the municipal infrastructure and the entrenched system of local politics. All this means to me is that I can look at this city and love it, and at the same time see so much of it that is crumbling and broken, from the 100 year old downtown plumbing to the many vacant buildings with absentee landlords who’d rather let the buildings crumble and depreciate than do anything with them, and urban blight that scars downtown (again with the downtown). Small business owners from downtown and the West side organize functions to drum up business, but even in the heart of one of the most successful blocks of businesses in the area I get very few walk in customers.

Our taco shop today is a place that resembles the city itself.  City Bakery is a place that was once great.  Long a hub of activity in the West side it was the place where local civil rights leaders met during the creation of LULAC and MAYO, demanding a fair shake for a culture that existed here for longer than the Republic of Texas itself. I have been told by ‘El Gran’ Dee among others that there would be lines snaking around the block in the morning to buy this bakery’s signature item, the biscuit, and that most of the wedding cakes and local restaurants’ commercial baking moved through this establishment.  Sadly, this is no more.  The restaurant shows every day of 50 years of wear, with none of the benefits of its toil and yet it is still there, still open, still operated by the same family.  It’s not a great place to eat, and it is confusing to think that it has managed to pass health inspections all these years.  Dee spoke of the utter lack of pretense in the decor, and how after eating here in the morning he felt seasoned to deal with any comer throughout the rest of the day.

How is the food, you ask? The menu is limited, written in stilted hand with 4 different markers on 5 year old poster board.  Half of the items have been crossed out, and one or two have been written in, crowding for space.  Like downtown, or the Memorial Coliseum therein, no one wants to tear it down and start with a clean slate, thinking it’s better to hold on to something broken than to let go of the past. It breaks one’s heart. The carne guisada was crossed out but I asked for it and the lady at the counter said she had it.  It was not good, but it was edible.  The chorizo and egg was a little better, but just a little.  A bit peppery, and I didn’t add any pepper.  The chile salsa was fair.  Shell’s water came with a 1/2 lb chunk of ice that might have come off a piece that had been in the back since the place opened.  While we waited for our food, which all of the attention of the two employees to prepare, a steady stream of kids in their catholic school uniforms and shuffling street people lined up.  No one grumbled about the wait, and the ‘ring for service’ cowbell was only politely rung once.  By the time our food came out (at least the first part, we ended up eating in shifts) there must have been eight people in line.

The tortillas, however, were very good – I’d guess made fresh to order – and the biscuits were excellent, made fresh and pre-buttered.  The Hat says he couldn’t recommend anyone eat there, but I could.  It’s got atmosphere in spades.  If you want to eat at a place you’ll remember, this is the place.  If you want to eat food you’ll remember this may also be the place, but not for the reasons you’d like.

From the Hat

Usually I joke about the dangers of breakfast tacos – cholesterol, blah, blah, blah.  But not this morning.  Today I felt the danger in that singular, crystal-clear way that the rabbit must feel in the presence of a bobcat.  Struck tharn, wanting more than anything to move but unable to, knowing that he’d be seen.  My worry was that I’d already been seen.  Traffic had me pinned in behind the Bakery and I was being seriously-eyeballed.  Eyeballed in that very threatening way that makes you bow your head and look askance so the big Silverback doesn’t knock the shit out of you.   I locked the doors and waited for the traffic to clear; very aware of the two approaching eyeballers and feeling a bit vulnerable, armed with only my whitebread sensibilities.  The traffic cleared just as they got to the car and I didn’t wait around to see what they wanted.  For a few minutes, life was crystal clear. Missing was the calliope that usually inhabits my head.  There was no worrying about what I’m doing when I should be doing something else.  No worrying about time, about deadlines, about schedules, people, or meetings. Nothing. Just silence.  And awareness of life.  It was exhilarating.  Like jumping out of an airplane.  It wasn’t long before the ride was over and the calliope was running at full steam. Unlike the City Bakery.

What a dump!  I’m having a hard time with metaphors, but it might be like the proverbial truck stop queen.   If you look close enough, look back in time, through the grime, you can see what she was in her heyday; Heart of the neighborhood, vibrant and full of life.  People lined up around the block to sample her wares.  Now the lines are on her face and the people around the block are a weird mix of young boys saggin’ their khaki school pants and hoodlums of the scary clan.  The run-down restaurant had a limited taco menu.  I had a chorizo and egg and a picadillo, both on flour.  The C&E was so-so and the picadillo not that good.  The salsa was a watery red.  It had a bit of heat, but mostly like canned tomatoes.  The coffee was hot (heat hot) and refills were not convenient.  The tortillas, though were very good and definitely the star of the taco, but not of the taqueria.  That honor goes to the biscuits.  They were soft and held together in a perfect way.  Not too dense, not falling apart.  They didn’t need butter at all but were of course slathered with it.  A must if you find yourself in the City Bakery.  It looked like they had a pretty good assortment of fresh pan dulce, too.  Shell and I had a total of three tacos, a coffee and a biscuit for $4.25.  They definitely know their market.

Thanks again to Don Dee for his enlightening conversation on old-time CC.  You have a way of description that makes one able to feel some of what the city was like, what the people were like – bringing to life the history of the city like no one else I know.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Christina Hendricks

Making the little screen big for three seasons, Christina’s marriage to Geoffrey Arend should give hope to all men who have to count on their personality to get them through life.

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 a Robert Anton Wilson paperback of your choice to tacos@tacotopia.net.

City Bakery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Double Donuts – A mystery wrapped in a tortilla

The Donut Hole, 1712 Ayers St., CCTX
Corpus Donuts, Corner of Golihar and Kostoryz, CCTX

With a stunning array of taco shops here in Tacotopia, we feel the need occasionally to try something that’s hard to get, elusive, off the beaten path. Today we hit two taco shops that claim to be Donut shops. Yes, they’re both spelled without the ugh, even though that’s the sound the Hat was making before asking if Matt the Hoople or I had some antacids on our persons.  No, of course, was the answer.  It’s never there when you need it.

Our first stop was Corpus Donuts, which I’d heard about last night while talking tacos in the surgery waiting room with my wife and her family. It’s always good to know a lot about something trivial that a lot of people are interested in when you’re trying to make a heavy situation light.  Some people have sports, I have tacos (and cars).  A couple of the folks there had heard of it, and said the Donuts were good.

The place was a little dark, and had a patchwork of vinyl, acrylic, and hand-painted plywood signs covering most of the facade of the building.  It appeared to have once been a stop-and-rob but that must have been many years ago.  Upon entering we were told we had to get our coffee ourselves, but when we sat down big guy behind the counter poured us up three cups and brought them to our table.

Corpus Donuts

Corpus Donuts

There was a good amount of space in the place, but only a few tables – and the lighting was very low, like a brownout, but the lighting didn’t hide the dirt that well.  The hat said it looked like a bar. There were two big stacks of professional PA speakers (Peavey 2x15s on top of big Cerwin vegas).  When I asked, I was told that they rent the place out for dances – explaining a lot.  I knew we were doubling up today but I still had to try both of my standard tacos for the sake of science so I got a Carne Guisada and a Chorizo & Egg.  Everything was fair, nothing outstanding.  If you’re looking for a place to impress people from out of town how good food can come out of bad places this might be a contender.  If they’re not from Corpus they won’t know that these tacos aren’t top notch, because in comparison to what most cities have they are.  On the way out, the Hat bought us all a round of Donuts, and they were top notch, very fresh, and glazed with just the slightest hint of lemon.

Tacos from Corpus Donuts

Tacos from Corpus Donuts

Next we headed to the Donut Hole, a place we’ve tried at least three times to sample and were deflected on each attempt.  The Hole is legendary in local taco circles, and was one of the first recommendations we received.  I mentioned it to my wife, not knowing any better, and commented that it was a strange sounding place to have tacos.  My wife informed me that it was a little dive, it’d been there forever, that she had been going there since she was a teenager, and that the tacos were great.

Well, she wasn’t kidding.  The place is a little dive. Looking at the building it’s unclear if it’s open for business or if it’s a derelict superfund site.  It’s situated across from Wynn Seale Middle School, right down the road from the abandoned Butter Krust bakery.  We both pulled our trucks into the lot and finding nowhere to park, and barely enough space to drive around it, we pulled up next door and walked over.  A guy speaking jibberish (or aramaic, my aramaic is a little rusty) walked up asked me for the time, and asked the hat for a quarter before wandering off to alert the illuminati that we were falling right into their trap.  A dim, yellow light was leaking out the back of the building, and looking through the doorway I could barely make out the interior – which looked like a country blacksmith’s shop.  We knocked and were told to come back in 20 minutes (this was at 7:20 meaning they open at 7:40).

I was ready to give it up, and to try it on a day where the gloom wasn’t so oppressive.  I wasn’t sure if it felt more like a scene from ‘Conspiracy Theory’ or ‘From Beyond’ but I didn’t have a good feeling about it either way. The scene it reminded me of most was in Cronenberg’s ‘Naked Lunch’ when Bill Lee breaks the typewriter, brings it to the blacksmith shop and they melt it down and make it into a new one.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they were sprinkling the tacos with the powder from the Aquatic Brazilian Centipede. This was a dangerous place, as ‘King Crimson’ says, and I had the kid to worry about so I whisked him away and deposited him at his school, where he would be protected by the holiness of the Catholic Church.  Then, as I was pulling away I received a text from Kevin who had the same idea as me.  Give it one more try.  Acting against my better judgement I headed back, and picked up a brown bag from the second window.  The holy grail of tacos, I had it right in my hands.  I raced over to the Hat’s house to we could examine the goods in safety (who am I kidding, if the Illuminati wanted to know what tacos we were eating, they would already be in the house – which meant they probably were in the house, as they know all.)

Well, it was all worth it.  The tacos were every bit as good as they had been described.  The carne g, their signature item, was rich and the beef dense.  The chorizo & egg amazing, with a strong and salty flavor you can only get from a grimy kitchen.  The tacos were the size of, well, a giant taco, and the tortillas achieved a perfect balance of tenderness vs tensile strength.

As we talked ourselves down, and tried to rid ourselves of the feeling we were being watched, we made plans for next weeks trip – to another hole in the wall with ample history.  Tune in!

From the Hat

Before I get to taco news today, I’d like to give a shout out to South Texas Public Radio for hosting a night of fine food and wine.  Shell and I are regulars at their yearly Classic Brew event, a food and beer gig with live music but had never been to their Food and Wine Classic.  The dress was everything from black tie to CC formal (jeans and sandals) – definitely a good place to break out the Black Leather SRV hat.  There was plenty of gourmet fare for all.  My favorite was a lobster taco with pico de gallo and avocado ice cream on a handmade corn minitort.  Delicious and beautiful to look at.  Close runners-up were a ginger-soy beef (or was it lamb) in a fried filo dough cone, and a sweet frau gras mousse also in filo.  I’m sure there were plenty of good and great wines, but after half a dozen samples of different Carmeneres, my taste buds might have been compromised.  We had a good time and will be back.  It might not make my bucket list, but definitely one of my 40 things to do in Corpus.


It’s a great thing when dozens of fine restaurants are gathered together, dishing out their wares to the grazing multitudes, but sometimes one has to work a bit harder to quell that hankerin’.  In fact, sometimes it seems that there might be someone working against you in your quest.  Today started innocently enough.  Last night’s Wine Classic had decided not to drive and ended up crashing on my heartburn.  It was still there when I woke up so asked it if it wanted a taco.  It did and before long my heartburn and I were on the way to Corpus Donuts, formerly Recios.  I had it from fellow taco fan and go-to expert in local taquerias, Johnny H. that if it was still the same people, this place had a good brisket taco.  I could tell my heartburn was looking forward to it too.  I think because it was a donut shop, that Ian decided it would be a good opportunity to make a theme of it and hit the infamous Donut Hole as an added bonus feature.  So I only ordered the brisket figuring I’d save myself for a good showing at The Hole.  In all honesty, I was not really impressed when the plate was plopped down in front of me.  After the display of beautiful food last night, the lonely grey slice of fatty brisket in a flour tortilla was not impressive.  But upon removal of some of the fat and proper application of barbecue sauce and salsa, it ended up being good.  The brisket had a good mesquite smoke flavor with a soft texture that comes from many after-pit hours in the oven.  The tortilla was good, toothy, and held up to the barbecue’s frontal assault.  The coffee was okay, but not the usual café fresh I expect.  The hot, fresh glazed donuts were very good.

Tacos from the Donut Hole

Tacos from the Donut Hole

Here’s where it gets tricky.  Last time, The Hole was rained out and we went elsewhere.  Just what The Hole wanted, too I’m sure.  Today, when The Hole discovered we were back, we were put off with a shout from inside the closed building, “Thirty more minutes.”  Tacotopia runs a tight ship and we couldn’t wait so I resigned myself to my one brisket taco and vowed to return to The Hole in victory.  But all the way home I had a gnawing feeling that we were being duped; that there was a conspiracy to keep the Hole’s secrets from the likes of us.  Or maybe that The Hole would only accept our calling on its terms…I decided to go back…as it turned out, so had Ian.  He was ahead of me so he volunteered to brave The Hole alone and bring tacos to the house.  I left it to his judgment as to which taco I wanted.  Turns out that he made the right choice – the lengua.  The taco was astounding!  At first I didn’t know what to think of it.  It didn’t really look like any lengua taco I’d had.  Tender roast beef with that unmistakable taste of cabesa.  Stringy almost like the best pot roast you ever had.  Half way through it I remember Matt, a Surf Club acquaintance had told me that the Hole had the best Lengua he’d ever eaten.  I can say now that it’s the best I’ve ever eaten too.  Wow!  The torts were good too and a splash of the atomic-hot green sauce made it a great taco experience.  Too bad no coffee.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Salma Hayek!

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 a Robert Anton Wilson paperback of your choice to tacos@tacotopia.net.