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.

Hi-Ho Restaurant – Not Perfect, But Worth the Trip – Just Like Life


Hi-Ho Restaurant

3703 Morgan Ave

Corpus Christi, TX 78405

(361) 888-4992

Chorizo & Egg: $1.65

Carne Guisada: $2.10

Bottomless Coffee: $1.50

This nondescript joint sits a few blocks from Los Regios but is a world away as a restaurant.  Established more than 30 years ago this venerable institution is barely identifiable as a restaurant from less than a car length away, but it’s always busy.  I’d eaten here once, on my return from my Honeymoon, and I have a positive association with the place with very little real experience to base it on.  An objective evaluation was in order.

My kid was with me, up dutifully and out the door at 6:15 to have breakfast that he’d likely be puking up an hour later at football practice.  I’d put out a feeler for ‘the Hat’ but didn’t expect him, what with recovering from H1N1, and an ill (and charming) wife.  Lo and behold, one of the 20 or 30 dodge 1500s in the park glinted a familiar hunter green, and out stepped the lost tacoteur, resplendent in his wrinkled t-shirt and with a cap covering bed-head.

SelenaThe place was bright, a bit less than clean with a sticky table.  There were recessed shadow boxes in the walls filled with framed and signed photos of celebrity patrons.  I think every third picture was of Selena.  The service was good, and the tacos came wrapped in tissue paper, in the red plastic mesh baskets you’d expect to hold a hamburger.  It was like opening a present.

My chorizo & egg was more than serviceable, and though the salsa was inadequate alone it complemented the taco.  The carne guisada was better, but in this town you have to do better than better.  Tender – yes, savory – barely.  The coffee had a bit of a twang, like my coffee maker at work.  That’s why I no longer make coffee at work (plus I am located next to the best coffee shop in Corpus, Aqua Java, and smell roasting beans on my way in.  It’d be hard to make good coffee in the face of such temptation, much less my work blend.

Kevin’s Grab Bag

Today’s taco treatise begins with lengua on corn and ends with suicide.  The HiHo’s lengua taco was HoHum.  The meat, while tender, was grey and bland.  I prefer my lengua on a corn tortilla, and was disappointed when it arrived on a store-bought tort.  These don’t even show up on the same scale as a hand-made version, hence the null rating.  Even a liberal addition of salt, pepper, and green salsa couldn’t save this taco from the doldrums.  The green salsa was flavorful, but packed no pica.  A finger dipped into the red salsa was enough to know it didn’t belong on my tacos.  The salsa was decidedly a LowPoint at the HiHo.

But the morning wasn’t all a waste.  My second taco was something called Suicide.  Turns out it is a combo of three tacos:  bean, bacon and cheese; chorizo and eggs; and eggs and papas.  It came on a superb flour tortilla.  The tort was cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of bite and riding the edge of crunchiness.  Truly a good tort.  I’m not the chorizo expert as is my fellow tacoteur, Ian, but I thought it was good.  It left a grease stain in my tortilla, a sure sign of chorizo greatness.  The refried beans were good, not as bacon-y as I like them, but the full strip of crispy-fried bacon made up for that.  The huevos con papas were non descript and lost in the bigger flavors of chorizo and bacon.

The coffee was a NoGo at the HiHo.  Weak and devoid of flavor.  I’ve had better coffee at Sonic.  The company was, as always, the better part of the meal.  Ian and I were joined by a truly amazing teenager, Matthew.  Not only was he awake for the Friday breakfast ritual, but he had a taco prior to football practice.  That’s bravery.


The thing that stands out about the Hi-Ho is the flour tortilla.  It was fresh and hot, with a light dust of flour and cooked longer so that there was a slightly crisp surface holding in the supple and chewy middle.  One of the best I’ve had.  Maybe not San Luis good but why choose?

And so Morgan Avenue in it’s paint-peeling abandon redeems itself.  The Hi-Ho was comfortable and the food and service were way worth the 5 bucks a head we spent.  Maybe it isn’t the best place to get a breakfast taco in Corpus Christi, but it’s sure worth trying.


Los Regios – The Regal Ones


Los Regios Restaurant

3154 Morgan Ave

Corpus Christi, TX 78405

(361) 882-4337

Chorizo & Egg: $.99

Carne Guisada: $1.49

Large Coffee: $1.98?

I’d intended to review the Grandma’s Gorditas on Morgan this morning but found it closed. Damn. So I pointed my truck down port and drove around in circles for a few minutes because I was sure there had to be a good taco to be had on this street.  Morgan is not the prettiest street in Corpus Christi, and it is lined with dilapidated garages and shops – many boarded up, and fenced lots with barking pit bulls guarding rusted cars no one would bother stealing.  I used to travel this road at least twice a day to go to trade school and had never felt especially uncomfortable there – pale though I am – but this morning when I stepped into Los Regios it was quite apparent I was not expected.


The place was dingy. The TV blared tejano. The cook peeked through his window from the kitchen and had the look of a recently escaped inmate interested in not being seen, and he’d have had little trouble as the joint was about empty, with the one other patron old and nearly blind.  The lady behind the counter barely understood my english, and when I started ordering in spanish she understood less.  I don’t know if this reflects on my language skill or her cognitive ability.  I asked for a cafe grande, and she replied ‘fajitas?’ I accidently refused the offer of coffee fixings and sat and drank it black from the oilcan.  It was pretty good.

The tacos were cheap, the coffee giant – like a big gulp for caffeiniacs.  I hurried out before being set upon by an angry parole officer, or caught in a drive by.  I got to my shop and opened up the sack half expecting to find a severed human hand but it was only tacos.  They looked puny next to the coffee.  I think the tortillas were homemade, but so that they tasted like store bought.  But get this:  they were both pretty good.  The chorizo & egg had a good rich flavor, though it was a little soft.  The carne guisada was even better, and as I finished them off I considered going back for another.