Mi Masatlan – The Times They Are a-Changin’

2000 Ayers, Corpus Christi, Texas

Everything changes. What’s that hackneyed joke about weather in Texas? ‘If you don’t like it, wait a minute, it’ll change.’ The climate is changing. Hardly anyone smokes cigarettes anymore. Fully electric non-hybrid cars are starting to show up on our roads. My stepson last night was confused at the sight of my wife and I sending invitations to a party through the US Mail. Politicians are still in the wholesale business of trading influence for campaign money – but the scale is changing with record spending and decreased oversight each election cycle. It’s enough to make me want to crawl into a bunker and shut the rest of the world out. There is one problem with that – no good source of tacos.

And good tacos are one thing that stays the same here in Tacotopia. While cities to the North with more energetic economies and less regressive attitudes are trotting out Pad Thai Burritos and Kimchee and Cheese Quesadillas, Corpus Christi is making the same world class tacos they’ve been making for generations. I think we are a society in which there is room for everything, and there is a place for these novel tacos. In another week I will be chowing down on some McMexican Corned Beef Tacos to try and beat my hangover from my St. Patrick’s day party. There are some things, however, that can’t be improved upon: The Zippo lighter, the Godfather, Prince when he was with The Revolution, and Corpus Christi’s breakfast tacos.

Some time ago we reviewed a place called Alma’s which is now Mi Masatlan. I’d been there before that, when it was yet another taqueria. This place is not the most attractive taco shop around, with utilitarian steel building architecture and well used but sturdy booths. There are no frills here. It was fair the last two times I was there and I expected in its new incarnation would stay true to form. I was wrong, and it was a welcome change. I ordered a chorizo & egg, and a carne guisada. It came to the table almost too hot to hold. The carne guisada must have been made in-house, and was perfectly cooked with big square chunks of good beef. It was not too fat, but not too lean. The tortillas were handmade, with artisanal angular edges. The chorizo was excellent with a hint of cinnamon. The salsa verde was fresh and hot, and distinctive – not tasting like any other I’ve had. Everything we ate this morning was really good.

One thing you find in taco shops here in Corpus is that the servers are always women. Having a man refill our coffee was unusual, and he looked familiar. When I asked him he said his name was Raul Fuentes, and that he’d worked at another spot called Rinconcito del Jalisco, which I had tried to write up before my attempt turned into a two month tacotopia dry spell a la Francis Coppola during Apocalypse Now. One thing that would have come out with the review was that the tacos there were delicious. I asked Fuentes if he was the owner, or the manager, and for whatever reason he didn’t really give me a straight answer. I imagine he’s a turnaround specialist; that he takes ailing taquerias and makes them into shining stars. This would explain why he is out in the trenches in spite of his gender, pouring coffee and serving up truly wonderful tacos.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Lucy Lawless

I never watched more than one or two episodes of Xena, Warrior Princess because I took issue with their use of the letter X instead of Z, and the fact that I didn’t have cable for much of the run of the show. What I did see of it, though, I liked – but more for the hotness of Zena and her ambiguously gay relationship with her sidekick Gabrielle, than for the story from which I was distracted. Recently I watched Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and was knocked out upon watching a lot of Lucy Lawless (and I mean a whole lot). She is stunning, and brings some real acting chops to the show as well as physicality that while not exertive is as impressive as those of the gladiators. A native of New Zealand, Lawless was awarded the Order of Merit, which is like being knighted by New Zealand. This makes her practically a hot lady Aragorn. She’s one more really good reason New Zealand is not to be confused with Australia.

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 the Box Set of Battlestar Galactica to tacos@tacotopia.net.




3002 South Port Ave, Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-885-7705

I drove down Port recently and spotted four taquerias I’d never been to. I pulled into parking lots and emailed myself names and gps locations for each. One of the rationalizations I’ve had for not blogging every week was that I’d picked all the low hanging fruit. Well, the crazy thing about fruit is it grows back. Sure enough, close to HQ there are a bunch of new (at least to me) places to get tacos.

Pulling from the top of the list, I pulled my Valkyrie into the lot of the Merequetengue, which is inside the Q.C. Meat Market, and narrowly avoided an ankle-biting from a local dog who took issue with my mode of transport. Walking into the place, one is overwhelmed by the smell of a meat market: disinfectant and blood. I was bit apprehensive, but I ordered from the lady behind the counter and sat down at one of the tables that didn’t have chairs stacked upside-down on top of them.

The tacos were made to order on fresh handmade tortillas, and brought to the table by a waitress whose English was about as good as my Spanish. She pulled some sugar and a salsa verde from another table and set it in front of me – there was a red salsa, but not for me apparently. My routine when trying a new place is this; try the carne guisada with a fork, try the chorizo & egg with a fork, try the salsa with a spoon, add salsa and salt to the tacos, evaluate. Every step in the routine was satisfying here. The carne g, as you might expect from a restaurant in a meat market, was really good; toothy but not tough, and well seasoned. The chorizo and egg had good separation, with really good spicy chorizo and made so fresh to order that it was hard to distinguish the heat from the chorizo and the heat from the hot eggs. Add to both of these an excellent green salsa – a bit creamy, a bit hot, and good handmade tortillas. Merequetengue exceeded my expectations.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Debi Mazar

When I first watched Goodfellas, there was one thing – above all others – that made me wish I were Henry Hill and that’s Sandy, his guma, with a few pounds of cocaine, a tight dress, and an insatiable appetite. Cocaine is an evil drug, but if it were the 70’s and Sandy was offering it to me, I might be persuaded. Debi is now in her late 40s, is married to a tuscan cook who is inexplicably skinnier than she is, and she looks better than she did when she was in her twenties. You can see them working out who wears the pants in the family on Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel.

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 the ’93 Vogue Italia in which Debi appears to tacos@tacotopia.net.

Acapulco #2 – Life is Good

4425 Weber Rd, Corpus Christi, Texas 78411

We dodged a bullet this week. It’s hurricane season, and hurricane Alex decided he liked Mexico more than South Texas. We’ve also avoided any of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon which is still putting out 30-60 thousand barrels of oil a day with no end in sight. All of this, and my biggest complaints are too much paying work to do and a bad sunburn.

I’ve got it good, and even though the strain of operating a small business during a recession in a city where recession is piled upon existing recession (re-recession?) is difficult to manage some days, there are always folks who have it worse. As Marc Maron said to Dane Cook on his podcast WTF, “Every day is a heroic struggle for most people.” And though I’m not doing anything truly heroic, like disarming IEDs or exposing abuse of children, I do sleep well at night after a long day of work, and I do look forward to that most perfect of meals on Friday morning in our city, Tacotopia, the home of the best breakfast tacos in the world.

So the Hat and I met up at Acapulco #2 this morning, and this would actually be our second time to try and write this up (the first attempt was aborted after a disasterous coffee deficiency related mixup. This time looked like it might end up the same way when after waiting for 15 minutes for the other we spotted each other waiting for the other in separate booths.

We consolidated our booths and ordered. It’s easy to see how we missed each other, the booths are enclosed by wood or etched glass floor to ceiling – providing some real privacy. The atmosphere is mostly related to train kitsch, I’d guess left over from the previous occupant, with some 70s stained glass around so that it really invokes an atmosphere of 1976 – although the aroma of the place has not weathered as well as the decor.

I had a chorizo & egg, and a carne guisada – with coffee. The food came out in short order, and the Hat seemed to be hell bent on having as many different salsas on the table as possible, ending up the the standard in a ketchup squeezer, a super hot of the shelf jalapeño salsa, a pickled but ostensibly in-house red super hot, and a ranchero for the faint of heart. I tried both the reds, and satisfied with the house standard applied it liberally to my two tacos.

They were both good, each on a fair homemade flour tortilla. The tortillas weren’t outstanding but a damn sight better than anything off a shelf. Carne guisada, after you’ve tried 50 or 60 different ones in as many weeks, doesn’t vary that much – at least in this town. There’s a continuum of red to brown that usually reflects the amount of cumin used in the cooking. This one sat squarely in the middle, and the chunks of meat were slightly larger and more plentiful that many. The meat was a bit chewy and dense, but not in a bad way.

The chorizo & egg has a powerful and sultry flavor, like Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a taco unconcerned with the expectations of people who don’t have the vision or appetite to appreciate what it has to offer. This was the star of the breakfast, but the cast had another great supporting player – the coffee. With nothing but food service plastic thimble creamers and caked in the diner dispenser sugar this coffee held it’s own, frequently bolstered by the expeditious waitress.

A cornerstone of a good breakfast taco is good conversation and we tried to make sense of the mess that is being thrown at the gulf coast. I talked about my brilliant idea for inductive automobile infrastructure to solve the battery issue with electric vehicles (some jerks beat me to it), and Kevin talked about the dearth of decent tacos in Fort Worth. Satisfied with the fare we hoped it would satisfy the craving for tacos for another week.

From the Hat

“Two shitty tacos for seven bucks, where t f r u?”  Yes, good tacos are not a given.  This totally appropriate quote was from Taco Show Host upon receiving my picture of the menu from a downtown Fort Worth eatery.  The tacos were so tempting that I opted for a seven dollar bowl of steel cut oatmeal instead.  It just goes to show you that we live in a great place where one can find a delicious taco for a reasonable price – and just about anywhere in the city to boot.  These facts should not be taken for granted.

One shouldn’t take airline travel for granted either.  All know about the recent hurricane, Alex.  While I don’t want one to spank the Sparkling City, I have to admit that I love weather – tropical weather especially.  And when the Shedevil in el Gulfo spurred tornado warnings in Tacotopia, the airlines cancelled all flights to the area.  So instead of good, cheap tacos and exciting weather, I had crappy, expensive food and drizzly, grey, boredom.  I was never so glad to be back.  While I was too damned tired to do much of anything when I got home, (Thank goodness for Taco Blanca’s delicious spaghetti and meat sauce.) I knew that I’d be participating in Tacotopia’s breakfast ritual the next day and so slept like a baby.

I was primed for today’s adventure and hoping for a gulp of gastronomic greatness.   I’ll try my best not to overrate today’s taco treats.  I worry that so many days stranded in downtown Bad Food, messed up my calibrations and almost anything will get a good rating.  Taco Show Host and I ended up at Taqueria Acapulco at the corner of Weber and Gollihar.  We’d been before, but due to a transportation SNAFU, weren’t able to properly review the place.  I ordered two tacos on flour, a papas con chorizo, and a machacado y huevos a la Mexicana.  The machacado taco wasn’t a home run, because it started a bit bland.  But there was plenty of the carne seco, and with the addition of a tiny bit of salt, the taco brightened right up.  The vegetables in the Mexicana were fresh, but might have benefitted from a bit more serrano to the mix.  (Maybe due to the fact that I had trouble getting my heat on in downtown Fort Worth.)  While I’m on the subject of heat, Acapulco served two salsas, a Ranchero, and a fresh red, both good, but neither packed any heat.  I asked the pretty waitress if they had anything Really Hot.  She developed a mischievous smile and disappeared into the kitchen, only to return with a commercial bottle of something green, and a smooth puree-like red salsa made on site.  The red is definitely worth asking for.  Blazing hot, vinegary, with the texture reminiscent of mole, it didn’t take much to get the taco where I wanted it.  Satiated, I passed on the commercial green.  My second taco was the morning star – plenty of potatoes and rich, red, vinegary goodness that is chorizo.  The potatoes were cooked to the perfect consistency and the spicy, oily chorizo really hit the spot.  The flour torts were good – fluffy and light.  Backed up by really good café coffee and conversation the meal recalibrated me back into control, readying me for the day.  I’ll be back.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Bernadette Peters

Frank Rich on her official website describes her as an actress, singer, comedienne, and all around warming presence. I’d have said hot. Ms. Peters (nee Lazzara) looks good for a 45 year old, or for a 50 year old, or a 55 year old for what it’s worth. For a 62 year old, though (really?) she’s smokin’, that is when she’s not doing song and dance on broadway, starting charitable organizations to benefit dogs with Mary Tyler Moore, or redeeming gingerdom. Did I mention she wrote a children’s book? About dogs? She’s got two, one a Pit Bull, and normally children and Pit Bulls are a bad combination but it’s always the owner and never the dog and I don’t think Bernadette (I like to call her Bernadette) has it in her to mistreat anything. She’s two years older than Bill O’Reilly, and she looks awesome while he looks like someones pinky finger that’s been soaked in lemon juice and dipped in steel wool, so someone’s been living right.

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  the December 1981 issue of Playboy Magazine to tacos@tacotopia.net.