El Rodeo de Jalisco


101 Old Robbstown Road, Corpus Christi, TX

I drive a city bus for a living. One of the main routes I drive is the #12 Hillcrest Saxet Oak Park. After passing by Driscoll Middle School on my way outbound I make a right turn on Russell, and there’s a restaurant I’ve been to before right at the turn. This location has been a dozen different taquerias. You may remember it at El Lucero or Chacho’s. It has most recently been occupied by the crew that used to operate out of their location on Staples. The signs are painted very badly, but the food was excellent. The tortillas, on this visit, were some of the best I’ve had. Soft, hot, and fresh from the placa, they were perfect. I ordered a barbacoa taquito, and a chorizo and egg. The barbacoa was great, tender and consistently tasty. It sat on a homemade corn tortilla with onions and cilantro on the side, and a pile of finely chopped fat right in the middle. The C&E was also quite good. The salsa was a jalapeño salsa with some avocado, and was hot and flavorful. My server was on her phone, but this in no way hindered her as she asked my order in Spanish, and took it down as I responded in English.


After breakfast I drove around Hillcrest. It’s a neighborhood that was once a thriving area with stately houses next to more utilitarian dwellings. It was a neighborhood of colorLenders of the day provided mortgages to Blacks and Mexicans here who could not legally own homes in other parts of town. When Highway 37 was put in, it further isolated the neighborhood. Then refineries bought up huge swaths of land and bulldozed down the houses to make buffer zones, but this didn’t prevent an 80% higher rate of birth defects in the surrounding area. We don’t know how much of the toxic chemicals in the soil came from the adjacent refineries, but we do know they stored oil illegally in uncovered tanks for a decade. There are also elevated rates of cancer, immune-deficiency disorders, and reproductive system problems leading to hysterectomies in the community.

Now, to add insult to a long series of injuries, the new harbor bridge will be routed right through the middle of this neighborhood. This means more eminent domain, more displacement, more of the shit end of the stick. I realize this is the logical place for the bridge to go. I know the bridge will help the city, will provide jobs, tourism, access by larger vessels to the port. It will be a net benefit, but a huge loss to an already demoralized and broken piece of the city. It will be a loss that is, naturally, going to be carried on the backs of minorities.

I’m sorry to bring up something so serious in this forum which is totally flippant and insignificant. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of these issues, but this is my forum. This is where I say what I think, if only to myself. Hillcrest is a tragedy and a travesty. There’s no real way to un-fuck it. To the extent that I can, I apologize to its residents on behalf of my city. The Koch brothers should do the same – and they have more to apologize for, and the means to do so.

For more information on the defilement of Hillcrest, check out the Texas Observer, also their article on the Koch’s. Great info is also available at the TexasHousers.net blog, and thanks to Suzie Canales for being a tough broad. Below are photos of the neighborhood for you viewing enjoyment.

Taqueria Mi Ranchito – New Year’s Revolution

418 US Highway 181 • Taft, TX 78390

It’s the end of 2012. Fortunately for us, it’s not the end of the world, despite the confused folks who’d gathered at the Pyrenees on the 20th. That’s the good news. The bad news, is now we have to deal with the real world, and the problems we have to look forward to now that it looks like we’ll survive the end of the cycle of the Mayan calendar. Personally, I prefer to believe in the Aztec calendar art of Jesus Helguera. And while there are real, tough issues we have to deal with in the coming year, as a city, as a nation, and certainly for me personally, I look forward to it. I think 2013 is going to be a good year. I hope so, ’cause 2012 was a bitch.

Mi-Ranchito-TacosAnd while there was considerable difficulty in the past year, I can always take comfort in the ultimate comfort food: Tacos. This morning I had my regular – a Carne Guisada and a Chorizo and Egg – at Taqueria Mi Ranchito in Taft. I had business to take care of in Sinton, and I was glad to take some comfort after that. The place is old, beat-up, and worse-for wear. As Tom Waits put it in his song, ‘Small Change,’ “Cause the dreams aren’t broken here, no, they’re just walking with a limp.” My waiter could barely understand my order in English, and less so in Spanish – as bad as my Spanish is, but it came to the table in about two minutes, steaming hot. Everything was pretty good. The carne guisada was good, with the stew meat cooked to tenderness, and good homemade flour tortillas (the corn was quite good too). The chorizo and egg was nice, with a good stream of red gravy (read grease) steadily escaping the back of my taco as I ate. Both tacos were slightly larger than average, and the fresh coffee kept coming. The people in the small-town eatery all seemed to know each other, and treated each other like one big family, greeting one another as they came and left in Spanglish. It was a real, un-coaxed expression of the holiday spirit of family we all hear so much about this time of year. I prefer a place with a little character to a place that’s new and sterile, and this place was certainly not that. I’ll stop in again next time I’m up Taft way and need a taco, or a warm feeling.

MI Ranchito Cafe on Urbanspoon

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:


Morena-Baccarin-Wins-Taco-AwardMorena Baccarin


If you’ve watched Firefly, you no doubt share Captain Mal’s burning attraction for the ship’s ‘Companion’ Inara. Malcom hides his love for her, but I will proclaim mine. She’s a transcendent beauty. Hailing from Rio de Janeiro, Morena moved to New York at 10, where she went to PS 41 with her castmate in Homeland, Claire Danes. She is a living argument for people of Brazilian and Italian descent, for Science Fiction, and for girls with short hair (Long Live Short Hair), and perhaps for sheer fabrics, as you see to the 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 a bootleg copy of the pilot of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to tacos@tacotopia.net.

Bandas Deux

8081 Leopard St. Corpus Christi, TX • (361) 289-2566
Every Day 5:00AM – 3:00PM

Taco Show Host had coffee waiting at Bandas when I showed up.  Seems to be a bit of a role reversal.  Previously I’ve always been the early bird.  But I wasn’t too late because the coffee was still hot.  We had ventured out Leopard…way out Leopard.  Past the many oilfield service companies where the blush of the 80’s oil bloom is long worn off.  I don’t get out that way much anymore and to be honest, it looked better than I expected.  Business seemed to be thriving even if not at the level of the past.  Banda’s showed some wear though.  I’d driven past the building for decades and never stopped in.  Back in the day there was a topless joint at next door.  It now has an Orkin sign on the side.  I never went in there either because the place looked scary back then…like even Orkin would have trouble getting the roaches out of the place.

There were a few patrons in the restaurant when I walked in and sat down.  The coffee cups were small, but the wait staff was thorough in its delivery of the black elixir.  I ordered two tacos, a machacado con huevos a la Mexicana on corn, and a chorizo con papas on flour.  Both tacos were good.  I was a bit worried on my first bite of the papas con chorizo.  The potato was cooked perfectly, soft, but not too soft, but I didn’t get that slap in the face I expected from the chorizo.  However, it turned out that my first bite was just a potato that had missed the chorizo boat and every subsequent bite had that deliciously greasy, vinegary chorizo flavor.  It could have only been better if the papas had had a bit of char to them.  The flour tort was very good, if just a bit doughy. It was thin and soft, though and held up to the chorizo onslaught like a trooper.  The second taco was also very good.  It had some trouble with the corn tort – a bit dry and chewy. I think the corn tarps at the Bandas uptown are exceptional and it could be that opinion is affecting my calibration.  It was good, but not exceptional.  There was plenty of carne seco in the Mexicana mix and it was done like I like it.  Not too moist.  More like the shredded jerky it is, with little attempt to rehydrate it in the cooking process.  The vegetables in the Mexicana were fresh, bright red and green, and their flavors accentuated the dried beef.  I thought at first that the tacos were a bit slender, but I now think it was because I was hungry.  There was plenty to the tacos and I was satiated completely. Bandas had a green salsa that was fresh and hot with chilis and really added a warm depth to both of the tacos.

If you find yourself out that way, and in the mood for a taco.  Take a friend.  While the atmosphere is not exhilarating and the facilities are a bit run down, the two of you can have a great, fresh breakfast for under $8.  I’m sure I’ll be going back.


Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Dawn Wells

Considered typecast by many as 60’s TV classic, Gilligan’s Island as the farm girl Mary Ann, she has had quite a career in film and TV.  Still appearing and working, and at 72 still looking good.  Miss Wells certainly tips the scales in her direction in answer to the age-old question:  Ginger or Mary Ann?

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 a original copy of Winterhawk to tacos@tacotopia.net.