La Tapatia – Freedom and/or Choice

4521 Ayers Street, Corpus Christi, Texas 78415
Chorizo & Egg $1.49 • Carne Guisada $1.79 • Bottomless Coffee $1.25

We live in a world where our reach is constantly expanding and at the same time diminishing. I can tweet to people all over the world and hear back in seconds, but only in 140 characters. Like Pink said in the Wall, “I’ve got 13 channels of shit on the TV to choose from,” only now it’s hundreds, plus vod & tivo. Choosing something can take longer than watching it. Hazel Rose Markus, Professor of Psychology at Stanford, says “Choice can also produce a numbing uncertainty, depression, and selfishness.” We hold choice to be sacred in this country, as the cornerstone of our most cherished value – freedom. With this American birthright we choose to enslave ourselves to our jobs, to the hope of financial security, to the hapless devotion to a system of government that often resembles theater, to put it charitably.

A little band from the 80’s had a great song that captures the essence of this issue –

“In ancient rome,
there was a poem
about a dog
who had two bones.
He picked at one.
He licked the other.
He went in circles
and he dropped dead.”

I was setting up an account with a vendor this morning, and had to spend 45 minutes, call three numbers, and navigate through countless voice prompts just to find the name of an actual person at my bank to put down on the application. It’s enough to make a man want to sign up for a lobotomy.  I’ll take mine in the form of two breakfast tacos, thank you very much.

And here in Tacotopia, we have many trained master taco surgeons ready to oblige. For the cure to this morning’s psychotic break I checked myself in to Hospital la Tapatia, located on Ayers near Golihar in what can only have been a Burger King in a past life (I know the layout, BK was my first job). The Hat and I had been to La Tapatia #2, and to date it got the worst rating we’ve given so we didn’t quite know what to expect. The quality of a taqueria can vary from day to day, so comparing one restaurant to another with the same name can be like comparing an apple to something that’s unlike an apple.

I like to sit in a booth, and these booths were still intact. The interior was clean, bright, and filled with a heady enthusiasm for the biggest sporting event in the world crackling out of the TV. I was rooting for the carne guisada, but in the end the chorizo and egg won. My carne g came out with huge chunks of beef, the biggest I’ve seen in this type of taco, but the flavor was pretty neutral and the gravy tasted just a bit of Sysco. The chorizo and egg was better, though the flavor of the chorizo was not that distinctive. The three red salsas were all excellent, and the handmade flour tortillas as well. The coffee as well was good and constantly replenished.

That’s the thing about Corpus Christi, we are presented with so many choices of incredibly good breakfast tacos we forget what it’s like in places like Austin, where you can’t get fresh tortillas at five places in a three block radius at 6:30 in the morning in just about every working neighborhood. That’s why our ratings look like they never change. Corpus operates on such a high level that almost anywhere you go is going to be at least a high B, and probably an A. Throw on top of that the incredible value of these taco shops, where you can feed two people breakfast for less than it costs to buy a coffee at Starbucks and my newly lobotomized mind boggles. It is really like a little slice of heaven to be able to be surrounded by such a bounty of taco goodness here in South Texas.

So La Tapatia was serviceable, pleasant, satisfying, and I’d even say fun. The waitress’ enthusiasm for team Mexico was infectious. Now we’ll have to go back and try Tapatia #2.

From the Hat

So today starts the most watched sports tournament in the world – the World Cup.  I’d like to be clever and use all sorts of soccer (futbol) – related references, but in reality, I’d be guessing if you asked me how many players are the field at a time.  And what are those guys in the big nets doing anyway?  I’m sure it has something to do with the extended “Gooooaalll” when someone scores.  I understand the excitement.   The announcers get to perform their yells, what, maybe five times in the whole tournament.  I’d make it last too.

Sure, I’ll participate in the hype. How can I avoid it? Already I’ve found myself talking shit about kickin’ the Brit’s asses and I don’t have a clue about either team. But it doesn’t matter. That’s part of the fun. People are social animals. Theodore K-types aside, we like to be part of groups. We find strength in numbers and enjoy the comfort that comes from being in the company of like-minded people.  So I find myself enjoying the good-natured ribbing with a small crowd of friends at the expense of a friendly Brit. And I say she held up well to the barrage, dosing us with an across-the-pond version of the same business we were giving her – but with an accent. Get ’em Cat.

Sure, I couldn’t tell you who has the best chance of winning, who the stars are, why the keepers get to wear fancier clothing. Nor do I have the answer to many other soccer mysteries, but I don’t have to. I’ll be like many others, enjoying the spectacle and unless I catch some on a public TV, I won’t see a game. Speaking of public TV, the World Cup opening ceremonies were playing at Tapatia while TSH and I had our Friday morning taco repast and in the midst of colorful costumes, dancing, singing, and a human-powered dung beetle butt-up to a minivan-sized soccer ball – there were tacos.

I had a lengua taco, and uno de mollejas, both on flour torts.  The tortillas were very good, toothy, dense, and cooked to that perfect Holstein look. Both were stuffed amply with the goods. The pale, grey lengua looked steamed, not the guisada I prefer. But it was tender and with the addition of salt and salsas, and onions, and cilantro, good. The mollejas were better. Fried crisp, but not quite that perfect fried oyster consistency and served with pico de gallo. They also suffered from a paucity of seasoning, which I made up for with a couple of excellent salsas. One was surface-of-the-sun HOT!  It was offered in a squeeze bottle with a color scheme reminiscent of hornet.  There was a slightly fermented taste that I haven’t decided was purposeful. With purpose or not, it added a pleasant sourness that one doesn’t find in typical Mexican sauces. The second salsa was a rich brown-red color with a deep, smoky flavor and mild heat. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. The coffee was cafe good and served in an IV drip by a diligent waitress who was definitely rooting for Mexico.  To her I say, “Go Dallas Cowboys!!”


Bandera Eyeshadow

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Gina Gershon

The other half of the compelling couplette in ‘Bound,’ Gershon – 48 – seems not to have aged since starting her career in film in the late 80’s. Appearing in classics like the Player, Showgirls, and Cocktail, this valley girl has also done singing on broadway.  Gina was pictured on the cover of Cigar Aficionado, but denies that she has been involved with fellow cigar lover Bill Clinton. She has been quoted saying she doesn’t trust people who don’t like to eat, and we agree. Gina, if you’re reading this – we would very much like to earn your trust over a taco or two.

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 Gina’s Sarah Palin Bikini to

Taqueria La Tapatia on Urbanspoon

Taqueria Jalisco 12 – Two Poles Walk Into a Taqueria

3830 South Staples, Corpus Christi, Texas 78411
Chorizo & Egg $1.35 • Carne Guisada $1.75* • Bottomless Coffee $1.25
* maybe…

We live in a time and place where agents of evil have endeavored to divide us. Independent and critical thought is squelched by a bilateral conspiracy to manipulate us. We are like iron filings and there’s a ginormous magnet right under the earth’s crust; we’re pulled between the two poles and if you can manage not to succumb to the attraction of one or the other you’re nearly pulled apart by the effort.

Politics is consumed with it, like a cancer, but polarization is all around us. Take the Memorial Coliseum for example. ‘You’re with us or against us.’ I unfriended someone on facebook this week because that person was painting a less-than-unfavorable picture of another US civil war. The benefits vs the inevitable horrors of such a thing fall outside the scope of a blog about tacos, but WTF!

Then there’s BP. Almost everyone is unified in the understanding that this is a terrible catastrophe, but the machine has turned this into grist for the mill, another argument for whatever the people already believe, one way or the other. Rand Paul says accidents happen in a free market. Rahm Emanuel says not to waste a crisis. I have some ideas of things we could put in that well to plug it. I bet you do too.

There is a local chain of restaurants in Corpus Christi, arguably the Exxon/Mobile of local taquerias, that polarizes local tacothusiasts. You know which one I’m talking about: Jalisco. The mention of the name in a roomful of people will illicit strong statements condemning or praising them. The criticism is usually for the chain as a whole, and the praise tends toward individual restaurants. I have never weighed in on the controversy, as I have not eaten enough of the many locations to make an informed judgement, even as vast as my experience with local tacos is – and as my straining belt can tell you, it is vast.

So this morning we moved one step forward in the quest to understand the nature of this argument by eating at Jalisco #12 on Staples at Weber. The Hat and I fought for the turn lane on the way into Jalisco’s lot, but reconciled. Can’t we all just get along? Once inside we ordered, and in a show of bipartisanship the Hat ordered chorizo & egg just as I always do. In my fashion, I also got a carne guisada. The food came to the table and was presented in a polite formality, but not before our coffee had been refilled three or four times in as many minutes. The red I expect in chorizo & egg had jumped from one side of the plate to the other – the carne g looked like it was on fire, and the other taco was a mellow yellow.

From the Hat

Taco Blanca and I attended the Star Wars Orchestra Concert last night and man, what a blast!  There were people of all shapes, sizes, and colors in attendance.  There was no arguing, no bickering, no complaining about the current political scene, or a peep about the gushing gaff in the Gulf.  We laughed, cried, celebrating in solidarity the sonic wonders of Lucas’s amazing movies.  If you can’t tell, I loved it.  It was one of those rare times where no matter who you listened to, there was no rancor.  No “Them”, only “Us”.

Refreshing in a world where no matter what the issue, there are always two diametrically opposed factions that pass on promoting the good of The People to promote their own version of “Us”.  Finding an angle at every instance to make “Them” look like devils and “Us” like saints.  It’s normal.  I understand it.  And the mechanism probably worked great when we were hunting, gathering tribes.  But now the only thing I’m really hunting is the next great barbacoa.  I don’t need a “Them” to set up as the enemy so I can gather a good guisada.  And maybe we can take a lesson from that.  I’m not getting all Cumbaya on you.  We have real, deadly enemies in the world who view us as devils, literally.  And we should make every effort to protect “Us”.  But that enemy is not those who have different opinions, or wear different kinds of clothing or hairstyles, or tattoos, or Liberals, or Conservatives.  And they’re not across the breakfast table – no matter how we might disagree about the quality of the tortillas.  Which by the way were damn good.

And the torts weren’t the only thing good at breakfast this morning.  We went to our third Jalisco this morning and I was pleasantly surprised.  I ordered a barbacoa classico (with cilantro and onions on corn) and a chorizo and egg.  The barbacoa was tender – moist, but not greasy.  Usually I would be crying “Fat is flavor.”  But this “lean” barbacoa was packed with flavor of cow head and spices.  It was served on a very corny tarpolean.  All-in-all a successful breakfast package.  The choizo and egg, usually TSH’s purview, was very good.  Different from most in that it was distinctively not-orange and not-greasy.  I’m ashamed that I could not identify a very tasty seasoning in the mix.  I’ll definitely have to go back and try again to determine the mystery spice.  A query verified that the chorizo was made on-site, but I’ll leave the details to an expert.  The flour tarpolean was fluffy, with a light coating of flour.  I like the brush of flour as long as the flour is cooked.  I’m not a big fan of raw flour.  These were to my liking.  Both salsas, red and green were fresh and tasty.  The green had a good taste of fresh peppers and the red had a pica that pleased the palate.  Definitely the best of the Jaliscos reviewed so far.


The tortillas were good, fresh, and warm with a light sprinkling of flour. This doesn’t bother me, but many find it inexcusable. The chorizo & egg is difficult to wrap my head around: it was quite good, but not with a strong flavor. There was almost no grease which usually means the taco will have almost no flavor, but it was not the case. The flavor was strong, but I couldn’t place it. I didn’t need to salt the taco. The mixture was fairly homogenous, but not in a bad way. With some of the salsa verde it was quite good, but a taco of nothing but their delicious green salsa would be delici0us by itself with a subtle and complex avocado pepper flavor. The red salsa was nearly as good, and tasted of smoky dried chilis.

The carne guisada was also fairly lean, but not on flavor. It was an assault on the mouth, but I liked it. I couldn’t identify what the flavor was coming from, it was beefy but sharp and not hot. The taste was one dimensional but it’s a good dimension. After another 20 or 30 cups of coffee we emerged into the light of day, ready to try and navigate a path toward unity and the common good, and that path was written on the front of a custom goldwing.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Ornella Muti

I know very little about Ornella, but I do know she played Aura in Flash Gordon. Really, what else do you need to know? By the way, the picture on the left was taken last year, 30 years after the one on 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 an vinyl copy of Queen’s Flash Gordon Soundtrack to

Taqueria Jalisco on Urbanspoon

Taco Taco SA – The Taco to Beat

145 East Hildebrand Avenue, San Antonio, TX 78212 • (210) 822-9533
Monday-Sunday, 7:00 am – 2:00 pm
carne guisada $1.99, chorizo & egg – $1.49, bottomless coffee – $1.49

I live in Corpus Christi, Texas, a town also known has Tacotopia. It is the optimal environment for tacos – close to Mexico, big enough to have real competition between the taco masters and small enough not to assume the pretenses you find in larger cities where they try to corrupt the identity of the taco by introducing elements from other cultures. I’m no xenophobe but I do feel that the breakfast taco has reached its apex, and a standard has been established that can never be bested. If you add Sriracha sauce and fried feta to your Carne G, you’ll have something delicious but it’s not a breakfast taco.

So a few months back when some ignorant journalist went off all half-cocked and said “When it comes to breakfast tacos Austin trumps all other American cities” I worked hard not to totally flip the fuck out. With quiet reflection, and a stiff drink or five, I assessed the situation objectively and reached the conclusion that this yahoo just didn’t know any better, and that the only real contender Corpus Christi has is San Antonio. I know in my heart that we have the best breakfast tacos in the world, but many would argue that title belongs to a little spot on Hildebrand in San Antonio called Taco Taco, a place that was named best tacos in America by Bon Appétit Magazine. Having not eaten there I couldn’t be sure they weren’t right, and it kept me up at night.

This weekend I came up to the home of the Alamo to find out. Just like most celebrities it was smaller than it looked in pictures, but there was a full parking lot and a line out the door. The ‘no photography’ sticker on the door had me worried this was going to be a text only review, when a lady came up and asked me if I worked for a magazine.

“No,” I said. “I’m a… blogger,” I continued, shamefacedly. After she checked my credentials she said “you’re a nice man, you can take pictures” and I felt like I’d just gone backstage. The booth was nice, the light was good, the wall of awards stared down at me. The woman who guarded the door turned out to be Helen Velesiotis, the owner, and she revealed that there was no animal fat used to prepare any of the food.

“Even the beans?”

“Even the beans.”

Strike one. While I respect the decision, and the strength of will it would take to make such a decision It can’t help but adversely affect the final product, and it did. The beans were good but suffered from lack of pork fat. They were probably as good as they could get without it but was a significant lard deficiency, a terminal condition for beans. The tortillas were excellent, both the flour and the corn. The flour were fresh and fluffy, but dense – and no dry flour on the surface. The corn were thick and heavy, but fresh – almost like a baked polenta. I got the chorizo & egg, and a carne guisada. The chorizo and egg was heavy on the egg and light on the chorizo – to the point where I could barely taste the latter. The carne g was very tasty, with firm rich big chunks of beef and a sauce that had been made better with a long slow cook. The salsa itself was really good, with a strong dried chili flavor but with fresh tomato, cilantro and onion, blended to a sauce that showed nothing but the seeds and the red.

Once I got most of the way through the two tacos, Helen emerged with more food, and then later with more again. First it was a tray of chilequiles, and they were the best thing I had to eat there – a perfect blend of crisp corn tortillas, egg, cheese, fresh jalapeños, tomatoes, onions and cilantro on the same excellent flour tortillas. Then was the Norteño, beans and white cheese on a charlie brown with beef fajita y avocado.

We left the place totally stuffed, and feeling like we had been treated like royalty by the kind greek lady with the excellent Texican restaurant. That makes it hard for me to say this: these aren’t the best tacos in America, there are a few taco shops in Corpus Christi that do a better job than Taco Taco, but Corpus Christi is on such a high level, and the two hours difference from CC to SA makes it harder to make tacos as good, simply by proximity to the Rio Grande. You’d be crazy not to eat here if you like tacos and you’re in San Antonio. And Helen, if you’re ever in Corpus Christi let us buy you breakfast.

The taco award will return next week.

Taco Taco Cafe on Urbanspoon