Hacienda Vieja – Dignified Defiance

4301 S. Staples St, Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-994-6530

I make my way down staples to go from North to South if I have the time, and if my pickup’s suspension is up to the task, and if schools aren’t letting out, because I like the way it looks. My GPS tells me to take Crosstown to SPID. My wife will always take Ocean. I, however prefer Staples which is like a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder: often rude and ugly, people say bad things about her, but she is always being used. I have a morbid affection for the sad and broken. I often stop at the Sunrise Mall, located on Staples, so that I can pay my respects before it gives up the ghost.

Ad for Piggly Wiggly on Staples, 1927

For those of you who don’t live here, Staples was once a main artery that is now old and hardened. Littered with decrepit buildings and people who have no illusions about the difficulty of this world, Staples grudges ahead in admirable fashion, dragging the broken pieces of it’s history behind it. If you’re from Austin, think Lamar in the 80s. Here there is no irony, what you see is what you get. Vestiges of the glory of the 50s and 60s are barely visible, as a Wal Mart is built upon the grave of Parkdale Village like the housing development in Poltergeist. “You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones! You-only-moved-the-headstones! Why? Why?”

Located toward the less abject end of Staples is Hacienda Vieja, ‘Old Plantation.’ You don’t have to look to closely at the Hacienda Vieja to recognize the signature ‘architecture’ that says “I was once a Bill Miller.” Freshly, if barely, remodeled, it doesn’t smell like a taqueria, but you acclimate quickly. I was greeted by the Hat, and friend of Tacotopia Joe Hilliard. The company was great. The tacos, slightly less than great but good at least. The chorizo and egg was unobtrusive, a bit too polite for my taste but well dressed with a hint of cinnamon. The carne guisada consisted of nearly perfect cubes of beef whose texture was almost as ideal as their shape. The sauce was not bad, definitely a house recipe, no food service here (I’d guess). The tortillas were fresh and good, maybe a tad doughy. The salsa roja was sloppy and hot, heavy on the chiles with a dry finish. The coffee came in tiny brown coffee cups that, though we tried, we could not empty without a pretty waitress refilling them. We observed that they have a full bar but I didn’t order anything that would muscle out the 20 cups of coffee. I’ll be back.

As we emerged, we saw El Aleño a block away with a new paint job since we reviewed it nearly 2 years ago. Another new face on an old character.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Marcia Gay Harden

A Navy brat, Marcia Gay Harden has been around the world. She has acted on stage and screen, winning an Oscar and a Tony. She graduated from UT Austin, and then NYU, and is often cast as an uptight mother as in Whip-It (damn she wore that postal uniform well though) but I fixated on her when I first saw her in 1991’s Crush. Since then she’s turned some stellar performances in a ton of movies such as Miller’s Crossing, the Spitfire Grill, Pollock (for which she won an Oscar for playing the too-ugly-for-Marcia-to-portray Lee Krasner), Spy Hard, Mystic River, and Into the Wild. At 51, she is as beautiful as she was at 21, and is in my opinion one of the best actors around.

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 Miller’s Crossing to tacos@tacotopia.net.

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 tacos@tacotopia.net.

Taqueria Jalisco on Urbanspoon

El Sol de Mexico – the Amber Lamps Edition

3321 South Staples St. • Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-723-0574
Chorizo & Egg $1.35 • Carne Guisada $1.60 • Bottomless Coffee 99¢

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!’

Does anyone remember this line from Network? That’s how I’m feeling this morning. I don’t want to get into a list of the things that are bothering me – they have nothing to do with the topic at hand: tacos. But I am. I’m mad at the guy who fixed the roof that is as we speak leaking into 6 buckets. I’m pissed off at the jerk who broke into my truck, stole my bass guitar 6 months ago and destroyed my driver’s side lock in the process forcing me to open my passenger side door first 20 times a frickin’ day. I’m done with the republican party for being hypocrites and I’m livid at the democrats for not having their crap together enough to get a damned thing done when they have control over all three branches of government. And all of them for being lying bastards.  I’m mad at the tech who fixed my embroidery machine, because I had to get it fixed again after 1 day, and again after it was fixed the 2nd time.  I’m mad at whoever made my office smell like garlic chicken soup yesterday. And why the hell did they cancel Carnivàle and Deadwood and the Wire and Swingtown and Brotherhood when CSI Miami and Extreme Home Makeover are still on the air?  And black eyes to anyone who says Katrina was a natural disaster when it’s a disaster that would have been mitigated had the Army Corps of Engineers managed the levees the way they said they were. And you damned kids with your droopy drawers, I hope you fall down and bust your ass while you’re running from the cops after perpetrating some half assed wannabe gangsta caper.

And it seems I’m not alone in my seething hostility, in fact the whole world is up to their eyeballs in a seemingly endless flood of insufferable malarky. Just look at Epic Beard Man who ‘lost his composure’ all over the face of a guy whose mother should have taught him to respect his elders, or at least not to invite some mentally unstable veteran who is a good 10 inches and 50 pounds better’n’you, and that being 67 doesn’t mean he’s not gonna make good on his promise not return fire. And if you think it has to do with racial tension, you’ll see Tom ‘Vietnam’ Bruso fail to exercise common sense in this other video where he refuses to cooperate with some caucasoid police at a ball game.  I think he’s unhinged, but it’s understandable in this world of ingrates and schmucks (tacotopia readership, of course, excluded – you guys rock!)

This Can't End Well

There is one thing that soothes my delicate sensibilities when I’m ready to throw myself under the D-Town Tram like what almost happened to the whacked-out broad who gave my kid an impromtu anatomy lesson on Fat Tuesday before pelting empty cars with candy and beads before stumbling off and somehow avoiding injury, and that’s breakfast tacos.

This morning brought us to El Sol de Mexico, which occupies the property that used to house Elva’s before it shut its doors.  Casey Lain at House of Rock told me about this place when I was dropping off some posters for his upcoming songwriter series which will feature Joe Ely (Feb 27th), Monte Montgomery (March 11th) and Michael O’Connor on April Fool’s Day.

As you can see the interior is completely redesigned, and the soothing earth tone decor and the smells coming from the kitchen washed over me, extinguishing my burning hostility.  The waitress brought us coffee, and I think there must have been some kind of issue with the coffee maker because the steam from it must be what shrunk her clothes.  She was pretty, and very friendly, and it’s hard to be angry when there’s a pretty lady pouring you coffee (that’s why I’m never angry at my house).

From the Hat

It’s Friday so you know what that means, RAIN!  Officially, Texas is no longer in a drought and I think Ian and I deserve credit.  If anyone were to look back, I think you see a pattern of Tacotopia = rain.  It could be worse; an association with pestilence or IRS audits would suck.  I’m not going to make light of the dude that flew the plane into the IRS building in Austin recently.  As far as I’m concerned, he’s a murderer.  But it does make one pause and take note that you better watch out because those crazy old white guys aren’t taking any shit.

Plane, building, smoke rising into the air – this is an event I wish I didn’t find familiar.  He was pissed at the IRS, the GM bailout, and shifty, do-nothing, on-the-tit politicians.  Okay, I can go there, but flying your Piper into the IRS takes Falling Down to a whole new level.  This guy had more Wacka-Do to him than the old Roger Miller tune.  Did he just snap?  Upon reaching his middle age crisis did he say, “Hmm, should I buy a new Corvette or fly my plane into the IRS building?”  I’d like to say it’s an isolated event, but I’m more inclined to say it’s an archetype buried somewhere in our collective unconscious.  It pops up in the real world in the likes of Ted Kaczynski and in the media in the movie Network.  Whether it’s untreated mental illness, or true madness, the effects are the same – death, destruction, and sadness.  For me, I plan on buying the Corvette.

But for now, I’ll settle for breakfast tacos – good breakfast tacos that is.  Ian and I tacoed up at El Sol de Mexico this morning.  I have to say the place was a bright shining difference from its previous life as Elva’s.  I had coffee before I ordered it and it was good.  I ordered a nopalitos con huevos and a machacado con huevos from the fairly extensive menu.  The nopalito taco was full, flavorful, and they didn’t skimp on the cactus.  The red salsa added a smoky accent that went well with the taco.  As nopalito tacos go, it was up there, but San Luis still sets the bar for this particular taco.  The machacado taco was surprising.  There was much more carne seco in this taco than you usually find.  It needed salt, but other than that was tasty, with just enough tooth to the beef.  I’m not usually a big fan of Ranchero sauce, but I have to admit it added to the machacado experience.  Both tacos were on very good flour tarps.  For all of those Elva’s fans, look closely at the menu, a Destroyer by any other name is still a Destroyer.


The tacos came out, and we took out our remaining aggression on them. My carne guisada was very good, tender with a lot of cumino, and my chorizo & egg might be more aptly named chorizo and the vaguest suggestion of egg.  And the coffee was good.  And the tortillas were good.  What was I complaining about again? Things are great!  I’m dying to go to work! Hip Hip Hooray!  I love Friday mornings!

Our free taco winner for this week is:

Rosie Perez

From the first time the world saw her, in the beginning of ‘Do the Right Thing,’ the world has not been the same.  An unflinching warrior in the fight to be an actress in an industry that would rather she assume the role of an ethnic actress, Rosie looks better than ever at 45. And while we don’t have any Puerto Rican restaurants here in Corpus Christi, we do have some killer tacos.

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 an autographed dvd of ‘Perdita Durango‘ to tacos@tacotopia.net.

El Sol de Mexico on Urbanspoon