Taqueria Tierra Caliente – Not That Hot


Taqueria Tierra Caliente
Ayers St and 18th St
Corpus Christi, Texas

Some places are doomed to fail. You know the places I’m talking about. A new restaurant opens up, and by the time you got there to try it out it’s out of business. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. In the restaurant business this is called a ‘location curse.’ These are often buildings with no apparent impediments to traffic, and they can kill businesses that have proven business models and excellent food.

Running a restaurant is no easy business. While it may not be as bad as people expect, according to a data-rich study by the National Restaurant Association of Dallas restaurants, 23% of restaurants fail within the first year. By the second that number jumps to 37%, and by the third year it’s 44%. Bear in mind this is in Dallas, which spends more per-capita on dining out than almost any other city in the US. Dallas is a city with a thriving economy. Corpus Christi, though showing signs of improvement, was dealt an economic disability when the bottom fell out of the domestic oil market. We’ve got the Eagle Ford Shale now, but it has yet to transform the spending habits of most Corpitos. We hold on to our money, or spend it on trucks, or support family who have no means to support themselves. Our money is less disposable than you’d think. When you break down the numbers, adjusted for the cost of living, and compare Dallas to Corpus Christi you’re led to believe we’re in comparable financial situations, but you wouldn’t know it to live here. While Dallas restaurants are packed with people spending money, Corpus Christi has many excellent taquerias that serve food that is artificially underpriced in order to survive in such a competitive market. The bottom line is this: it’s hard to make it as a restaurant in Corpus Christi. You’ve got to be better than the next guy, and your margins have to be razor thin.

If you add to that a location curse, you’ve got to be a really special restaurant to make it. Taqueria Tierra Caliente is not that special. It’s in a location that’s housed two other taquerias I’ve reviewed that have since failed. I was hoping when my wife and I pulled up to the grand opening sign we’d be treated to some hope for the curse to be broken, but instead we were treated to disappointment. The coffee was burnt, the chorizo was undercooked, and the carne guisada was some of the toughest I’ve had. It wasn’t all bad: the tortillas (both flour and corn) were both excellent, as were both the salsas. The green really kicked me in the ass. The server was friendly too. When I checked for the address on google, it gave me the intersection of Baldwin and Ayers, so I can only conclude this restaurant has moved from one doomed location to another. I wish these guys the best of luck, but If you’re looking for a good taco in this neighborhood, you’d be better off trying Chacho’s or even La Ribera.


Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Cassandra-Peterson-Wins-Taco-AwardCassandra Peterson

You know her as Elvira, and like the undead she refuses to die. First appearing in 1981, Elvira is as much a touchstone of the horror genre as anyone, living or dead (or both). She’s been on television, in movies, commercials, comic books, calendars, posters, records, and lunch boxes. You name it, she’s put her ample cleavage and campy quips on it. She was MS3TK before MS3TK. She was also the stripper on the cover of Tom WaitsSmall Change. I used to watch her every week when I was 12. I’m old now, but she is as sexy as she ever was, at 61 in the photo here. I’d eat flies just to watch over her coffin at night. 


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 ADAM 1976 pinup calendar to tacos@tacotopia.net.

Sonny’s – the Indie Tacomentary edition

Estoy listo por mi close-up4066 South Port Avenue, Corpus Christi, Texas • (361) 808-7711

You may not know it, but Corpus Christi has a vibrant filmmaker’s community. There’s the Rockport Film Festival in the fall, and a number of local production companies like Los Tall Boys Media, whose short film ‘Black Market Tripas‘ combined the gritty feel of ‘Taxicab Confessions‘ with our city’s best feature – our cuisine. Each year we see people running around like ants whose anthill has been kicked over to put together movies in only 168 hours and compete in the CC7D Corpus Christi Seven Day Film Project, which is the brainchild of tacotopia taco eater extraodinairre Heidi Hovda and fellow tacotopia alumnus Joe Hilliard, who is also behind the Coastalthon film and music festival, 40 things to do in Corpus Christi, and who writes a column for the Caller Times.

This morning the Hat and I were interviewed by local filmmakers Matthew Scherer and Bryan Thetford for their upcoming documentary about Corpus Christi’s tacos. Yes, you heard right. A documentary about tacos in the breakfast taco capital of the world. Finally someone is getting it right – unlike the city council who outlawed pipes this week. The police said they needed to get rid of smokable incense (okay, I can get behind that), ‘and while you’re at it – shut down all the smoke shops.’ The city council said ‘sure, we’ll carry your water without thinking. Can we do anything else to alienate people under 40?’ Las Brisas is going to pump toxic waste into the local air, and I can’t have a cigar in a local cigar store. I don’t smoke, much less smoke anything illegal, but if I acted like the city council has I hope someone would force-feed me some hash brownies so I would lighten the fuck up.

And, I now step off the soap-box. Getting that upset is bad for my heart, which is already (thankfully) laboring from this mornings amazing chow which included coffee, refried beans, pico, carne guisada, fresh flour and corn tortillas, barbacoa with onions and cilantro, and two types of chicharrones; fried and guisado. I could go down the list and rate each item, but there’s no need. Sonny’s kicks ass across the board. We’ve never given them a proper review, though we’ve mentioned them in our Spamathon, and we featured them in our first (and only) menudo minute. In spite of this we eat here regularly, and they are among the best taquerias in Corpus Christi, which puts them among the best taquerias in the world. The real star of the menu is the chicharrones. If you like tacos you should eat here, and if you eat here don’t leave without trying the chicharrones. They come to the table still hot from the grease and they have a texture that is closer to carnitas than the puffed pork rinds you’d find at stripes.

So after a while we relinquished the prime table that had seen us eat too much good food, drink too much good coffee, and take up too much time while we waxed poetic about the symbolic significance of the breakfast taco in our post-modern industrial societal construct, meaning we said ‘we like tacos.’ With that we made our way across the red doormat and out into the relative anonymity of our workaday lives. And while our time in the limelight was limited, our selection of great Corpus Christi taquerias is limitless.

Big-ups to Sonny’s for their cooperation (letting an albeit small film crew set up), their food, and their excellent service. You Rock!

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Nikki Cox

The Cruel Knife, and the Damage Done

With the body of an adult performer and a name to match, Nikki Cox is one of those types of minor celebrities I call wet briquettes. They are given many chances to become famous, none of which have ingnited their career. She was on Unhappily Ever After, where she met her one-time fiancee Bobcat Goldthwait who recently on WTF summed up the terminus of their relationship thus, “I wanted to have a small wedding, and she wanted to bang other dudes.” That other dude is former SNL performer and fellow briquette Jay Cox Mohr, who in an act of feminism (?) took his wife’s name. Nikki started out as a dancer, performing with Michael Jackson, before having to change directions, presumably due to her unusually ample chest, when she started a series of false starts in television including the eponymous Nikki, and more recently Las Vegas while becoming addicted to plastic surgery. While her stunning looks have suffered from the ravages of botox, she is still quite beautiful and occupies a special place in Tacotopia.

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 Sarjenka Episode of ST:TNG to tacos@tacotopia.net.

Hermanos Solis 3

All signs should aspire to be this beautiful.

5403 Leopard, Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-299-1717
Mon–Thurs 5:30AM – 9:00PM, Fri – Sat 5:30PM – 10:00PM, Sun 7:00AM – 3:00PM

Steven Slater this last week did what many of us often hope we could: he told some jerk to shove it and bailed out, with a couple of beers. It’s an American folk tale – as much a part of our mythology as the immigrant arriving on our shores with a dollar in his pocket and a good idea starting a multinational corporation. Lately a certain vocal segment of our population would prefer we turn immigrants away when arrive on our shores.  ‘We just want enforcement of existing immigration laws,’ they say. I take this with a grain of salt, considering the same segment laments the death of free-market competition while using competition for jobs as the main argument for stronger enforcement of immigration laws. I try to stay out of politics. The Republicans are as a rule unified in their opposition to anything the Democrats do. The Democrats are predictably incapable of agreeing amongst themselves, much less capitalizing on any success they win or comprimising their virtues in the futile hope of currying favor with their opponents, or with the voters. They’re both out of touch with the real world and they’re both little more than little more than a campaign money driven ponzi scheme. I feel like I have to take a shower every time I read the news, but I’ve got a dog in this fight. I love tacos. Immigration, legal or otherwise, benefits from Immigrants.

There have been no reviews for the last month. A vacation? No, just too busy. I didn’t pull a Steven Slater and give up the search for the best taco. On this particular morning I met the Hat at Hermanos Solis #2, way out on Leopard near N.P.I.D.. If you’ve eaten at the Hermanos Solis #2 on Old Robbstown, you have a pretty good idea what to expect. Great carne guisada, great chorizo & egg, great tortillas. This place is different though. There’s a counter with steel mounted barstools. It’s got a little bit of the feel of a truckstop in the seventies, or maybe the cantina in Episode IV of Star Wars. The roughneck in the booth facing me stared me down until he was distracted by the waitress, at which point the focused on his migas. There ware two salsa, and both were excellent. Six or seven tiny cups of coffee had me ready to get on with the rest of the day, in spite of the hearty breakfast. Every day is better after a taco or two, if they’re tacos like this.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Susan Sarandon

Since the Rocky Horror Picture Show she has existed in the nexus of class, brains, and sexuality. Her turn with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in one of the most unknown and under-appreciated vampire movies, The Hunger, will leave you wanting to sacrifice your soul to her. She spends a lot of time fighting the power, but few would argue she’s doesn’t have it going on. Especially at 63.

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 White Palace to tacos@tacotopia.net.