Take Out Tacos

TacoShowHost's family at the undisclosed location/taco bunker.

There is little better than a taco fresh from the cocina, with steam coming out of a fresh tortilla. If there is a heaven, it will have fresh tacos. Sometimes, though, it’s just not convenient to herd a crew into a taqueria. They can be crowded, sometimes less than squeaky-clean, and occasionally intimidating to people who aren’t locals. Maybe you want to have breakfast ready for your family when they wake up so they can eat a taco in their payamas. Maybe you want to spike your coffee, and don’t want to carry an open container with you to work. These are all times when the ubiquitous drive-through becomes invaluable.

Many people in Tacotopia don’t have the luxury of time to sit down to breakfast. This is one of the reasons Stripes’ Laredo Taco Company does so well; you can get in and out while someone else on your crew fills the work truck with diesel, and when you show up at the job site, you’re the hero for the rest of the day. Nothing makes a roughneck smile like a hot juicy taco. This is the genius of the taco as a food: it is one of the most portable foods known to man. You might spill some juice on you but you can eat on the road, in a kayak, on a tractor, on a jetty, or anywhere else you feel the need for breakfast. Try that with a salad.

My parents are visiting me. They’re actually renovating a new wing of the taco bunker so they’ll have somewhere to stay when they make their annual 1500 mile taco run. There were hairy construction workers and a gaggle of tiny dogs that hadn’t yet worked out the pecking order at my house this morning. I had tacos to eat, but I needed to be home. I pointed my trusty dodge across the causeway and drove through Bandas.

Before you knew it, my family and I were eating great tacos, right at our table, and with my wife’s superior homemade salsa. Everyone got their fill, and the cleanup was a breeze.

Our taco award winner for this week is:

Melissa McCarthy

Chicago area native Melissa McCarthy is a big girl. She’s also hot. We live in a fractured culture where it’s difficult for many to have both of these ideas in their head at the same time. Tune into Bravo (which should be renamed the Real Housewives channel) any night of the week, and you’ll see a series of trainwrecks who are doing everything they can to be skinny while making certain parts of themselves fat. None of their boobs are small, or real, and their lips are unnaturally puffy. This schizophrenic quest has landed some of them in the loony bin, and made it impossible for most of them to even make simple facial expressions. The problem is so widespread in the entertainment industry that directing styles are having to adapt, focusing on script and editing to make up for the inability of many leading ladies to emote. Fabienne in Pulp Fiction put it best in saying “It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.” Melissa McCarthy, though, is pleasing to the eye. She’s all natural, and all beautiful. It helps that she was born with a  great face, (Jenny McCarthy is her 1st cousin) but there’s more to her attractiveness than that. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s often cast as the overweight wallflower with the heart of gold, and this works because she does have an accessible quality, like you could call her late at night if you were in crisis and she wouldn’t hang up on you. She hasn’t returned any of my calls, but I still love her. Let’s hope she lifts that restraining order so I can buy her a taco.

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 in on a dvd of GO to tacos@tacotopia.net.




La Tapatia – Not So Baaaaaaad

My In-Laws 'Winning' in front of La Tapatia

5551 Richmond Ave, Houston, Texas • 713-787-9680

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I don’t remember who said this, but google tells me it’s George Santayana, some foolish adherent to the philosophical school of pragmatism – the quaint idea, long abandoned, that we can learn from our mistakes and cooperate in order to survive and succeed. He wasn’t around long enough to learn what we now know – that divisiveness and demagoguery are a much more expeditious method of taking money and power from those that have the least and giving it to those who have the most, and that really is the purpose of politics. A hustle. And we’re all marks, dupes, rubes. The opposite ends of the political spectrum will argue about who the shills are, and who the hustlers are, and who the bosses are, but few will argue that we aren’t the ones getting fleeced. And with that ham-handed segue, let me talk about a very unique taco that was perhaps, at some point, fleeced as well.

After the last place we ate at was such a disappointment as have most taco spots I’ve tried in Houston I expected the very same from La Tapatia. And while the waitress said the tortillas weren’t homemade, it was hard to tell by looking at them. The interior was big and clean, and there was a nice, full bar. I had planned to order my usual – carne guisada, and chorizo & egg, but had to abandon plan a upon seeing an item on the menu I’d never seen before: lamb barbacao. It was heavenly, more like carnitas than barbacoa, with a buttery richness that could kill you. The nopalitos that came on the side were also quite good, as was the salsa. Apparently tacotopia isn’t the only place to get a great taco, but Houston may be the only place to get this one. And now let the sending of emails proving I’m wrong commence.

As we left, a truck was pulling up from a local tortilleria, resplendent in gracefully aging hand-painted signage. And, thus, Houston redeemed itself to me. Unlike our government. Wake Up Sheeple!

Our free taco winner for this week is:

Rosanna Arquette

With her deceptively impish voice, adorable overbite, stunning body, and inquisitive grace it’s no wonder Arquette is the subject of two top 40 hits penned by lovers left in her wake. The first, Rosanna by ‘supergroup’ Toto  whose keyboardist Steve Porcaro (not the Porcaro who died from the bug spray (or cocaine if you believe the newspapers), his brother) dated her, and the second – In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. If you’re my age you remember her from Desperately Seeking Susan and if you’re a movie buff you should remember her from After Hours, 8 Million Ways to Die, Cronenberg’s Masterpiece of disturbing sexuality Crash, and the honorable Pulp Fiction. Living a bohemian lifestyle as a child in a family of performers who not only moved her to a commune but also managed Second City, she is the hottest of the three Arquette daughters – and that’s no small feat, as one of them is the beautiful Patricia, and another – Alexis – has worked extra hard at it having been born a man. All three have been in Tarantino movies. One of her brothers, David, is also in the business. At 52 she’s every bit as hot as she was at 22, and is doing more than ever – still guest starring in TV shows and movies, but directing and producing as well, including the great documentary “Searching for Debra Winger” which shines a light on the dearth of older females in significant roles in tv and film. A cause Tacotopia can get behind.

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 in on the September 1990 issue of Playboy to tacos@tacotopia.net.

Ruchi’s Taqueria – An Embarrassment of Ruchi’s

5201 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77056 • 713-621-3088

There’s a lot going on this weekend in Corpus Christi. There’s the Greek Festival starting tonight. There’s one of the greatest movies the Coen Bros have made playing in one of the greatest settings in which you could watch it – At the Ride-In Theater at the Water Gardens in front of the Art Museum. There’s the First Friday Artwalk which is always awesome. I hear people talk about how there’s nothing to do in Corpus Christi, I’d argue there’s too much to do for this overweight middle aged tacoteur. The coolest thing happening this weekend by far, though, is the airing at 9:00PM CST of the Corpus Christi episode of Hairy Bikers which features yours truly and my trusty cohort pointing these professional eaters at some of the best tacos in the world. Sure, it’s not Ken Burns’ Civil War, but it’s a fun, unpretentious show that deals with something we can all get behind – local eats.

Houston sunrise from the Taco Suite at the JW Mariott

It is, however, the Civil War that has drawn me away from the vibrant nucleus of activity that is Corpus Christi to attend the exhibition Discovering the Civil War at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I couldn’t come to H-Town without trying some of their tacos. I Urbanspooned up a nearby taqueria with an 80+ rating that serves breakfast and cruised over with my wife and in-laws in tow. Ruchi’s has numerous restaurants around the Houston area, but I can’t quite figure out why. I suppose I’m accustomed to a higher level of tacotude living in Tacotopia, but this place was a real disappointment. The waitress was pretty, but irritable. She grudgingly brought out our cold coffee, and eventually took our order. Chips and two salsas were brought out, thankfully, to keep us company while we waited for the food – which was serving an extended sentence in the kitchen. The ranchera salsa was tasty, as was the avocado fireball which packed some spice – but both tasted more like something that came out of a jar of dip you’d get in the chip section of the HEB than from an abuelita’s cocina. When we finally got our food, the tortillas were reheated shelf tortillas. The chorizo & egg was not bad. The carne guisada might have been Dinty Moore Beef Stew but the meat was a little too chewy for this to be the case. With some expert negotions en español by my father-in-law we secured a second cup of coffee. I’m usually good for 4 or 5, but at this rate we’d have to stay there all 24 hours this place is open to get that many refills. It was even hard to get her to bring us the check, if that gives you any clue as to the quality of the service.

I like Houston. I don’t think of it as a soulless pastiche of freeways, slums, and high-rises as do many of my friends. I think it’s a world-class city, but all the tacos I’ve had here are strictly bush league. Of all the things I wish I could be doing in Corpus this weekend, the one that brought a single tear of despair to my eye as I waited in vain for that 2nd refill of my coffee-thimble was a plate of tacos with steaming fresh tortillas as delicate as new snow. If anyone knows of a taco spot in this town that can compete please let me know about it.

Our free taco winner for this week is:

Ana Ortiz

You’ll recognize her as Hilda from Ugly Betty, or more recently, as the best kind of police brutality in HBO’s Hung. A dancer who couldn’t stay en pointe, Ana has a dancer’s grace, and a borricua’s mouth. She’s got those little dimples underneath her mouth that say ‘I can chew you up and spit you out.’ Born in 1971 she grew up in NYC and Philly, half Puerto-Rican and half Irish. It’s hard to believe that someone who you could bounce quarters off of is also a baby factory, currently pregnant with her 2nd child. For those about to drop, we salute you.

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 in on Ana’s discarded holster to tacos@tacotopia.net.