El Alteño, Time Out of Mind


2601 Ayers St
Corpus Christi, TX


Open 6:00 AM Mon-Sat,
7:00 AM Sun

Chorizo & Egg – $1.39
Carne Guisada – $1.40
Bottomless Coffee – $0.92

Today my lifespan diminishes by one year. No, not because of my steady diet of tacos, though I’m sure it’s not a recipe for longevity, but because it’s my birthday.  What better way to celebrate?  Tacos of course.  I had business in this part of town and noticed this little spot a few days ago.  Now that I’ve mapped it I realize it is right near the location where my Mother lived as a child.  The house is no longer there, torn down with a good sized chunk of the neighborhood to make way for Del Mar East.  It’s just strange to think that these things shared the same space, but not the same time.  What I don’t know about science could fill a black hole which allows me some latitude in my mind’s model of the universe and the way things work.  I think space-time is fluid, and that time travel is possible, but not like in the movies.  I think time is more a limitation of how we perceive the universe than a part of what makes it up – and when objects affect different times we can’t make it out with our tiny brains.  That’s how you get ghosts, aliens, and superstitions.  A wise man said “there’s really no difference between a time machine and a flyin’ saucer.  People get so hung up on specifics.  I do my best thinkin’ on the bus.”

ElephantI know – last week with the tinfoil hat paranoia and this week with the paranormal.  I can assure you I’m not crazy (of course that’s what any crazy person says). I do, however, appreciate some good juxtaposition and weirdness.  Like the other day when I was driving by the Municipal Court and a guy was sitting on the bench with a full blown campfire next to him – on the bench!  Taqueria Alteño had it’s own strangeness going on – and I liked it.  There were elephants all along one wall, and roosters on the other.  The elephants faced the door, the roosters faced the elephants.  I looked it up and their trunks were pointing up which is an American superstition, perhaps related to the Irish idea of the horseshoe needing to point up to keep the luck from running out.  And then I notice – the Del Mar East campus is shaped like a horseshoe, right over where my mother lived.  Once we all arrived we noticed the tejano music turn to middle eastern.  I suspect the strangeness is only beginning and that by the time we get back from the renfest we’ll be able to give the LHC a run for it’s money in tearing apart the fabric of reality.

What about the tacos, you ask?  They were good.  The chorizo & egg was excellent, I don’t know how to explain it but the filling was a firm mix of deep reddish brown and egg, and there was more flavor than it would seem could fit in a taco that size.  The Carne Guisada was so well prepared it was falling apart before I even touched it.  The tortillas were tough and dry, but the salsa more than made up for them. What made it all really good though was the presence of the whole crew: Kevin, Shelly, Matthew, and Monica.  Happy birthday sugar.


From the Hat

Tacotopia celebrates one of its own today and the anniversary of his birth.  That’s right; Master Tacoteur Ian completed another trip around the sun.  While I’m shouting out birthdays, my newest nephew celebrates his 3rd full day on the planet.  I’d like to mention that Ian’s lovely bride has a birthday this week, my mother’s birthday was last week and my father’s was yesterday.  To business.

It was a large gathering for today’s taco adventure.  We mobbed-up at Taqueria El Alteno on Ayers.  I was the first of our group to arrive and I knew all would be well.  Here, at 6:30 in the morning, at a random taqueria, was my friend Juan.  Usually, I see Juan in the context of work around the house and in the yard.  It was incongruous to see him here.  Not the last thing out of place at this place.  The juke box alternated Mariachi and Middle Eastern music.  We were watched over by wooden statuettes on the walls – Chickens juxtaposed with Elephants.

I think this weekend is shaping up to be a weekend of the out-of-place-and-time.  We’re gathering with friends for our yearly pilgrimage to the Texas Renaissance Festival.  I love the RenFest and start to see the place in my mind’s eye days before we get there.  Visions, generated from imagination and memory, out of place in my day-to-day life.  Sure, there’s jousting, minstrels, bawdy shows and pubs.  These things would be out of place in the Wal Mart parking lot, but they fit perfectly in the woods outside Plantersville.  People there are in a safe environment, free from the “normal”, expressing themselves via characters from places far away in space and time… and reality.  You have to cheer the guy, when surrounded by medieval dress, gets his Sith on; Vader or Maul.  It takes all kinds.  That’s what makes life interesting.   That, and tacos.

I had the huevos con chicharron a la Mexicana and a lengua con cilantro y cebolla – both on flour tortillas (no hand-made corn tarps).  The tortillas weren’t great, but they wrapped up a plentiful bunch of goodies.  The lengua was roasted, sliced, heated on the griddle and served with no sauce.  It was a solid offering.  The chicharrones were also good.  They were the heart-attack-causing cracklins found in the back of the store ’cause they’ll intimidate the whole chips aisle.  They were done well in the eggs, with just the right amount of bite.  Star of the show today was the salsa.  It was excellent.  Orange, served in a squirt bottle, I wanted to take some home.  The coffee never quit and was served by a very attentive attendant.  Well worth the trip.


Taqueria Alteno on Urbanspoon

Chacho’s Tacos #2 – Rainy Day Edition


Chacho’s Tacos #2

1321 Ayers Street

Corpus Christi, TX 78404


Chorizo & Egg – $1.75

Carne Guisada – $1.95

Large Coffee – $1.35

“There will be a rain dance Friday night, weather permitting”

– George Carlin (1937–2008)


It was raining when The Hat and I set out this morning – just like the day before.  Downtrodden and in need of coffee we navigated by intuition toward the Donut Hole, a fabled hole in the wall which has been recommended many times.  Closed…  Fortunately we’re in Corpus Christi, so we drove 2 blocks and found Chacho’s Tacos #2.  Sure the numeric reference in the name was unfortunate but if the hand painted sign was any indication we were in for a treat.

CorpusRainAs we stepped in from the rain, we shook off and stepped up to the counter and reading the menu board found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: the elusive spam taco! The 5th in town! Next week we’ll be reviewing all five, stay tuned.  For today, however, I stick with my regular.  The place was nice, painted white, bare walls, humble and clean.  The servers were friendly and the patrons were diverse. We got our chow to go and headed back to Kevin’s to do some analytics.


The tortillas were soft and flour coated – an object of contention.  I like, Kevin doesn’t.  The Chorizo and egg was delicious, and tasted as if it was cooked in butter as well as chorizo grease.  The Carne Guisada was also quite good, very tender, and savory with more than a hint of tomato. The coffee was not great, and the creamer was in a packet.

We sat and ate the breakfast in the warm security of the house, a whole world of deep blue shadow, and quietly reflected on the day ahead in a fleeting period of calm before the storm of work. I swear I saw a ghost at the taqueria. Then – out into the rain again.

From the Hat
It was a dark and stormy morning.  The kind of morning that makes you want to roll over and stuff your head back in the pillow.  But the day was havin’ none of it.  I was still wearing the night on my face when I heard the knock on the door.  I knew what it meant.
By the time the coffee kicked the cobwebs, I was careening down a dark and deserted Staples St.  I knew something about the neighborhood.  It was early morning darkness, but it was still Darkness.  My companion seemed unaffected.  Navigating the video game that was Staples-under-construction with the confidence of man who knew what he wanted and nothing could stop him.
I knew he wanted Tacos.
We’d picked a notorious spot on Ayers called the Donut Hole – nothing could stand in our way… Nothing that is but Thor the god of Thunder.  The Hole was closed – Rained out.  But lucky for us, there was a taqueria a block away where we could gather our thoughts and decide what to do.
I decided to have a nopalitos and egg a la Mexicana on flour, a brisket with the works on corn, and a large coffee.  For the technicians, Chachos #2’s nopalitos and eggs were very good with plenty of cactus and Mexicana vegetables.  The taco was seasoned well.  It was seasoned even better with a dose of their salsa.  It had a bright taste, possibly mostly from canned ingredients.  But it was very well done and had plenty of heat.
The Brisket taco was okay.  The corn tarp was good, but it was hard to tell with all of the big flavors in the innards.  There was plenty of baked brisket dressed with pickles, grilled onions, and bar-b-que sauce.  The more I got into it, the more I liked it, but I still found myself wishing I’d tried the barbacoa.
Chacho’s #2 was a bright spot in the rainy darkness; a sentinel watching over those hardy few seeking early morning tacos.  Not a bad piece of Serendipity.