Feliz Amanecer

‪8151 Leopard Street, Corpus Christi, TX‬
‪(361) 241-9611‬

 This is a restaurant on Leopard. If you live here you’ve driven on this road. The Corpus end starts ‘uptown’, an area that sits on a bluff opposite downtown from the bay. This is an old road, named in the first maps made of the city. Below the bluff, leading into it one way west, is Shatzell which feeds past Coppini’s ‘Queen of the Sea’ fountain, through a 100 year old switchback and into Leopard. Follow it west and you pass through the 15-20 story “high-rises” that sit, aging and neglected but still intact. Continuing west you start to see the ghosts, the old Braslau’s Furniture building left empty by attrition, moved to what was once South Corpus, near where my mother lived as a child in the 40s and 50s in a brand new post-war house on Pennington.

Her father was a mechanic for the old Corpus Christi Post Office they tore down on Upper Broadway. My grandfather, a victim of the great depression, wouldn’t let a thing go to waste and repurposed a marble slab and trim from the restroom into a 400 pound coffee table that my family moved with us every year or so as a child as we struggled to find a place better than the one we were in before. The irony is not lost on me that I live back here in Corpus Christi, where my family left to find something more.

The Melba in the 30s and today.

Keep west and you’ll pass the bombed-out Melba theater, then a string of boarded up bars and dance halls, bail bondsmen and then across Staples you’ll see City Hall sitting across from a muffler shop and one of the city’s best (if ugliest) taquerias, Banda’s. Stay westbound, and leopard runs parallel to IH-37. It passes under the Crosstown Expressway, and onwards through the West side, past Padre Island Drive and eventually to Calallen. Amanecer is pretty far out, where most of the people dining are white with oilfield service coveralls on.

Taco places in Corpus Christi have established a baseline of quality to which other cities just can’t measure up. The cornerstone of this is the handmade tortilla, which you must have if you hope to compete. Most even serve handmade corn tortillas, but you have to ask. The prices are cheap and the tacos good, but there isn’t a lot to set many of the places apart from one another. They spring up where there is demand, and deliver basically the same tacos as the place closest to them. Feliz Amanecer is one of these places. As such I can’t tell you that it stands out, but it’s good.

What I can tell you about Feliz Amanecer is this: they’re big and neat, the service is quick and thorough, the Carne Guisada is above average and I was brought two very good salsas. Everything else is on a level with what you would expect from any self-respecting taqueria in Corpus Christi.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Mary-Louise Parker

This South Carolina belle has been acting since the 80s, starting out in soaps and eventually showing up alongside some of the biggest names in the business in productions like Bullets Over Broadway, Fried Green Tomatoes, Red Dragon, The West Wing, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and her hit Showtime series Weeds which has recently started it’s seventh season. I should mention that she was famously abandoned by epic douchebag and glowing-blue-wang-having Dr. Manhattan Billy Crudup when she was seven months pregnant. Yeah, I like Claire Danes too, but I prefer kinky-headed brunettes – and I don’t mean just curly.

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 a brand new MacBook Pro to tacos@tacotopia.net.


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Chema’s Tamales – A Diamond In the Dirt

1336 S. Staples • 361-882-1077

The death of OBL marks the real beginning of the 2012 US presidential campaign season, a beginning that has been thankfully delayed. If it could be crammed into the last week of October 2012 I think the nation would be better for it, but I’ll take one year of lying, self-aggrandizing, slander and manipulation over two. My Fridays invariably start with a listen to the week’s Slate Political Gabfest while I drive into town, and then the blessed relief from the horror of politics as I pull my truck into the lot of a comforting and friendly taqueria.

I got an email from a taco enthusiast who works for Landlord Resources, who said I should check out Chema’s. A few days later I was at House of Rock, and David Loeb mentioned this spot to me. It’s in a place that has been occupied by a number or restaurants, none of which have I ever tried, but with all the recommendation I had to give it a go. It’s difficult to even see the front door from the street, so I had no idea what to expect. It is on old Staples, and so it could be made of cardboard and adobe with no roof if it’s like some of the nearby buildings, but once I walked in the door I was surprised to see a neat, spacious, and comfortable dining area. Over the next few weeks I went back twice – due diligence, and I can report with some confidence on the quality of the food.

The chorizo & egg was not bad. Not the best I’ve had, but serviceable. The carne guisada was dense and meaty, breaking off into little flakes of chewy beef. The tortillas were fresh, though not made to order, with a nice tooth to’em.

The tacos themselves are not in contention for the best traditional breakfast tacos in the best town for breakfast tacos in the world, but there are things make Chema’s stand out. If you notice in the photo, the breakfast tacos are served with lettuce and tomato on the side. This is the first for me, and I’ve eaten at a truckload of places in town. All the plates match each other, and match the pottery coffee cups, that have ‘chema’s’ hand-painted on the sides. The place is clean and the service is impeccable. Chema’s been there every time I have, and he likes to talk with the customers. You can tell before you even talk to him that he’s a man who takes pride: in the food, the restaurant, the presentation, and in himself. A transplant from San Antonio, he will tell you he’s trying to bring something different to the table. You’re likely to see him in white linen pressed pants, with a little gold on his fingers and in his mouth, standing with his chin up but smiling at everyone, and quick with banter. I went twice during lunch and the place was packed. You could hear people talking amongst themselves about how good the food was. Chema would bring out complementary tamales for people to sample. This is a nice restaurant – a good experience all around. It’s not fine dining, but it’s about as fine as you’re going to get for Mexican food done right – with pride and without pretense. Keep it up, Chema!

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Chloe Sevigny

HBO‘s Big Love ended last month, with a finale that was a high water mark for the series, unlike many finales HBO has generated. It was a series my wife and I liked, but there was something about it that alway bothered me. Chloe Sevigny is beguiling, and yet played an evil shrew so well that it was difficult to see her for the rare beauty she is. Big Love was her return to the screen after she was blackballed for a controversial sex scene in Vincent Gallo‘s the Brown Bunny, a movie that started a feud between Roger Ebert and Gallo where the latter put a hex on the former, and considering – it may have worked, though Gallo cursed Ebert with colon cancer instead of cancer of thyroid.

Chloe was a bad girl, sneaking out, hanging out with skaters, smoking, going to all night parties and selling acid as a teenager. You may remember her as the accidental lesbian girlfriend in Boys Don’t Cry, or as the naive but willing secretary in American Psycho, or as the hottest girl in just about any Harmony Korine movie. She values acting enough to refuse to move to Los Angeles, staying instead in the East Village. When she’s not smouldering in front of a camera she dabbles in fashion design.

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 original theatrical cut of the Brown Bunny to tacos@tacotopia.net.