El Mexicano

5650 Leopard Street, Corpus Christi, Texas
361-289-2781 (temporarily disconnected)

If you’re anything like me, you have plenty to do. Everyday. Day in, day out. My truck has been languishing in disrepair, undriveable for two weeks now, because I’ve been too busy managing one calamity after another, both at work and at home. None of it is unmanageable, and everything that has to get done will get done – but it’s tough. I’ve been coordinating multiple plumbing companies to work on a situation at my house, and fixing my truck has moved up on my priority list so that I can use it to carry the jackhammer I’m going to rent to break up my slab if that gives you any idea of the kind of fun I’m having.

So it’s no surprise that I look forward to these little Friday morning taco runs. Hopping on the bike, and flying South on the causeway with the sun coming up over my left shoulder helps me to rise above all of the tedium that I’m neck deep in lately. And then there’s the taco at the end of the ride. Today that taco is inside El Mexicano, and was recommended by Sonny – my wife’s primo. I hadn’t eaten here before, and I rarely find myself on this side of Leopard. I had noticed the top notch hand painted signage before, however, and when I pulled up I felt like I’d been there a hundred times.

The hat was already there, and he’s got problems of his own. He’ll be coordinating multiple contractors this week too: electrical and carpentry. As Fritz Kunkel said, ‘to be mature means to face, and not evade, every fresh crisis that comes.’ and the crisis ahead of me was the choice of which taco to try first; chorizo & egg or carne guisada. This is the kind of crisis I can sink my teeth into.

The carne guisada looked like a typical ‘UT’ burnt orange stew, heavy on the cumino but there was something else to it. I was very tender, and good quality beef. The chunks were big, and the sauce, though sultry, was upbeat and sharp. With some of the pureed salsa verde it was a serious taco.  On to the chorizo & egg; a visual inspection revealed an optimal level of segregation of the c and the e (you’ve got to keep em separated). One bite and my suspicion was confirmed, this one was tip top. The two flavors wait to mingle until they’re in your mouth, along with the salsa and tortilla. The tortillas themselves were also impressive, fresh but thin and uniform.  You could see some corners of flour coating but for the most part you’d have a hard time distinguishing them from shelf tortillas unless you felt or tasted them, and then there would be no mistake. And there was something else about this taco – a hint of sweetness and spice – like cinnamon, so slight as to nearly be undistinguishable. I don’t know if it was in the chorizo, or if it was added in-situ, but I liked it.

So, on leaving, I felt ready to deal with the challenges laid out before me as I rode down Leopard, toward downtown, directly into the sun, dodging hookers and bums as they shuffle out into oncoming traffic. I love this town.

From the Hat

This morning, the Taco Show Host and I were to meet at Taqueria Mexicana for our usual Friday repast.  I was a little frazzled because I couldn’t find my iPhone.  Since the message from the Impossible Missions Headquarters was on my phone, I drove down Leopard hoping my memory of the location was correct.  So preoccupied with my missing appendage I was that I failed to even notice if the working girls were at it on the infamous street.  My memory was correct and I did find the place and settled in to wait for TSH.  While I waited I had a couple of fair cups of coffee and didn’t play scrabble, or check my email, or get a quick Facebook fix.

The place was clean and smelled of breakfast.  I figured the place was going to be good because it looked as though the most effective measurement of customers was by the ton.  (The Hat included.)  I heard the red Honda before I saw it and we had ordered before Ian even sat down.  I had two tacos, a nopalitos con huevos (not a la Mexicana this time) on flour and a lengua con cilantro y cebollas on corn.  When they arrived, right away I knew I should’ve ordered the carne G.  I found myself eyeballing my friend’s plate and hoping that he would have to leave for any reason and I could abscond with a bit of his taco. He was on to me so my order would have to do.  The lengua was tender, but grey and tasteless.  The cilantro, however, tasted as if they had picked it fresh moments before so between it, the onions, some salt and pepper, and a hot and spicy green salsa, it was okay.  I did enjoy the corn tortilla.  Warm, corny, with a bit of tooth to it, it was good.  The nopalitos and egg taco was pretty good.  It was stuffed with eggs and cactus.  I’ve kind of been on a quest for understanding of this particular menu item.  I’m usually not really sure if I’m eating pickled cactus, or freshly prepared nopales, but this morning for sure they were pickled.  This is not necessarily a bad thing as I could still get a strong note of cactus in the dish.  This taco is becoming one of my favorites and in the world of tacos, it’s seems to be a fairly healthy offering.  This was a good example, not great, just good.  Still, San Luis rules on the nopales taco.  There’s been some talk of running through some of the favorite taquerias to recalibrate our metrics.  I’m all for it.  (Like I need a reason to go to San Luis.)

Some of you will notice (cheering from some, boos from others) a distinct lack of levity in today’s taco text.  Recently a skydiver was killed on a dive in Port Aransas.  Shelly and I and a couple of friends had just jumped with him the week before and had the time of our lives.  Shell is still flyin’ high.  He was a talented videographer that enjoyed his work filming terrified jumpers – putting together a record of the event that the overwhelmed brain just can’t manage.  The divers are a close-knit group that will be saddened at the loss for a long time.  To them, our prayers.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Regina King

Ms. King attracted the interest of the Tacotopia Altruistic Taco Award Selectors with her compelling portrayal of detective Lydia Adams on SouthLAnd, one of the many television properties to suffer from the Leno Coco Debacle. Fortunately the show, one of the best shows on tv today, landed at TNT and has recently begun its second season. Regina, as I like to call her, has been on screen since the was practically a tween, appearing in such seminal works as Boyz n the Hood, Friday and Ray as well as 24, Jerry Maguire, and New York Undercover. With hypnotic looks and a physique carved from stone, King is hard not to notice and she has been surrounded by talent for most of her life, attending high school with Nia Long, studying acting with Todd Bridges‘ Mother Betty A. Bridges, marrying (and later divorcing) the VP of Qwest records, and attending weddings of friends Vivica Fox and Sandra Bullock. (Who would have thought that someone known for being such a classy guy as Jesse James would be engaging in such douchebaggery?) Regina King is truly a queen.

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 sharpie on a bootleg dvd of the rough cut of the upcoming big chill remake in which Regina King will appear  to tacos@tacotopia.net.

Taqueria El Mexicano on Urbanspoon

Double Donuts – A mystery wrapped in a tortilla

The Donut Hole, 1712 Ayers St., CCTX
Corpus Donuts, Corner of Golihar and Kostoryz, CCTX

With a stunning array of taco shops here in Tacotopia, we feel the need occasionally to try something that’s hard to get, elusive, off the beaten path. Today we hit two taco shops that claim to be Donut shops. Yes, they’re both spelled without the ugh, even though that’s the sound the Hat was making before asking if Matt the Hoople or I had some antacids on our persons.  No, of course, was the answer.  It’s never there when you need it.

Our first stop was Corpus Donuts, which I’d heard about last night while talking tacos in the surgery waiting room with my wife and her family. It’s always good to know a lot about something trivial that a lot of people are interested in when you’re trying to make a heavy situation light.  Some people have sports, I have tacos (and cars).  A couple of the folks there had heard of it, and said the Donuts were good.

The place was a little dark, and had a patchwork of vinyl, acrylic, and hand-painted plywood signs covering most of the facade of the building.  It appeared to have once been a stop-and-rob but that must have been many years ago.  Upon entering we were told we had to get our coffee ourselves, but when we sat down big guy behind the counter poured us up three cups and brought them to our table.

Corpus Donuts

Corpus Donuts

There was a good amount of space in the place, but only a few tables – and the lighting was very low, like a brownout, but the lighting didn’t hide the dirt that well.  The hat said it looked like a bar. There were two big stacks of professional PA speakers (Peavey 2x15s on top of big Cerwin vegas).  When I asked, I was told that they rent the place out for dances – explaining a lot.  I knew we were doubling up today but I still had to try both of my standard tacos for the sake of science so I got a Carne Guisada and a Chorizo & Egg.  Everything was fair, nothing outstanding.  If you’re looking for a place to impress people from out of town how good food can come out of bad places this might be a contender.  If they’re not from Corpus they won’t know that these tacos aren’t top notch, because in comparison to what most cities have they are.  On the way out, the Hat bought us all a round of Donuts, and they were top notch, very fresh, and glazed with just the slightest hint of lemon.

Tacos from Corpus Donuts

Tacos from Corpus Donuts

Next we headed to the Donut Hole, a place we’ve tried at least three times to sample and were deflected on each attempt.  The Hole is legendary in local taco circles, and was one of the first recommendations we received.  I mentioned it to my wife, not knowing any better, and commented that it was a strange sounding place to have tacos.  My wife informed me that it was a little dive, it’d been there forever, that she had been going there since she was a teenager, and that the tacos were great.

Well, she wasn’t kidding.  The place is a little dive. Looking at the building it’s unclear if it’s open for business or if it’s a derelict superfund site.  It’s situated across from Wynn Seale Middle School, right down the road from the abandoned Butter Krust bakery.  We both pulled our trucks into the lot and finding nowhere to park, and barely enough space to drive around it, we pulled up next door and walked over.  A guy speaking jibberish (or aramaic, my aramaic is a little rusty) walked up asked me for the time, and asked the hat for a quarter before wandering off to alert the illuminati that we were falling right into their trap.  A dim, yellow light was leaking out the back of the building, and looking through the doorway I could barely make out the interior – which looked like a country blacksmith’s shop.  We knocked and were told to come back in 20 minutes (this was at 7:20 meaning they open at 7:40).

I was ready to give it up, and to try it on a day where the gloom wasn’t so oppressive.  I wasn’t sure if it felt more like a scene from ‘Conspiracy Theory’ or ‘From Beyond’ but I didn’t have a good feeling about it either way. The scene it reminded me of most was in Cronenberg’s ‘Naked Lunch’ when Bill Lee breaks the typewriter, brings it to the blacksmith shop and they melt it down and make it into a new one.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they were sprinkling the tacos with the powder from the Aquatic Brazilian Centipede. This was a dangerous place, as ‘King Crimson’ says, and I had the kid to worry about so I whisked him away and deposited him at his school, where he would be protected by the holiness of the Catholic Church.  Then, as I was pulling away I received a text from Kevin who had the same idea as me.  Give it one more try.  Acting against my better judgement I headed back, and picked up a brown bag from the second window.  The holy grail of tacos, I had it right in my hands.  I raced over to the Hat’s house to we could examine the goods in safety (who am I kidding, if the Illuminati wanted to know what tacos we were eating, they would already be in the house – which meant they probably were in the house, as they know all.)

Well, it was all worth it.  The tacos were every bit as good as they had been described.  The carne g, their signature item, was rich and the beef dense.  The chorizo & egg amazing, with a strong and salty flavor you can only get from a grimy kitchen.  The tacos were the size of, well, a giant taco, and the tortillas achieved a perfect balance of tenderness vs tensile strength.

As we talked ourselves down, and tried to rid ourselves of the feeling we were being watched, we made plans for next weeks trip – to another hole in the wall with ample history.  Tune in!

From the Hat

Before I get to taco news today, I’d like to give a shout out to South Texas Public Radio for hosting a night of fine food and wine.  Shell and I are regulars at their yearly Classic Brew event, a food and beer gig with live music but had never been to their Food and Wine Classic.  The dress was everything from black tie to CC formal (jeans and sandals) – definitely a good place to break out the Black Leather SRV hat.  There was plenty of gourmet fare for all.  My favorite was a lobster taco with pico de gallo and avocado ice cream on a handmade corn minitort.  Delicious and beautiful to look at.  Close runners-up were a ginger-soy beef (or was it lamb) in a fried filo dough cone, and a sweet frau gras mousse also in filo.  I’m sure there were plenty of good and great wines, but after half a dozen samples of different Carmeneres, my taste buds might have been compromised.  We had a good time and will be back.  It might not make my bucket list, but definitely one of my 40 things to do in Corpus.


It’s a great thing when dozens of fine restaurants are gathered together, dishing out their wares to the grazing multitudes, but sometimes one has to work a bit harder to quell that hankerin’.  In fact, sometimes it seems that there might be someone working against you in your quest.  Today started innocently enough.  Last night’s Wine Classic had decided not to drive and ended up crashing on my heartburn.  It was still there when I woke up so asked it if it wanted a taco.  It did and before long my heartburn and I were on the way to Corpus Donuts, formerly Recios.  I had it from fellow taco fan and go-to expert in local taquerias, Johnny H. that if it was still the same people, this place had a good brisket taco.  I could tell my heartburn was looking forward to it too.  I think because it was a donut shop, that Ian decided it would be a good opportunity to make a theme of it and hit the infamous Donut Hole as an added bonus feature.  So I only ordered the brisket figuring I’d save myself for a good showing at The Hole.  In all honesty, I was not really impressed when the plate was plopped down in front of me.  After the display of beautiful food last night, the lonely grey slice of fatty brisket in a flour tortilla was not impressive.  But upon removal of some of the fat and proper application of barbecue sauce and salsa, it ended up being good.  The brisket had a good mesquite smoke flavor with a soft texture that comes from many after-pit hours in the oven.  The tortilla was good, toothy, and held up to the barbecue’s frontal assault.  The coffee was okay, but not the usual café fresh I expect.  The hot, fresh glazed donuts were very good.

Tacos from the Donut Hole

Tacos from the Donut Hole

Here’s where it gets tricky.  Last time, The Hole was rained out and we went elsewhere.  Just what The Hole wanted, too I’m sure.  Today, when The Hole discovered we were back, we were put off with a shout from inside the closed building, “Thirty more minutes.”  Tacotopia runs a tight ship and we couldn’t wait so I resigned myself to my one brisket taco and vowed to return to The Hole in victory.  But all the way home I had a gnawing feeling that we were being duped; that there was a conspiracy to keep the Hole’s secrets from the likes of us.  Or maybe that The Hole would only accept our calling on its terms…I decided to go back…as it turned out, so had Ian.  He was ahead of me so he volunteered to brave The Hole alone and bring tacos to the house.  I left it to his judgment as to which taco I wanted.  Turns out that he made the right choice – the lengua.  The taco was astounding!  At first I didn’t know what to think of it.  It didn’t really look like any lengua taco I’d had.  Tender roast beef with that unmistakable taste of cabesa.  Stringy almost like the best pot roast you ever had.  Half way through it I remember Matt, a Surf Club acquaintance had told me that the Hole had the best Lengua he’d ever eaten.  I can say now that it’s the best I’ve ever eaten too.  Wow!  The torts were good too and a splash of the atomic-hot green sauce made it a great taco experience.  Too bad no coffee.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Salma Hayek!

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 a Robert Anton Wilson paperback of your choice to tacos@tacotopia.net.

El Rodeo de Jalisco

El Rodeo Window

126 North Staples Street
Corpus Christi, TX 78401-3012
(361) 882-2199
Monday – Saturday 6:00AM – 8:00PM
Sunday 7:00AM – 2:00PM
Chorizo & Egg: $1.35, Carne Guisada: $1.60, Bottomless Coffee: $1.00

Back to work, nose to the grindstone… This will be the year I realize my life’s ambitions, write the great American novel, lose weight, get fit, learn Spanish, publish a comic book, make my internet t-shirt store profitable, host a ifoce breakfast taco eating contest, run a marathon.  Any one of these things would be nice, any two too much to ask for.  Really, last year wasn’t so bad but with the cold wind blowing cleanly through my shirt and my nipples harder than the male end of a pearl snap it occurs to me the year may hold some surprises for all of us.

Hat and I had agreed to meet at Brandy’s this morning at a later-than-usual 7:00AM. Brandy’s is about a block (the long way) from my shop so I parked at my normal spot and walked over.  The wind downtown has little to block it from the ocean and so it was whipping, and then I discovered my coat’s zipper wouldn’t zip – perhaps atrophied from neglect.  As I walked up to the rendezvous point I see no lights, and then no hours posted.  I was a little early so I waited in the freezing wind, huddled in the doorway of the derelict Center Theater with it’s graffiti and dead bird carcasses peering out through the locked glass doors hoping Kevin was eager enough for tacos to be early, if not on time, if not too late.  Sure enough, I see his truck pull up and I hop into the relief of still air and that distinctive Dodge aroma.

We headed up the bluff to El Rodeo de Jalisco which I was pretty sure was open.  A few years ago I was at a family thanksgiving meal and went looking for something open and found this place serving up tacos and coffee to bicycle police, always a good sign. The place is a little dingy, a little funky; none of the walls are quite plumb, none of the corners are quite square.  The ceiling tiles at the front of the last row are about a foot and a half wider than at the back.  None of these things necessarily reflect the quality (or at least the taste) of the fare.  In fact I’d argue a little funk adds flavor to the food.  Some of the best tacos I’ve had have been produced in grimy holes in the wall, and this place falls well short of the grimy threshold and is merely off-white.

El Rodeo Tacos

As always I ordered a Carne Guisada, a Chorizo & Egg, and a cup of coffee.  The coffee came in a small cup but I never saw the bottom of it, and our waitress may not have been as conversant in English as in Spanish but she nonetheless conveyed warmth and humor  as she worked expeditiously.  The salsa verde was a jalepeño puree that hit like a brick wrapped in sandpaper – I put as much of it as I could bear on my tacos. The tortillas were excellent: smallish but hefty and fresh as the prince of Bel Aire.  The Carne G was very savory. I’ve been holding that adjective out of circulation for a special Carne Guisada taco, and this is it.  The beef chunks were huge, and so tender they practically melted in your mouth.  The Chorizo & Egg was top notch as well, and let me explain my philosophy of C&E.

It’s like the Marx brothers.  The tortilla is Harpo, and never says anything but he’s just as funny as the other two and the music he makes is what sets everything apart – elevating the trio to a state of art rather than base humor like the 3 stooges (don’t get me wrong, I love the stooges – especially Iggy).  Then you’ve got Chico, who’s like chorizo: always chasing skirt, with a thick accent and a sharp wit he is the one that provides the spice and the kick – and plays a mean piano himself.  Finally there’s Groucho, the egg.  He’s got the attenuated lilt, and with his wise if misguided direction and beguiling patter he could convince you to eat a shoe-leather and egg taco, and think it was delicious.

We sat around for another thirty minutes after we finished our food, drinking cup after cup of coffee and hashing out the future, but all good things come to an end. As Groucho said, “I’ll do anything you say, I’ll even stay. But I must be going.”

From the Hat
Happy New Year to everyone.  I’d like first to thank Ian for keeping his taco blog up and running during the Holiday break.  While I fattened myself on the season’s bounty, he continued providing mobile mealtime missives for all of the Tacotopia readers.  Good job Taco Show Host.
Driving downtown early this morning felt strangely like a million years ago when I worked there setting type for a Quik Print shop on the bluff.  This week, though it was jury duty that had me by the bay.  I want to complain about the whole thing.  How it was uncomfortable, and boring, and we were treated like cattle.

But I can’t

I’d never made it to voir dire much less to a panel before.  And my only experience thus far had been with county or state district court.  And those experiences were, well, uncomfortable, and boring, and we were treated like cattle.   The Feds treated us courteously, with respect.  The courtroom was a meat-locker and I was happy I had my coat, but other than that we were fully coffee-and-doughnutted through the whole process.
It was not a long trial as they go.  I so wanted to hear someone burst out with, “Objection, your Honor!”  But the tone was muted and somber.  After 20 minutes of discussion in the jury room, I was “voted” presiding juror.  I don’t know why, but I hope it wasn’t just because I had the biggest moustache.  It took us most of two days to come to a unanimous decision.  (I hope that this also wasn’t just because I had the biggest moustache).  During that time we were all amazed, frustrated, irritated, and flabbergasted.  Adult stood helplessly by as Parent chided and chased Child around the room leaving me to wonder in the end if I was still OK.  But I was and once we decided, we were out of there in minutes.  I’m happy to have been a part of the process, but I’m even happier this morning to be judging only breakfast tacos.

.22 AC Vent in front window

.22 AC vent in front window

And El Rodeo de Jalisco was guilty of being good.  I ordered a nopalitos con huevos a la Mexicana on flour and a barbacoa con cebolla y cilantro on corn.  The barbacoa was typical, good but not out of the ordinary.  It was served with the freshest white onion and cilantro.  The corn tortilla was good but a bit more firm than optimal.  The star was the nopalitos taco.  The pear was soft and slightly acidic as if pickled.  But the slices were delicious in the taquito – not overshadowed at all by the generous mix of eggs, fresh onion, tomatoes, and peppers.  The whole business was wrapped in an excellent flour tort.  Of the two salsas, the almost excessively hot green was A+ material, the ranchero sauce, not so much.  I probably drank more coffee than I needed while we talked and bore witness to the cold outside via our .22 window vent.  Still, me gusto mucho!



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