Brandy’s – You’re a Fine Taco Shop

412 North Chaparral St, Corpus Christi, Texas
Chorizo & Egg $1.70 • Carne Guisada $2.35 • Bottomless Coffee $1.25

Brandy’s has been quite elusive. It’s a little hole in the wall on Chaparral, next to the old Centre Theater downtown. The hat and I had made a couple of runs at a review of this spot, and I’d posted a mobile update from here way back but we’d never sat down to do it up right.

The neighbor on the other side is the Sea Gulf Villa, home of some of the most interesting characters in the area – if you know what I mean.  To some extent Brandy’s has a captive clientele and even has a side door that leads into the courtyard of the ‘Villa.’ Downtown is a hard place to make a business work (believe me, I know) but Brandy’s has been around since 2006.  Before that it was where Dragonfly was hatched before moving to the island and ultimately to their new location on SPID about a mile further South.

You’ll find this place infused with Catholic kitsch and a DIY aesthetic. Piecemeal signage decorates the front of the restaurant, and anytime you walk in you’re likely to find Brandy herself doing the cooking, with a slightly troubled look behind her omnipresent smile. There’s every indication that she has put her heart and soul into this restaurant, as well as all of her time and resources. That said you should realize my opinion of this place is not unbiased. I want her to succeed, I want her to grow into other locations – namely Portland, but there is no hyperbole in my exaltation of Brandy’s tortillas which are transcendent. Made in house by hand every few orders they come to the table so hot from being cooked that you’ll burn your fingers trying to handle them. They couldn’t be more fresh, period.

The carne guisada was pretty good, and needed no salt. The hat didn’t like the salsa but I did – it reminded me of chíle I’d had many mornings in Dallas sitting around the Palafox table, with eggs and tortillas, and serranos from the the plant in the back yard. Heavy on the garlic salt, tomato sauce, and fresh peppers roasted on cast iron and crushed in a mocajete. The chorizo and egg had the perfect interplay between warring chorizo & egg factions – with both trying to stay independent but at the same time working to infiltrate the other.  The coffee was hot, fresh, and plentiful, as was the company. Over the course of the meal three people we know, each one a beach bum for life, stopped in just to say hi. It was as if there were a little pocket of good will inside Brandy’s that overwhelmed my normal distrust and cynicism and left me thinking the world isn’t hopeless.  I can feel it wearing off as the tacos are even now being digested, and the feeling like the tacos will pass on.

There was a theme that ran through our conversations, and through everything else that has followed this morning – that of imperfection and how it punctuates beauty. There’s the Texas coast blogged about by friend of tacotopia Joy. There’s the taco award winner this week who’s insanity and ability to overcome it is much more impressive than someone who’d ended up in the same place without having to travel to get there. There’s Brandy’s, which is rough around the edges and falls short of some of the nicer taco shops in Corpus in terms of polish but has all the heart of any place out there, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better chorizo & egg.

Barbacoa with a fried egg on top!

I just wanted to give y’all a bit of time to let that settle in your brainpan before I went on.  Ms. M. put the demon seed in my head to order this monster.  It must have been Mary Shelley she was reading on her new iPatty.  I don’t know but it was definitely Evil Genius.  There was onion and cilantro, but protein definitely ruled this taco.  I usually order my fried egg fried hard, but I decided that messy might be in order and ended up with over-easy.  Mess was right.  Halfway through, the tortilla was showing serious wear.  Not to dis the tortilla at all.  It was superb.  Made fresh with just a little sprinkling of flour on the outside.  Delicious.  But it was a mess.  Next time, and yes, I’m sure there’ll be a next time, I’m goin’ with fried hard.  The barbacoa itself was Tacotopia average.  Hard to separate the barbacoa from the liquid chicken, so I’ll just say I’ll have to try the barbacoa by itself before passing judgement.  But as a partner in crime with the egg, it was excellent.

There had been a crowd waiting to get in…again, and I could smell bacon from the street.  Funny, even the streets of D-town are better with bacon.  So I was optimistic.  I’d heard good things and that location seems to have some magic in it. It’s been the home to many excellent places to eat over the decades.  I guess TSH had been to Brandy’s many times – me, two.  The first time was on the highly rated and internationally acclaimed Spam Edition.  For only an instant did I consider a reprise of that event, but I settled on a chorizo and bean.  The chorizo and bean I’m beginning to discover is a good indicator.  Both are aggressive flavors and getting them to play nice without losing themselves in one another is hard to do.  Brandy’s beans bellowed, “Bacon!”  Bacon and Chorizo…Hmm.  I think there’s potential there.  Anyway, Brandy’s bacony beans faced down chorizo’s frontal assault ’til the very end.  The chorizo was good.  It didn’t jump up at me screaming “I’m the best chorizo you’ve ever had,” but those moments are infrequent.  At first, I thought the taco was a tad tiny.  But that was because it was hanging around with that fat barbacoa taco.  Once into it, I knew that any more of the dense beans and chorizo in that baby and I’d have to forgo eating for the weekend.

The good food was interrupted for brief moments with conversation.  The topics ranged from lamenting the loss of the greatest generation, to that nightmare in the gulf.  And the whole breakfast experience was punctuated with visits from friends Sawyer Ron and the Cool Breeze.  I wish I could have stayed and had another cup of Brandy’s cafe good Joe, but I was in a hurry.  If someone captured me and threatened me with torture, I might say the weak link was the salsa.  It was fresh, but mostly tomato had absolutely no heat.  Good Breakfast.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Margaret Cho

What can one say about Margaret Cho that she hasn’t said about herself in any of her standup routines. Nothing, that’s what – she is more intimate and fearlessly revealing than anyone who isn’t your cellmate in a penitentiary. There is no social convention she’s unwilling to eschew, while still showing respect for those that aren’t destructive to the people who are affected by them. The first asian-american to get a sit-com, she lost 30 pounds in two weeks in order to look thin for the 1st episode, only to suffer kidney failure shortly after. No one said she’s emotionally or psychologically unencumbered, especially not her. If you’re homophobic, or bothered by shockingly explicit descriptions of jaded deviant behaviour you should avoid her. I, though, would love to share a taco with her if she were ever to come to the Texas coast.

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 an autographed sticker (any one but the second from the left in the first row) to

Brandy's Grill on Urbanspoon

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

Taqueria El Mexicano on Urbanspoon

Marroquin Tortilla Factory – Raising the Bar

2737 Greenwood Drive, Corpus Christi Texas • 361-883-7051

We met up this morning at Marroquin Tortilla Factory & Restaurant on Greenwood Drive not knowing what to expect. Greenwood has a reputation for being somewhat unsavory and a little dangerous. Some of the best places to get tacos are sometimes in the worst places to get tacos, if you know what I mean. In any case it’d been a week since my last taco and I was ready for it. The weather has finally cleared up a bit, and the sun is out. It’s cool and drying off, and for a few days (I hope) it’ll be about as nice as it ever gets here in Tacotopia.

So I was in a pretty good mood when I pulled into the nearly vacant log this morning. The Hat had already ordered coffee and the waitress came over and spoke to us in Spanish. We both ordered in our pidgin Spanish, and though no one involved spoke the other language well, we all understood each other with no problems. The waitress was very charming, making it much easier to try and speak her language.

Though the interior is neat and has been remodeled in the last few years there are indications that it is still a bit in the hood. I attended a Leadership Corpus Christi event last night that was filled with local socialites and business leaders. Joe Hilliard and I nearly crossed streams in the can at the event, and Casey Lain showed up with his radiant wife Adrianne, and you could spot them from across the hall due to their height, even seated. I’ll be checking out the Joe Ely show over at House of Rock this Saturday, and I expect I’ll see him there. It could be that they’re both tall, or that they’re both walking 5 inches off the ground. Cecil Johnson was also circulating and conversating. And while I enjoy these events, I do love to be in a place where a t-shirt is well within the dress code, and where the food is head and shoulders above the level of banquet catering.

The tacos may have taken a whopping 8 minutes to get to the table, but the coffee was good and the tacos were worth the wait. I ordered, as I do every Friday, a carne guisada and a chorizo & egg. The tortillas were good. Not the best I’ve had, but better than average, and they’d have to be considering this is a tortilla factory that wholesales to other restaurants. The carne guisada was good too, with it’s focus being more on the meat than the gravy. This carne g wasn’t cooked so much that it falls apart, it was still chewy but not in a bad way; it was chew in the way that reminds you that it’s beef. The salsa verde was excellent, among the best I’ve had, and I had to resist the urge to try and swipe a squeeze-bottle of the stuff.

And then there was the chorizo and egg. In short it was exquisite. This is a food you’d think wouldn’t vary much from place to place and mostly it doesn’t, but this stuff was out of sight. The egg and the chorizo were grouped into distinct regions such that you could take a bite and taste the chorizo and the egg as separate parts. Plus the parts were both cooked and proportioned perfectly. Add some salt and that salsa and it was satori, illumination, a moment of clarity, the realization of the potential of all human endeavor. I wondered if there was prozac or MDMA mixed in with the eggs that might account for my overwhelming state of euphoria. In fact everyone in the restaurant was smiling and giggling, and the whole scene seemed a bit unreal.

From the Hat

Tacotopia is not all fun and games.  Sure, there’s the fame and fortune, and everything that goes with that.  I thank you all.  But there’s also a fairly consistent effort in the background.  Today at Marroquin’s Tortilla Factory, Ian gave a preliminary report on a taco slinger he’d checked out during the week.  I relayed that Shell and I are going to my other favorite Texas city, Houston, this weekend and plan to catch La Mexicana.  Johnny H., recognized regional taco expert says they have chicharrones that best CC’s famed Sonny’s.  I’m from Missouri on this so a visit is a must.  (Also a must will be a visit to Udi Pi Café for Indian food.)  Shell rooted out today’s spot, Marroquin’s in her travels around the city, always a keen eye out for potential tacotourism sites.  And she hit the paydirt with this one.

Marroquin’s Taco Factory was clean and bright.  I was optimistic and curious as to whether a “Tortilla Factory” at the taqueria was as good an idea as a brewery at the bar.  (The latter an enterprise that hasn’t made it past serial failure here in the Sparkling City.)  The pied tile pattern was reminiscent of a diner but the place was all taqueria.  I ordered a barbacoa on corn and the lengua guisada with cheese and onions on flour.  Shortly I was informed that no tienen the lengua so I ordered a chicharrone guisada instead.  The chicharron taco was very good.  I was surprised to see cheese on it until I realized that they had carried it over from my failed lengua order, and I’m not sure it worked with the chicharron taco.  The texture of the chicharrones was pleasant – some bite, but not chewy at all.  The savory gravy was an interesting reddish brown color and tasted very much of chicharrones.  The flour tort was excellent.  The barbacoa taco needed salt, but once properly dosed, it was very good.  The corn tortillas were made on-site and fresh.  They were in the style of packaged tarps, but so close to the source, I had to give them a try.  It took two to wrap the barbacoa.  IMHO, the star of the show was the green salsa.  It was served in a squeeze bottle and was a green that one rarely sees.  A green so bright that it shouted, “I’m the best salsa you’ve had in a while so eat me!”  And it was right.  It had good heat, but something else that gave it a really good body and heartiness.  Maybe a bit of aguacate.  I don’t really know.  I’m definitely going to have to go back and do a bit more research.  The coffee was café good and Ian only had to bellow once at the Senorita for refill.  There was one other person there, but I’ve seen the place packed on the weekends.  If you find yourself nearby and need a taco, I recommend it.


But it was all real (I think). It was really that good. I sat speechless for a while, and when the Hat asked me if I was okay I was speechless. I made small talk to try and pull myself back down to earth, and soon enough we were both stepping back out into the gorgeous morning, ready to do battle with the work week’s last fight. I don’t want to say that this is the best C&E I’ve ever had – it could be a fluke. I sure as hell will be coming back to double check it. It may take a lot of investigation.

Our free taco winner for this week is:

Marisa Tomei

This Italian-American product of Brooklyn, NY has won and Academy Award and been nominated for two more. This makes her a member of an exclusive club of female actors who win the oscar early in their career, most of whom fail to live up to the subsequent expectations of either/neither their acting or/nor their earning potential (see Mira Sorvino). Tomei, however, has performed in better and better movies, taken on more challenging rolse, has received parts in more lucrative films, and has become more beautiful with the passing of each year.

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 an autographed dvd of ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead‘ to
Marroquin Tortilla Factory & Restaurant on Urbanspoon