3002 South Port Ave, Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-885-7705

I drove down Port recently and spotted four taquerias I’d never been to. I pulled into parking lots and emailed myself names and gps locations for each. One of the rationalizations I’ve had for not blogging every week was that I’d picked all the low hanging fruit. Well, the crazy thing about fruit is it grows back. Sure enough, close to HQ there are a bunch of new (at least to me) places to get tacos.

Pulling from the top of the list, I pulled my Valkyrie into the lot of the Merequetengue, which is inside the Q.C. Meat Market, and narrowly avoided an ankle-biting from a local dog who took issue with my mode of transport. Walking into the place, one is overwhelmed by the smell of a meat market: disinfectant and blood. I was bit apprehensive, but I ordered from the lady behind the counter and sat down at one of the tables that didn’t have chairs stacked upside-down on top of them.

The tacos were made to order on fresh handmade tortillas, and brought to the table by a waitress whose English was about as good as my Spanish. She pulled some sugar and a salsa verde from another table and set it in front of me – there was a red salsa, but not for me apparently. My routine when trying a new place is this; try the carne guisada with a fork, try the chorizo & egg with a fork, try the salsa with a spoon, add salsa and salt to the tacos, evaluate. Every step in the routine was satisfying here. The carne g, as you might expect from a restaurant in a meat market, was really good; toothy but not tough, and well seasoned. The chorizo and egg had good separation, with really good spicy chorizo and made so fresh to order that it was hard to distinguish the heat from the chorizo and the heat from the hot eggs. Add to both of these an excellent green salsa – a bit creamy, a bit hot, and good handmade tortillas. Merequetengue exceeded my expectations.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Debi Mazar

When I first watched Goodfellas, there was one thing – above all others – that made me wish I were Henry Hill and that’s Sandy, his guma, with a few pounds of cocaine, a tight dress, and an insatiable appetite. Cocaine is an evil drug, but if it were the 70’s and Sandy was offering it to me, I might be persuaded. Debi is now in her late 40s, is married to a tuscan cook who is inexplicably skinnier than she is, and she looks better than she did when she was in her twenties. You can see them working out who wears the pants in the family on Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel.

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 ’93 Vogue Italia in which Debi appears to

Taco Taco SA – The Taco to Beat

145 East Hildebrand Avenue, San Antonio, TX 78212 • (210) 822-9533
Monday-Sunday, 7:00 am – 2:00 pm
carne guisada $1.99, chorizo & egg – $1.49, bottomless coffee – $1.49

I live in Corpus Christi, Texas, a town also known has Tacotopia. It is the optimal environment for tacos – close to Mexico, big enough to have real competition between the taco masters and small enough not to assume the pretenses you find in larger cities where they try to corrupt the identity of the taco by introducing elements from other cultures. I’m no xenophobe but I do feel that the breakfast taco has reached its apex, and a standard has been established that can never be bested. If you add Sriracha sauce and fried feta to your Carne G, you’ll have something delicious but it’s not a breakfast taco.

So a few months back when some ignorant journalist went off all half-cocked and said “When it comes to breakfast tacos Austin trumps all other American cities” I worked hard not to totally flip the fuck out. With quiet reflection, and a stiff drink or five, I assessed the situation objectively and reached the conclusion that this yahoo just didn’t know any better, and that the only real contender Corpus Christi has is San Antonio. I know in my heart that we have the best breakfast tacos in the world, but many would argue that title belongs to a little spot on Hildebrand in San Antonio called Taco Taco, a place that was named best tacos in America by Bon Appétit Magazine. Having not eaten there I couldn’t be sure they weren’t right, and it kept me up at night.

This weekend I came up to the home of the Alamo to find out. Just like most celebrities it was smaller than it looked in pictures, but there was a full parking lot and a line out the door. The ‘no photography’ sticker on the door had me worried this was going to be a text only review, when a lady came up and asked me if I worked for a magazine.

“No,” I said. “I’m a… blogger,” I continued, shamefacedly. After she checked my credentials she said “you’re a nice man, you can take pictures” and I felt like I’d just gone backstage. The booth was nice, the light was good, the wall of awards stared down at me. The woman who guarded the door turned out to be Helen Velesiotis, the owner, and she revealed that there was no animal fat used to prepare any of the food.

“Even the beans?”

“Even the beans.”

Strike one. While I respect the decision, and the strength of will it would take to make such a decision It can’t help but adversely affect the final product, and it did. The beans were good but suffered from lack of pork fat. They were probably as good as they could get without it but was a significant lard deficiency, a terminal condition for beans. The tortillas were excellent, both the flour and the corn. The flour were fresh and fluffy, but dense – and no dry flour on the surface. The corn were thick and heavy, but fresh – almost like a baked polenta. I got the chorizo & egg, and a carne guisada. The chorizo and egg was heavy on the egg and light on the chorizo – to the point where I could barely taste the latter. The carne g was very tasty, with firm rich big chunks of beef and a sauce that had been made better with a long slow cook. The salsa itself was really good, with a strong dried chili flavor but with fresh tomato, cilantro and onion, blended to a sauce that showed nothing but the seeds and the red.

Once I got most of the way through the two tacos, Helen emerged with more food, and then later with more again. First it was a tray of chilequiles, and they were the best thing I had to eat there – a perfect blend of crisp corn tortillas, egg, cheese, fresh jalapeños, tomatoes, onions and cilantro on the same excellent flour tortillas. Then was the Norteño, beans and white cheese on a charlie brown with beef fajita y avocado.

We left the place totally stuffed, and feeling like we had been treated like royalty by the kind greek lady with the excellent Texican restaurant. That makes it hard for me to say this: these aren’t the best tacos in America, there are a few taco shops in Corpus Christi that do a better job than Taco Taco, but Corpus Christi is on such a high level, and the two hours difference from CC to SA makes it harder to make tacos as good, simply by proximity to the Rio Grande. You’d be crazy not to eat here if you like tacos and you’re in San Antonio. And Helen, if you’re ever in Corpus Christi let us buy you breakfast.

The taco award will return next week.

Taco Taco Cafe on Urbanspoon

El Alteño #3 – the Indecision Edition

4928 Golihar, Corpus Christi, Texas
Chorizo & Egg $1.10 • Carne Guisada $2.50 • Bottomless Coffee 99¢

“This indecision’s killing me” was sung by Mick Jones from the seminal punk band the Clash, in a lyric in a song that transcended the prevailing socio-political ethos of the movement in favor of something personal and timeless. This feeling washes over me as I sit here. I don’t know where to start, I have come up with 20 ideas to start this post and none of them wants to offend any other by stepping to the front of the pack. Just like the rest of my life, I’ve got so much to do I can’t decide where to start.

Write, delete, write, delete. Should I write about religion? No, irrelevant. Should I write about politics? No, too depressing. How about the weight issue here in Corpus Christi? How about not, keep the readership in mind. Should I rant or should I praise. Blah blah blah blah. It’s enough to drive a person up a wall. I can only imagine it’s even worse for you, dear reader, as you sit trying to decide where to go for tacos.

Today’s spot was recommended by Jim Halk. He apparently had no trouble deciding for us, an enviable quality in a citizen of Tacotopia as is his taste in taquerias. I was told by someone I’ve known since childhood the ancients recommended making a decision within the space of seven breaths. I think he ripped it from Ghost Dog, who in turn ripped it from Hagakure. In any case  using this metric I have failed at everything I’ve done today except for one thing: ordering tacos. I get the same thing every Friday, in order that I may establish an apples to apples comparison between every taco shop in Corpus. Finally, progress!!!

And once the crack appears in the Ice it’s just a matter of prying the rest of it apart. The words start to flow, the tension eases, the arrayed obstacles start to fall like dominos. If only there were fewer of those first steps. I ordered a Chorizo and Egg, and a Carne Guisada, and coffee. Oh yea, coffee, that helps with the indecision thing too. With a little caffeine in me the haze has lifted enough to make some observations about the place – and to quit being so damned meta. Alteño #3 is stucco and tile, and you can imagine it is in Mexico if you squint your eyes right.

It’s comfortable, not immaculate (that usually means the food is better) but clean, the service is pretty good. It’s in an older part of Corpus, near where my mother lived as a child, and I think that makes the food taste that much better with just the thought of her proximity, even if it was half a century ago. That isn’t the only thing that makes the tacos here good. The tortillas are good, with a little flour on the surface. The Carne G is a good texture, springy and dense but yielding to the tooth, and the gravy is bold but not argumenative. The Chorizo & Egg is just about a perfect balance of the two even though the chorizo itself is probably no different than that used by half the taco shops in town, and the whole thing has a nice mellow flavor that gets attention but doesn’t have to ask for it. The tacos came with ranchero sauce, and the pretty waitress asked if we wanted any other salsa, to which we of course replied yes. She brought out two red salsas – one had a chili pepper flavor and the other was more fresh with cilantro and the Hat says oregano. All this and good company resulted in a decision: I like this place. I’ll be back.

Oh, and we spotted this on the way out – ya gotta love Corpus.

From the Hat

Sometimes I question my sanity.  For instance, I’ve been trying to read the same book now for years.  A classic, the virtues of which are extolled by many a pointy-head.  You know, one of those books that you hear about for most of your life, and know you should take a look, but just never got around to it.  I decided at a Half-Priced Books one day that I was going to read Ulysses, by James Joyce.  I’ve read Homer’s Odyssey many times in several translations, and it’s always a good read – an adventure story of mythical proportions (literally).  It’s a flowing tale that is not hard to understand and it’s easy to put yourself in the milieu.  O Brother, Where Art Thou was based loosely on the story, there’s a musical interpretation by a heavy metal band and “between a rock and a hard place” and  “She carries a torch for him” are 3200 year old sayings from the Odyssey that still work today. [Don’t forget the Steely Dan song ‘Home At Last’ -TSH]

Ulysses is a whole other matter.  I’ve started it over a dozen times.  I’m currently at page 41, a record for me.  Lately, I pick it up before bed and try to get a page or two done.  For me, this thing doesn’t flow.  It’s not easy to understand, and I have a hard time identifying with any of the characters.  Still I nightly ram my head against the prose expecting it to suddenly become clear and make sense.  Isn’t that insanity?

Some have said I’m crazy because I can’t seem to stay out of school, and I’m beginning to agree with them.  University studies have always been for the most part, easy.  Not this time.  Daily, I bang my head against the science expecting it to suddenly become clear.  But In fact, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something in common with the Joyce novel.  Am I just getting old?  Is my current difficulty with Ulysses and University just the way of things?  I hope not.  I’m not one to crawl under a shawl in a rocker on the porch – rocking and talkin’ the weather.  So I probably won’t give up on either of my nemesis tasks.  I’ll just have to sprinkle some easy things to do into the mix.  Like Taco Friday’s feast with friends.

And this Friday was easy.  We heard the siren call of Alteno #3 this morning.  The first suitor was a beef fajita taco on a corn tort.  The beef was good and the lettuce, tomatoes and jalapeños were fresh, but the tort was the star.  Thin, yet resilient, and very full of warm corn flavor.  The other taco was a knockout – it snuck into the party dressed as an ordinary taco, and proceeded to wipe out even the memory of the previous poser from my pallet.  Piernas they called it (hog leg). It was roasted, then fried maybe?  Anyway, it was great and I had to have a few to go for those at the office.  It also was served with lettuce and tomato, but on a respectable flour tarpolean.  All of the three salsas were pretty good.  Let’s see what else I can ease my way into this weekend.


Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Ellen Barkin

Often cast as the ‘manic pixie dream girl‘ of American cinema folklore, Ellen Barkin has the talent and skill to wander outside of that gilded cage when she chooses, just as she did with her Marriage to billionairre Ron Perelman (no, not that Ron Perlman). More stunning than ever at 56, she has been an an overwhelming array of great movies, the first of which I saw being the Science documentary the Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, but also including Diner, Tender Mercies, Down by Law, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,

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 dvd of Mercy to