Torchys – Hot, For Austin

‪2809 South 1st Street‬, ‪Austin, T‬exas‪ 78704‬ • ‪(512) 444-0300‬

Austin’s got a lot going for it. I should know, I spent most of my adolescence there. I went to six different schools around the city. I worked at Thundercloud Subs and Tower Records, and about 100 different print shops around town. I used to hang out at Liberty Lunch, and buy NO2 at the Smoker’s Needs next to Inner Sanctum, then sit and get a sandwich at Les Amis. I would walk nightly to the I Love Video on Airport (The first one, next to Eric’s Billiards). I lived on the South Side, the West Side, and Hyde Park. I’ve been rolled by thugs on East 6th. My family ran a high-tech recruiting firm, and I watched the birth of Austin’s tech sector from a unique vantage point. I can tell you a story about something that happened on almost every street in that town.

I moved away in ’95, moved back, and then moved away for good in ’02. The way I saw it, Austin was too big for its britches. The cost of living was too high compared to the average salary, and Austin sure loved itself. I go back once or twice a year now to visit friends and family and each time I’m astonished by the amount of change. Most of the things I knew are gone, torn down, and in their place stands a shiny new hipster tech startup or chipotle grill. In the 80s and 90s buildings were prohibited from standing any taller than the capitol building (source needed), but that restriction has been lifted and the height of the skyline has doubled in the last decade. You can’t swing a cat without hitting five food trailers, and you can’t drive five feet without getting stuck in traffic for half an hour while you watch be-dreadlocked college kids lament the tragedies of the world over local craft beer and some of the best bar-b-que on the planet.

Corpus Christi is in no eminent danger of patting itself on the back too much. I mention to people here that I moved from Austin and they look at me, perplexed, as if to say ‘don’t you mean you are moving to Austin?’ And while Austin has a long list of things we don’t (Indian restaurants, tolerant attitudes, bike lanes, glass recycling, Flipside, the Alamo Drafthouse, Boyar Automotive, the Continental Club, Threadgill’s, Miller Blueprint, Hut’s, Whole Foods, Multiple bowling alleys, SXSW) there are some things here that Austin just ain’t got. We’ve got the beach, and we’ve got way better tacos. They wouldn’t admit it; they do have a better variety of tacos, with asian/tex/mex fusion tacos, and whole wheat tortillas, and all kinds of stuff that might be better on a tortilla than by itself, but we have better tacos.

Take for instance the big daddy of the current Austin taco scene: Torchy’s. They weren’t around when I lived there, and though we in Corpus are a bit isolated, I do get wind of the prevailing taco trends – and Torchy’s has a lot of buzz. They were first on my list of taco shops to visit when I made the trip north to see the Lone Star Roundup. A bit hungover, and in need of some satisfaction I stumbled in to the low-slung building and got in line. This location is on South 1st, so it was not surprising to hear Spanish spoken across the counter, always a good sign in a taqueria. I ordered my ususal: a chorizo & egg, and a carne guisada.

“A what?,” said the entirely too cute girl behind the counter.

“Carne Guisada,” I repeated.

“Where do you see it on the menu?” she asked. Crap, are you kidding? After scanning the menu with bloodshot eyes and determining there was no Carne G, and my baseline for comparison was shot, I ordered a migas taco. She then asked if I wanted the chorizo & egg with cheese. No. I love cheese, but c’mon. Every breakfast taco on the menu doesn’t have to have cheese on it, as is the case at Torchy’s. I got my coffee and in minutes I had my tacos. The coffee was head and shoulders above what you’d get in any taqueria in Corpus Christi. As Jules would say, “some real gourmet shit!” and I got to drink it while reading a paper copy of the Onion News. The chorizo & egg was made to order, with the egg more fried than scambled. The chorizo was excellent. The Migas were good too, and the avacado was a nice addition. The salsa was tha-bomb, and loaded with garlic. The weak spot were the tortillas which were not quite shelf, but would get any tacotopia eatery disqualified. Some investigation revealed their supplier is El Milagro. This is Austin, they can’t be compared to what we have in Corpus Christi. While they have innovation, and demand, we have a foundation of history and tradition that cannot be beat, in spite of Texas Monthly’s unspeakable failure to include a single CC restaurant in their Best Mexican Restaurants in Texas.

So be proud, Corpus Christi, to be the breakfast taco capitol of the world. No one else may know it, but we do, and they’re ignorant.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Callie Thorne

You’ve probably seen her before. She’s played cold and distant as McNulty’s ex on the Wire, and she’s played psycho-sexual as the cousin’s widow on Rescue Me. A native of Boston, she now calls NYC home. And though she’s a beauty, she’s not just another pretty face, appearing with acting heavyweights Sam Rockwell and Eric Bogosian in the Phillip Seymore Hoffman directed play Last Days of Judas Iscariot.

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 bootleg of the last season of Californication to

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Los Laureles

2754 Port Ave • Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-884-7010

Los Laureles is a little old cinder block building on Port. You can drive down Port on any given Saturday morning and you will likely find at least one new taqueria, or taco trailer. This is not tourist food, it it intensely local. So much so that I, the taco show host, with my intimate knowledge of the breakfast taco world, often feel profoundly caucasian with my pronounced arctic complexion and rudimentary Spanish.

A few months ago a took a drive down Port and made a list of new places to try out. Then a few weeks ago I was contacted by the catering manager for a touring country solo act whose name rhymes with Tim McGraw and called upon for assistance in finding a taco truck. Sure enough, I did find a few trailers, and one of them was on Port (though they expressed no interest in working a private event). In all this, I had noticed Los Laureles sitting humbly, and set out to pry loose its secrets.

I ordered a chorizo and egg, and a carne guisada, both on flour. The tacos came out before long and I went about tasting them. The chorizo & egg was good, and greasy. Some people don’t appreciate the grease but I do, depending on the grease. This was bright red and flowed out the back of the taco like a garden hose in spite of my pinching off the end. The napkins began to come in to play at this point. The carne guisada was like a burlesque performer: a little fat around the edges and more delicious than what is held out by the mainstream as ideal. It was fantastic. I got two different salsas. The red was nearly tasteless until it contacts air at which point it gets dusky and fiery. The green, on the other hand, entered with fanfare and stole the show. Both were really good, as were the flour tortillas.

The waitresses were cute, and not to be trifled with. The coffee came quickly in an impossibly small cup. I was the only guerro there, and crews of mexicanos were joking with each other before their day’s work while eating and reading the paper. This place gives off the feel of a restaurant that is steady, and not going anywhere, like Bill H, the guy downtown who drives the little vacuum cart. There’s nothing you could throw at him that he can’t handle, and then not bother to talk about with his crew at Cheers. If we could all only have that kind of conviction. I’ll be back to this place with friends in tow.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Carla Gugino

Carla Gugino is a chameleon, playing old and young, modern and retro, light and tragic. She was the redemption of Watchmen as Silk Spectre the elder though she was just seven years older than Malin Ackerman who played her daughter. You can see her in theaters now in Sucker Punch. She is a regular on Californication, as well as Entourage, Spin City (as well as R. Rodriguez‘s Sin City), Chicago Hope, and the show she led, Karen Cisco.  She has aslo been in American Gangster, This Boy’s Life… the list goes on. She’s just a little younger and a little hotter than the girl I confused her for at first, Rachel Weisz, who is hot enough herself to trigger smoke alarms, but there’s no mistaking Carla for long.

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 Box Set of Battlestar Galactica to

Mi Masatlan – The Times They Are a-Changin’

2000 Ayers, Corpus Christi, Texas

Everything changes. What’s that hackneyed joke about weather in Texas? ‘If you don’t like it, wait a minute, it’ll change.’ The climate is changing. Hardly anyone smokes cigarettes anymore. Fully electric non-hybrid cars are starting to show up on our roads. My stepson last night was confused at the sight of my wife and I sending invitations to a party through the US Mail. Politicians are still in the wholesale business of trading influence for campaign money – but the scale is changing with record spending and decreased oversight each election cycle. It’s enough to make me want to crawl into a bunker and shut the rest of the world out. There is one problem with that – no good source of tacos.

And good tacos are one thing that stays the same here in Tacotopia. While cities to the North with more energetic economies and less regressive attitudes are trotting out Pad Thai Burritos and Kimchee and Cheese Quesadillas, Corpus Christi is making the same world class tacos they’ve been making for generations. I think we are a society in which there is room for everything, and there is a place for these novel tacos. In another week I will be chowing down on some McMexican Corned Beef Tacos to try and beat my hangover from my St. Patrick’s day party. There are some things, however, that can’t be improved upon: The Zippo lighter, the Godfather, Prince when he was with The Revolution, and Corpus Christi’s breakfast tacos.

Some time ago we reviewed a place called Alma’s which is now Mi Masatlan. I’d been there before that, when it was yet another taqueria. This place is not the most attractive taco shop around, with utilitarian steel building architecture and well used but sturdy booths. There are no frills here. It was fair the last two times I was there and I expected in its new incarnation would stay true to form. I was wrong, and it was a welcome change. I ordered a chorizo & egg, and a carne guisada. It came to the table almost too hot to hold. The carne guisada must have been made in-house, and was perfectly cooked with big square chunks of good beef. It was not too fat, but not too lean. The tortillas were handmade, with artisanal angular edges. The chorizo was excellent with a hint of cinnamon. The salsa verde was fresh and hot, and distinctive – not tasting like any other I’ve had. Everything we ate this morning was really good.

One thing you find in taco shops here in Corpus is that the servers are always women. Having a man refill our coffee was unusual, and he looked familiar. When I asked him he said his name was Raul Fuentes, and that he’d worked at another spot called Rinconcito del Jalisco, which I had tried to write up before my attempt turned into a two month tacotopia dry spell a la Francis Coppola during Apocalypse Now. One thing that would have come out with the review was that the tacos there were delicious. I asked Fuentes if he was the owner, or the manager, and for whatever reason he didn’t really give me a straight answer. I imagine he’s a turnaround specialist; that he takes ailing taquerias and makes them into shining stars. This would explain why he is out in the trenches in spite of his gender, pouring coffee and serving up truly wonderful tacos.

Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:

Lucy Lawless

I never watched more than one or two episodes of Xena, Warrior Princess because I took issue with their use of the letter X instead of Z, and the fact that I didn’t have cable for much of the run of the show. What I did see of it, though, I liked – but more for the hotness of Zena and her ambiguously gay relationship with her sidekick Gabrielle, than for the story from which I was distracted. Recently I watched Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and was knocked out upon watching a lot of Lucy Lawless (and I mean a whole lot). She is stunning, and brings some real acting chops to the show as well as physicality that while not exertive is as impressive as those of the gladiators. A native of New Zealand, Lawless was awarded the Order of Merit, which is like being knighted by New Zealand. This makes her practically a hot lady Aragorn. She’s one more really good reason New Zealand is not to be confused with Australia.

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 Box Set of Battlestar Galactica to