La Costeñita – Like a Christmas Song, Corpus Style


217 Leopard Street
Corpus Christi, TX 78408
(361) 882-5340

217 Leopard Street • Corpus Christi, TX 78408 • (361) 882-5340

Chorizo & Egg $1.39 • Carne Guizada $1.79 • Bottomless Coffee $0.99

Opens at 5:30AM

“It’s coming on Christmas.
They’re cuttin’ down trees.
They’re putting up reindeer
and singing songs of joy and peace.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

– Joni Mitchell, ‘River’

Someone upstairs was taking this deliciously depressing Christmas song a bit too literally when they tried to turn Corpus Christi into a river and decided to deluge us with a solid week or two of cold rain and drizzle.  And no, that’s not hip-hop for drill it’s the unending and freezing water that’s been falling from the sky.  I thought it wouldn’t ever let up, but this morning I got up ready to brave the wet day and get tacos I saw a beautiful thing – The sun.  See, here in South Texas we get snow once every 20-25 years.  It rarely even freezes, but it does get miserable.  The cold is worse than you’d think here because of the rain and the wind, plus the drivers here are some of the worst in the nation falling just behind Mississippi and New Jersey respectively imho.

So we came out into the freshly drying world, two by two, and met up at a taco shop my wife had wanted us to check out since we’ve been checking out taco shops: La Costeñita.  Nestled in the heart of the Leopard badlands it has been here for about 13 years.  It’s got a nice hand-painted sign and rustic timber posts holding up the roof.  We all started showing up around 6:30, we being Myself, Monica my accountant wife, Matthew my brooding but taco-loving stepson, Kevvy the Hat, Shella Bella, local personality and downtown enthusiast Heidi H, and Movie Maestro, Talk Radio Host and the Fencer with the rapier wit and no GPS Joe Hilliard.

We all immediately set about discussing current events and solutions to the vexing problems that face our city.  Memorial Colosseum, stagnant growth, the effect of karma on unscrupulous downtown property owners, the fortunate absence of working girls on this stretch of Leopard due to the weather. Mr. Hilliard who I expect is as tuned-in to direction of the prevailing winds of local business development as anyone at the table seems pretty optimistic about the future but suggested we tune into his nameless show tomorrow at 11:00 on Keys AM1440. We also talked tacos, and before long we were doing more than talking.  The food arrived and we dug in.

TacosDDMy chorizo & egg was not bad.  The tortillas weren’t off the shelf but were a little springy.  There was plenty of filling and plenty of that filling was chorizo.  My other taco, a carne guisada, was atypical: the meat was cooked less I’d guess than many taquerias, resulting in a bit tougher tooth but with a fresher flavor and the sauce was quite good and red.  Ranchero sauce was brought out, but I opted for the salsa verde which was really excellent and quite hot.

The place itself was comfortable, and filled with working folks taking in coffee and fuel for the coming day – and a day it’ll be.  Everyone at the table has unusual things they have to do.  Grading finals, Christmas parties, taking finals, getting ready for the holidays, cooking chili for the Slaid Cleaves show tomorrow at the Venue at House of Rock.  Things get steadily more and more chaotic each day closer we come to Christmas and I struggle to keep myself from having psychotic episodes, self medicating with eggnog.

After it was done the Hat and I went to take a closer look at something we’d been discussing today over tacos, the Sign for the old ‘Tally Ho’ motel which is currently residing at Dawson’s Recycling, the company that handled much of the cleanup of the site.  The owner told us some stories about the things they found during the cleanup that would curl your hair.

I liked this place.  The tacos weren’t world class but still good, especially with the salsa, and sitting and looking out onto this part of leopard on a nice sunny morning is almost like looking back through history, to a time when this was a boomtown, when we cherished intellect and the promise of technology and the future.  Who knows, maybe Joe’s right and we’ll see a new period of prosperity here.  I’d like that, but as frustrating as this town can be and even if it stays just like it is warts and all I can’t think of a place I’d rather be in Texas.  Merry Christmas Y’all!  Happy Holidays too. Celebrate the little time we have left so we can end this decade on a sweet note, and turn it into some harmony to start off the next ten years.


From the Hat

Merry Christmas All!  Everyone seems to be getting into that Spirit – including those at the taco gathering this morning.  Everyone was animated in that early morning kind of way, buoyed by a night’s sleep and a couple of cups of coffee.  Not to mention the hot fiery thing at the center of the solar system making its first appearance in a month.  I’m not complaining about the rain.  But a respite from the slow, cold drizzle has raised my my razed spirits.  It was a good crowd this morning and the conversation was current and enjoyable.  Not that it’s usually not current and enjoyable, but more brains, more topics, more points-of-view.  We were loud compared to the other patrons, but they didn’t seem to mind.  Usually it’s Ian and I, quiet, scheming about the blog; this was more like a Holiday Gathering.  La Costeñita was dark from the outside but brightly-lit inside.  Shell and I have been there many times in the evening, or for lunch.  But this was our first visit for breakfast tacos.

It’s an interesting neighborhood, S. Leopard Street; an old neighborhood.  Some renaissance has happened in the last several years, but you’re still likely to see women with no purses walking to nowhere and guys in trucks willing to give them a ride.  Just up the road is Lou’s (Greyhound) Saloon.  Lou’s is an institution where you can get a beer, good and cold, draft or bottle.  I haven’t been in a while, but seems like they had a pretty good barbeque too.  They use to sport aerial photography of a time when Lou’s was the only building for miles in any direction.  Not far in the other direction, is Frank’s Spaghetti House.  Frank’s has been slinging pasta for 60 years.  It’s dark in a cozy kind of way and they have a decent selection of Italian food.  Over the twenty years I’ve been eating there it’s been mostly good.  Like the Astor, another long-time Corpus Christi establishment.  Steaks are cooked right out in the restaurant on an open fire.  Opened in the late 50’s, it looks like the restaurants from my childhood.  Like the rain though, all things eventually end and sunshine illuminates the darkness and clears out the dank corners of the world – the sun or the wrecking ball.  Such was the fate of the TallyHo.  The motel was ritzy from its beginning, infamous in its end.  From Swanky to Skanky, the TallyHo ended more about Ho than Tally.

I don’t expect a similar fate for La Costeñita.  While still a newcomer to the area, (10 + years on site), I think it will be around for some time.  The ingredients are fresh and the service is good and as it turns out, they serve a mean taco.  I’ll probably get some groans at my selection of tacos this morning – a taco de camarones, and one de aguacate.  It’s a stretch ordering a shrimp taco in the morning, but it was on the menu, and I love a shrimp anything.  It was tasty, the shrimp were firm and bedded in a nest of iceberg and tomatoes.  It needed salt and pepper, but otherwise was good.  The avo taco was delicious, simply avocado, lettuce, and tomatoes.  It was filled with perfect avocado.  Both tacos were accented well with either of the choices of salsa.  The salsa verde was fresh and delicious.  The warm ranchero sauce was liquid fire.  Both tacos were on flour torts, torts that didn’t make my list of favorites, but coupled with excellent company, well worth the trip.



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Nano’s Taco Run – The Faux Fall & Summer Bummer Edition


Nano’s Taco Run

4722 Holly Rd

Corpus Christi, TX 78411

(361) 854-8121

Chorizo & Egg: $1.65

Carne Guisada: $2.25

Large Coffee: $1.95

After last week’s debacle we were looking forward to something closer to what got us started.  Plain jane, familiar, comfortable.  As the team of two assembled in front of the entrance of the morning’s eatery we wordlessly communicated our shared  yearning for the upcoming evaluation: “I hope this doesn’t suck.”

WelcomeIt didn’t.  They claim to produce the “best salsa in town” and it was the best thing about the fare.  It is blended so thoroughly that there are no seeds or visual hints of what ingredients it might contain.  It’s color is that of Autumn leaves, orange as the paint on the gorgeous sign hung above the door.  The tacos were big, like a horn-of-plenty set out for we weary pilgrims after our long voyage through the treacherous seas of gastrointestinal persecution. In this story, though, we aren’t the ones giving smallpox blankets to the indians.  So hot was the salsa that it slapped us out of Fall reverie and reminded us that in a few scant minutes we’d be trudging beneath the furnace of the hot Texas sun.

CarneGThe carne guisada was nice looking, with the color of the sauce also orange so that when combined with the salsa one can’t tell them apart.  On biting into it the flavor was very familiar, and after a while it came to me.  I can’t say this with certainty, but it tastes very much like the HEB frozen Carne Guisada.  The beef was very chewy – just like the HEB brand, and the sauce has the same look and taste.  The only reason I’d know that flavor is because I have bought it many times, and it’s not bad for frozen carne g, but I’d expect more from a Corpus Christi Taqueria. The chorizo & egg wasn’t bad, wasn’t great.  Nothing unusual about it.  Basic.  The tortillas were big – as were the tacos – and weren’t bad, but again – not great.  If they’re homemade they don’t taste it.


I have to admit, I’m still recovering from last weeks corporate romp. As I drove across town in the darkness, I wondered about the fare. I’d never been to Nano’s, but had heard about it for years. It has a significant following and was recommended many times for consideration for a Tacotopia visit. It was dark when I got there and white light blared out the door. The smell of bacon permeated the air. My hopes soared.

The place was cold, like a Blue Norther. I ordered two tacos, a machacado and egg, and a chicharrones and eggs. We barely sat down and the tacos were on the table. They were bountiful. Giant stuffed beauties. The chicharron and egg ranked first. The chicharrones were the small, dense, extremely crunchy ones that originate in Mexico. They were crushed into pieces that brought to mind crushed candy in peppermint ice cream. Except this candy had a rich fried pig flavor mingled with caramelized onions. If not for the mid-grade tortilla, it would have been great. The machacado was also good. The carne seco was very flavorful, maybe a bit jerky-like, but but hey, that’s what it is.

Both tacos were improved by the addition of the burnt-orange salsa. Served in a squeeze bottle, It could have passed for French dressing. The coffee was good, as is usually the case for that Bunn coffee maker. You know the type. The coffee has a rich cafe taste, but is missing the high notes you might get from a press.

In the end, Nano’s didn’t suck. It wasn’t at the top of the scale, but it was a pleasantly cool breeze in our otherwise brutally-hot existence. Salud.

We are left to bear the burden of the cruelest season to the South, but we are thankful for the food we are given.