Alma’s – the Sell-Out Edition

2000 Ayers, Corpus Christi, Texas
Monday – Sunday, 7:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 361-888-8336
Chorizo & Egg $1.50 • Carne Guisada $2.25 • Bottomless Coffee $1.10

After hundreds of tacos my scheme to make it big in the world of breakfast tacos has finally paid off, and we’ve hit the big time. A fan of the blog has underwritten this post! Of course it doesn’t take much, he bought us breakfast – but it’s the first time someone from the real world has had the taste and the conviction of character to step over the line from fan to benefactor.

We had breakfast with said fan and a co-worker this morning. I’d use their names but I didn’t get a release signed, and they work in the legal profession. I dare not expose the tacotopia empire to any undue liability. Suffice it to say they were both charming and are welcome to allow us to return the favor any Friday they’d like.

We’d planned on reviewing Brandy’s but I’d failed to do proper research ahead of time and when the gang all showed up we found a sign that said she opens at 7:30. This is the second time this has happened at Brandy’s.  At least now I know. Next week, 7:30, third time’s the charm.

Alma’s is on Ayers, near six points, near other tacotopia alums the Donut Hole and Chacho’s, across from the old Butter Krust bakery. In Austin, I was bussed out of my Burnett Junior High neighborhood to Martin. The bus would pass the Butter Krust bakery on the way before eventually making it’s way downtown past the capitol building and an ‘oriental massage’ parlor. I was young enough at the time to think both of those places were engaged in legitimate business. Like the one here in Corpus the bakery in Austin shut down in the mid 80’s, but I can remember the smell of the bread coming in through the school bus windows distracting every kid on the bus to pause their dice games and enhanced interrogation techniques to take in that glorious smell.

But we’re here to talk about tortillas, not bread; and Alma’s isn’t a bad place to get one. I’d been here a couple of times before, when it was named Anna’s.  I guess it wasn’t difficult to change the sign when the name changed. Alma’s has a lot of capacity though it was empty aside from us this morning. On other occasions I’ve often seen cop cars in the lot, and not for duty.

I got chorizo & egg, and a carne G as I do every Friday. They came out, big and hot, with the chorizo & egg closed and the guisada open to display a soupy deep brown peppered beef. It looked good, and it tasted as good as it looked. The red salsa was nothing special, but better than no salsa on the two tacos. The chorizo & egg was unlike any I’d seen before, with a magenta color that leeched into the eggs. It was very juicy, but the juice was amber, unlike the chorizo. It was good, whatever color it was. The tortillas themselves were really a pleasure to eat. They were big, tough but not dry, well done but not toasty, and stood up to the juicy fillings better than most. The coffee went down easy, and was refilled expeditiously.

This place is odd, but I like odd – especially when odd tastes good. It’s worth the trip.

From the Hat

Have you ever been in a car wreck, or something equivalent where everything moves in slow motion?  You really only have time to say “Oh Shit!” before the whole business is over, but it feels like it takes forever.  The anticipation of disaster stretched in time as you watch not in horror – there’s no time for that – but in that blank, WTF frame of mind as you hurtle toward the end.  It doesn’t really last long enough to get a good grasp of what’s going on and to form an opinion.  So if it is the end, you’ll go out in a daze, your last words a scatological epithet.  Not a very impressive ending, but getting a long, terrifying look at your demise wouldn’t be any better.

I mean, we’re getting that long, terrifying look right now in the Gulf of Mexico.  The numbers describing the amount of oil pouring into the gulf are rarely encountered in most people’s lives outside the weekly lotto drawing.  I watch daily as the oil is blown inexorably toward the coast.  Soon to come will be the oil-coated laughing gull getting his 15 minutes.  The Gulfo is a dynamic place, intimately connected to the rest of the world by currents that could transport the mess up the East Coast of Florida and beyond.  Hopefully they will staunch the leak quick – minimizing the damage to the gulf fisheries,  gulf coast ecosystems, and local, national, and global economies.

I also had that slow-motion feeling this morning.  I woke late, threw on some clothes, and rushed, half asleep, out the door to get downtown to Brandy’s.  I arrived, to find TSH and a pair of Taco Tourists standing in front of the locked door of Brandy’s.  We decided on a short trip to Alma’s on Ayers.  The place was large, but unoccupied.  We ordered coffee and I started to wake up.  The four of us sat, played 6-degrees, then got to the ordering.  I had a picadillo with cilantro y jalapenos frescos, and a nopalitos and egg.  Both were very big.  I took on the picadillo first.  The ground beef was served in a thicker-than-usual, browner-than-usual sauce and had a very promising proportion of potatoes.  It needed a bit of sal, but was savory and delicious.  Customarily, I devour one taco, then the next, but I held back the last bites of picadillo to savor later.  The nopalitos taco had some difficulty.  It was stuffed with eggs and a fair dinkum amount of cactus.  The taste was fine, but I think that the cactus juice might have watered the eggs just a bit, compromising the texture.   It was passable, but carried by the tortillas.  The flour tortillas were just how I like them – toothy and cooked to the cusp of crispy.  The salsa was fresh, had a respectable heat, and worked well with the tacos.  The service was very good.  The chef himself came out to inquire exactly how I wanted my jalapenos on the side, fresh or pickled and we never lacked for coffee.

Between the good breakfast, and the company of newly-met taco fans, I say it was a great start to the day.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Beverly D’Angelo

The original MILF from National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ms. D’Angelo lives in the imagination of anyone boy who watched that movie. She worked as an animator at Hana- Barbera, dabbled in music, and ended up in front of the camera turning in strong performances in light and heavy fare alike. She has twins with Al Pacino and was involved with Milos Foreman. Her charming overbite is one of the things that distinguishes her from her otherwise conventional blonde barbie good looks – which are still bangin’ at 58.

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 copy of Honky Tonk Freeway to

Restaurant El Charro – Getting Lucky

4105 Agnes Street, Corpus Christi, Texas • 361-881-6076

I’m in the midst of a case of snakebite, not a real snake, but the bite of the snake of fate. This happens to me every 9-12 months. I lost a valuable employee (though my other guy has picked up the slack well), my truck broke down, my newly remodeled bathroom backed up full of raw sewage. So I fix the truck, drive it for one day and it breaks down again. I get a plumber, he brings in a second plumber, and now it looks like we’ll need to bring in a tunneling crew that is likely to cost an amount comparable to a new car. Equipment at work is breaking down after years of trouble-free service.

I can hardly complain though, looking at the situation with a wider angle. I’m walking, breathing, working for myself, and I’m married to a lovely and charming woman, I’ve got a stepson who can nearly out-play me on the bass. I live in the greatest state in the country, in the greatest country in the world, in a time when the human race possesses the technological capability to do things we’d have assumed were miracles in olden times. In my life I have had some bad luck, but I’ve had some very good luck too.  Some would call it by another name; blessing; favor; fate.  I don’t presume to understand the hand of any power higher than myself – I know enough to know that I don’t know what I don’t know. Another thing I know is that it could always be worse. It just doesn’t feel like it that much this morning.

So in spite of (or perhaps because of) late nights of work all week and a steady stream of bad news I carved out time this morning to have some tacos. Of course I slept through the alarm (bad luck for the Hat, who waited for half an hour for my late ass to show up) but I eventually made it to the spot, El Charro on Agnes. This is the first of a four part series showcasing a cluster of taco shops located at the delta of Agnes, Baldwin, and Airport/Old Robstown – an area I call Bald-Ag.  We’ll review the local taco shops, and at the end a winner will remain standing – to go up against the winner of the next cluster (Kostoryz), and the next (Staples/Leopard). El Charro was scrappy this morning, though, and the rest of the boys on the block better step up if they have any hope of taking the title in the ‘Bald Ag Taco Frag’

Here’s the tale of the tape: the tortillas were tip-top, and the tacos were big. The carne guisada (“beef & gravy” according to our server) was very good – flavorful and dense while still having some spring in the beef, and I don’t think any caught in my teeth. The chorizo & egg was not quite as good but still well able to defend itself from all but the best in the city. There was good definition between the egg and the chorizo, everything was fresh to order, and there was a hint of sweet and spice. With some of the good burnt orange pickled salsa it was an A, if just barely. The atmosphere was nice too, big and comfortably clean – but not too clean.  I’d been here before on a weekend and it was packed tighter than a hong kong subway, but today is was good.  There were some snaking lines para llevar, but they seemed to move quickly. The coffee was fair, and refilled frequently.

All in all this place put its all into this fight. We won’t know until the other challengers get their licks in, but El Charro has nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe all this misfortune has started to turn around, starting with a couple of simple tacos.

Good luck!

From the Hat

Man, it’s my Lucky Day.  Got a couple of Scrabble games going with friends and havin’ a pretty lucky run.  On the way to the university this morning, I was lucky the driver texting in the car in front of me hadn’t caused an accident on our run down Ocean Drive. I dreaded  having to pass his meandering vehicle, but lucky for me, once he finished his mobile missive and hit send, he sped up to 60 and I didn’t have to deal with him.  Not the luckiest day I’ve had, but pretty good so far. Better than an unlucky day hands down.  Somewhere back in the distant past, I broke my neck.  Now that’s an unlucky day. Or was it lucky that I didn’t end up dead or paralyzed? Luck is interesting that way, depending on how you look at the same event, it can be either lucky, or unlucky.

Now before I run down a rabbit hole (in 3D) with this, it should be noted that I don’t believe in luck any more than I believe in astrology or their love child, “My Lucky Stars”. I understand the belief, but it just not sensible. When something bad happens, especially when several somethings bad happen, it’s all due to Bad Luck.  But if instead it’s a string of good things, it’s my Good Luck that’s responsible. We are creatures that by nature need an explanation. If we don’t have one, we’ll make one up.  Viola! Luck.  But as explanations for what goes on in the world go, Luck is pretty lame. I mean, let’s say I go to Cousin Clint’s Poker Night for a bit of Texas Holdem’.  If I have an unlucky night and loose all my money, someone else must have had a lucky night to win it.  So not only can the same event be lucky and unlucky for the same person, it can work this way for different people. Oh my achin’ head!  So was it bad luck that I broke my neck?  Absolutely not. It was stupidity that was responsible. Was I lucky that things turned out so well? Absolutely not. Brilliant surgeons, the care of countless nurses and the love of my family were responsible. And all of these people would have been there doing their thing regardless of my luck.  On the other hand, I had the best mollejas taco I’ve ever had today. Lucky?  Hmmm.

I did have the best mollejas taco I’ve ever had today at Charro’s Restaurant this morning. Fried very crispy – they were the texture of a perfectly fried oyster. Crispy on the outside, and soft and juicy on the inside. They came on an excellent flour tortilla with fresh onions and cilantro. Pure joy!  I also ordered the barbacoa taco. It was good, but missing the taste of cow’s head expected in an excellent barbacoa. It was lean and there was an unusual, but pleasant spice to it. Familiar, but I’ll have to have more to put a name to it. The salsa was served warm and colored that way too – spicy and orange with just the right amount of heat. A very pleasant breakfast and I thank My Lucky Stars.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Jennifer Tilly

We mentioned Ms. Tilly in the Eddie’s Review, and noticed a strange thing soon afterwards: about half of our traffic comes from google searches for Jennifer Tilly (née Chan). Since then we’ve awarded free tacos to a number of very impressive women but none has inspired such interest as has Jennifer. A compelling argument in favor of blended marriages, she is part Chinese, and all American. Some might confuse her squeaky voice as an indication of a lack of intellect, but they’d be stupid to do so. Though briefly eclipsed by her sister Meg after a casual interest in acting turned into an Oscar nomination, Jennifer has stood the test of time taking on brave and challenging roles in movies like Bound, Dancing at the Blue Iguana, Fast Sofa, and Bride of Chucky. She nearly stopped acting altogether after taking up professional poker playing, winning at Ladies-Only No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em in the World Series of Poker.

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 dvd case of a copy of Bound to
Restaurant El Charro on Urbanspoon

City Bakery – The Decline of Western Civilization

I think this may not have been painted by a professional sign painter

808 South 19th Street, Corpus Christi, Texas 78405 • 361-885-0128
Carne Guisada: $1.50 • Chorizo & Egg: $1.00

Corpus Christi is a wonderful city, filled with hard-working people, entertainment, and the best tacos in the world.  And while the taco scene here is better than it has ever been, many other things in Tacotopia have been in steady decline for decades.  It’s easy to point to (and I often do) the outsourcing of US oil profits to Saudi Arabia and the rest of OPEC as the cause of our problems but there is more to it than that.

The best decade for population growth in Corpus Christi was the 50s during which we added 60,000 people.  I’d estimate that we’ve added around 10,000 in the last 10 years. Young people don’t want to live here and our community continues to age as does the municipal infrastructure and the entrenched system of local politics. All this means to me is that I can look at this city and love it, and at the same time see so much of it that is crumbling and broken, from the 100 year old downtown plumbing to the many vacant buildings with absentee landlords who’d rather let the buildings crumble and depreciate than do anything with them, and urban blight that scars downtown (again with the downtown). Small business owners from downtown and the West side organize functions to drum up business, but even in the heart of one of the most successful blocks of businesses in the area I get very few walk in customers.

Our taco shop today is a place that resembles the city itself.  City Bakery is a place that was once great.  Long a hub of activity in the West side it was the place where local civil rights leaders met during the creation of LULAC and MAYO, demanding a fair shake for a culture that existed here for longer than the Republic of Texas itself. I have been told by ‘El Gran’ Dee among others that there would be lines snaking around the block in the morning to buy this bakery’s signature item, the biscuit, and that most of the wedding cakes and local restaurants’ commercial baking moved through this establishment.  Sadly, this is no more.  The restaurant shows every day of 50 years of wear, with none of the benefits of its toil and yet it is still there, still open, still operated by the same family.  It’s not a great place to eat, and it is confusing to think that it has managed to pass health inspections all these years.  Dee spoke of the utter lack of pretense in the decor, and how after eating here in the morning he felt seasoned to deal with any comer throughout the rest of the day.

How is the food, you ask? The menu is limited, written in stilted hand with 4 different markers on 5 year old poster board.  Half of the items have been crossed out, and one or two have been written in, crowding for space.  Like downtown, or the Memorial Coliseum therein, no one wants to tear it down and start with a clean slate, thinking it’s better to hold on to something broken than to let go of the past. It breaks one’s heart. The carne guisada was crossed out but I asked for it and the lady at the counter said she had it.  It was not good, but it was edible.  The chorizo and egg was a little better, but just a little.  A bit peppery, and I didn’t add any pepper.  The chile salsa was fair.  Shell’s water came with a 1/2 lb chunk of ice that might have come off a piece that had been in the back since the place opened.  While we waited for our food, which all of the attention of the two employees to prepare, a steady stream of kids in their catholic school uniforms and shuffling street people lined up.  No one grumbled about the wait, and the ‘ring for service’ cowbell was only politely rung once.  By the time our food came out (at least the first part, we ended up eating in shifts) there must have been eight people in line.

The tortillas, however, were very good – I’d guess made fresh to order – and the biscuits were excellent, made fresh and pre-buttered.  The Hat says he couldn’t recommend anyone eat there, but I could.  It’s got atmosphere in spades.  If you want to eat at a place you’ll remember, this is the place.  If you want to eat food you’ll remember this may also be the place, but not for the reasons you’d like.

From the Hat

Usually I joke about the dangers of breakfast tacos – cholesterol, blah, blah, blah.  But not this morning.  Today I felt the danger in that singular, crystal-clear way that the rabbit must feel in the presence of a bobcat.  Struck tharn, wanting more than anything to move but unable to, knowing that he’d be seen.  My worry was that I’d already been seen.  Traffic had me pinned in behind the Bakery and I was being seriously-eyeballed.  Eyeballed in that very threatening way that makes you bow your head and look askance so the big Silverback doesn’t knock the shit out of you.   I locked the doors and waited for the traffic to clear; very aware of the two approaching eyeballers and feeling a bit vulnerable, armed with only my whitebread sensibilities.  The traffic cleared just as they got to the car and I didn’t wait around to see what they wanted.  For a few minutes, life was crystal clear. Missing was the calliope that usually inhabits my head.  There was no worrying about what I’m doing when I should be doing something else.  No worrying about time, about deadlines, about schedules, people, or meetings. Nothing. Just silence.  And awareness of life.  It was exhilarating.  Like jumping out of an airplane.  It wasn’t long before the ride was over and the calliope was running at full steam. Unlike the City Bakery.

What a dump!  I’m having a hard time with metaphors, but it might be like the proverbial truck stop queen.   If you look close enough, look back in time, through the grime, you can see what she was in her heyday; Heart of the neighborhood, vibrant and full of life.  People lined up around the block to sample her wares.  Now the lines are on her face and the people around the block are a weird mix of young boys saggin’ their khaki school pants and hoodlums of the scary clan.  The run-down restaurant had a limited taco menu.  I had a chorizo and egg and a picadillo, both on flour.  The C&E was so-so and the picadillo not that good.  The salsa was a watery red.  It had a bit of heat, but mostly like canned tomatoes.  The coffee was hot (heat hot) and refills were not convenient.  The tortillas, though were very good and definitely the star of the taco, but not of the taqueria.  That honor goes to the biscuits.  They were soft and held together in a perfect way.  Not too dense, not falling apart.  They didn’t need butter at all but were of course slathered with it.  A must if you find yourself in the City Bakery.  It looked like they had a pretty good assortment of fresh pan dulce, too.  Shell and I had a total of three tacos, a coffee and a biscuit for $4.25.  They definitely know their market.

Thanks again to Don Dee for his enlightening conversation on old-time CC.  You have a way of description that makes one able to feel some of what the city was like, what the people were like – bringing to life the history of the city like no one else I know.


Our free taco winner for this week is:

Christina Hendricks

Making the little screen big for three seasons, Christina’s marriage to Geoffrey Arend should give hope to all men who have to count on their personality to get them through life.

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

City Bakery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon