Las Milpas – For Better or Worse

Double Dodges
3036 South Port, Corpus Christi, TX 78405 • (361) 884-3050
Carne G – $2.10 • Chorizo & Egg – $1.65 • Coffee – $1.10

This morning we dined at Las Milpas on Port.  Full disclosure: years ago my lovely wife did payroll for this place, and the kid even did some child labor there.  This was back before my love of tacos plucked me from the strong field of amateurs here in Corpus Christi and dropped me into the flush position of professional breakfast taco enthusiast (sans pay).

I usually google these places when I start to put these posts together, and I try to link to  In the process I see a few reviews almost always varying wildly : “This is the worst place ever!” or “I named my first born child after the caldo”

Most of the places we review, after going through our rigorous statistical analysis, end up with a grade of a high B or a low A.  Sometimes we’ll go weeks with each restaurant varying less than 2 percentage points from the prior weeks.  You might think we’re padding our data, that we’re engaged in some kind of tac-ola. I can assure you we’re not, and I’ll stick to that story until the FCC (F the FCC, by the way) comes to indict me.
I thought it would make sense to shed a little light on tacotopia’s rating system.  I modeled it after academic grades, the most familiar system I could think of. 90-100 is an A, 80-90 is a B, 70-80 is a C, anything else is unacceptable.  Here in the Texas Rivera our tacos are at a level that is so exceptional we can barely find a place that, judged objectively according to the most comprehensive and advanced statistical methodologies, isn’t really tasty.  Sometimes I think, they can’t all be so good – is there a problem with our instruments?  Is our math sound?  Then I try to get a taco out of town and I quickly realize Corpus Christi is the Breakfast Taco Capital of the World.
But I digress.

So Matt the Hoople and I are early, even after a stop at the gas station and a full check of the oil, coolant, tranny fluid, and a fill-up.  We opt to wait for the Hat inside, who showed up shortly with ‘Sea-Shell,’ his better half, who when averaged in brings the Hat’s score up pretty well in anybody’s book.

I didn’t really need a menu but I have to mention the menus at Las Milpas have huge photos of all the items with large print in black and gold. Blind people could read them from their heat signature. There are literally only four items on some of the pages, all laminated, and spiral bound.  They’re so heavy they should put a ‘team-lift’ label on the back.


And if that weren’t enough, then came the tacos.  The chorizo & egg, as well as the carne guisada, were a solid B.  Not great, but very tasty.  The salsa was good.  The food was out quickly (except for the Hat’s), and the coffee kept coming.  The real shining star were the tortillas – not only were the huge in diameter but they were thicker than the fog on the harbor bridge this morning.  Resembling few things more than a pancake, they were very tender and fairly light – almost a little cakey.  The outside of mine was pretty well toasted but you could hardly tell biting into it.

The place was clean, and the waitress adept.  We did have to struggle a bit in conversation to keep from being drowned out by the flat screen TVs adorning every wall.  At least they weren’t all tuned to Fox.

Shout out to Oscar Ramirez who put it in our heads that we should check this place out.  If you have any suggestions, and maybe some time free early Fridays, let us know and you might be selected as a special guest commentator.

From the Hat
Something Shelly said this morning got me to thinking.  She was busy with her huevos a la Mexicana when she said, “There REALLY are a lot of good taquerias in Corpus.”
She’s right, of course.  But it’s more than that.  Each one does the same thing in different ways and I’m always amazed by how different people like different things.  Two people can see the same movie, eat the same meal, hear the same band, and not agree on any of them.    I say, “Yay! New Star Trek Movie.”  But it gets a resounding “Boo” from my friend Thomas.  Sometimes someone’s in error, as is Thomas in this case, but mostly we have different priorities and those priorities shape how we experience something.  I won’t go deep into, nor linger long in movieland for fear of being squashed like a bug by those who dwell there.  So I’ll move it to the realm of breakfast tacos.  I purposely did not order the chicharron taco this morning.  This past weekend we went to Sonny’s where they have what I think are the best Chicarrones known to mankind.  I didn’t want the lingering memory of another taqueria to cloud my judgement as to the chicharrones at Las Milpas.  M. ordered a chicharron taco, however and I was curious how they were done.  Were they the airy, out-of-the-bag kind, or were they my favorite, the dense and crispy, deep-fried-on-the-spot kind?  Or were they the soft, braised-for-hours kind?  My point is that some like them soft, others not, some stewed, others fried, and still others that find the whole idea of eating pig skin (or barbacoa, or tripas, or mollejas) repulsive.  So what does my proclamation about how good the nopalitos and egg taco is mean to someone who finds the idea of eating cactus disturbing?  What are we doing when we meet Friday for tacos then (blab) blog about it?  Well, we’re visiting, and drinking coffee, and eating tacos.  And this morning is no exception.
Las Milpas was brightly lit and chilled to hang beef.  It was a first visit for me and thought I’d celebrate by ordering the barbacoa.  Unfortunately for me Las Milpas serves barbacoa only on Saturdays and Sundays so I opted for the lengua con cebollas y cilantro on a homemade corn tarp, and a nopalitos con huevos a la Mexicana on flour.  The flour tortilla was a sleeping bag-sized monster that if stuffed full would have taken a forklift to get off the plate.   It was distinctive in my experience, for its fluffiness.  The nopalito stuffing was good – with a load of eggs and a good mix of vegetables and cactus.  Good ingredients, I think, but no fireworks.  The lengua taco was on a smaller tortilla – thin and corny.  As homemade corn tortillas go, it was good, but not a home run.  The lengua, however was very good.  Tender, roasty…a pinch of salt made it a very respectable effort.  The salsa was delicious.  It was an interesting, not-green-but-not-red color not often seen in a salsa.   I found myself wanting something a bit hotter, but I think that might have been about me and not the salsa.  The coffee was café good and I knew right away that I could not keep up with the waitress’s coffee deployment regimen and just gave in to the idea of a perpetually-full cup of Joe.


El Rodeo de Jalisco

El Rodeo Window

126 North Staples Street
Corpus Christi, TX 78401-3012
(361) 882-2199
Monday – Saturday 6:00AM – 8:00PM
Sunday 7:00AM – 2:00PM
Chorizo & Egg: $1.35, Carne Guisada: $1.60, Bottomless Coffee: $1.00

Back to work, nose to the grindstone… This will be the year I realize my life’s ambitions, write the great American novel, lose weight, get fit, learn Spanish, publish a comic book, make my internet t-shirt store profitable, host a ifoce breakfast taco eating contest, run a marathon.  Any one of these things would be nice, any two too much to ask for.  Really, last year wasn’t so bad but with the cold wind blowing cleanly through my shirt and my nipples harder than the male end of a pearl snap it occurs to me the year may hold some surprises for all of us.

Hat and I had agreed to meet at Brandy’s this morning at a later-than-usual 7:00AM. Brandy’s is about a block (the long way) from my shop so I parked at my normal spot and walked over.  The wind downtown has little to block it from the ocean and so it was whipping, and then I discovered my coat’s zipper wouldn’t zip – perhaps atrophied from neglect.  As I walked up to the rendezvous point I see no lights, and then no hours posted.  I was a little early so I waited in the freezing wind, huddled in the doorway of the derelict Center Theater with it’s graffiti and dead bird carcasses peering out through the locked glass doors hoping Kevin was eager enough for tacos to be early, if not on time, if not too late.  Sure enough, I see his truck pull up and I hop into the relief of still air and that distinctive Dodge aroma.

We headed up the bluff to El Rodeo de Jalisco which I was pretty sure was open.  A few years ago I was at a family thanksgiving meal and went looking for something open and found this place serving up tacos and coffee to bicycle police, always a good sign. The place is a little dingy, a little funky; none of the walls are quite plumb, none of the corners are quite square.  The ceiling tiles at the front of the last row are about a foot and a half wider than at the back.  None of these things necessarily reflect the quality (or at least the taste) of the fare.  In fact I’d argue a little funk adds flavor to the food.  Some of the best tacos I’ve had have been produced in grimy holes in the wall, and this place falls well short of the grimy threshold and is merely off-white.

El Rodeo Tacos

As always I ordered a Carne Guisada, a Chorizo & Egg, and a cup of coffee.  The coffee came in a small cup but I never saw the bottom of it, and our waitress may not have been as conversant in English as in Spanish but she nonetheless conveyed warmth and humor  as she worked expeditiously.  The salsa verde was a jalepeño puree that hit like a brick wrapped in sandpaper – I put as much of it as I could bear on my tacos. The tortillas were excellent: smallish but hefty and fresh as the prince of Bel Aire.  The Carne G was very savory. I’ve been holding that adjective out of circulation for a special Carne Guisada taco, and this is it.  The beef chunks were huge, and so tender they practically melted in your mouth.  The Chorizo & Egg was top notch as well, and let me explain my philosophy of C&E.

It’s like the Marx brothers.  The tortilla is Harpo, and never says anything but he’s just as funny as the other two and the music he makes is what sets everything apart – elevating the trio to a state of art rather than base humor like the 3 stooges (don’t get me wrong, I love the stooges – especially Iggy).  Then you’ve got Chico, who’s like chorizo: always chasing skirt, with a thick accent and a sharp wit he is the one that provides the spice and the kick – and plays a mean piano himself.  Finally there’s Groucho, the egg.  He’s got the attenuated lilt, and with his wise if misguided direction and beguiling patter he could convince you to eat a shoe-leather and egg taco, and think it was delicious.

We sat around for another thirty minutes after we finished our food, drinking cup after cup of coffee and hashing out the future, but all good things come to an end. As Groucho said, “I’ll do anything you say, I’ll even stay. But I must be going.”

From the Hat
Happy New Year to everyone.  I’d like first to thank Ian for keeping his taco blog up and running during the Holiday break.  While I fattened myself on the season’s bounty, he continued providing mobile mealtime missives for all of the Tacotopia readers.  Good job Taco Show Host.
Driving downtown early this morning felt strangely like a million years ago when I worked there setting type for a Quik Print shop on the bluff.  This week, though it was jury duty that had me by the bay.  I want to complain about the whole thing.  How it was uncomfortable, and boring, and we were treated like cattle.

But I can’t

I’d never made it to voir dire much less to a panel before.  And my only experience thus far had been with county or state district court.  And those experiences were, well, uncomfortable, and boring, and we were treated like cattle.   The Feds treated us courteously, with respect.  The courtroom was a meat-locker and I was happy I had my coat, but other than that we were fully coffee-and-doughnutted through the whole process.
It was not a long trial as they go.  I so wanted to hear someone burst out with, “Objection, your Honor!”  But the tone was muted and somber.  After 20 minutes of discussion in the jury room, I was “voted” presiding juror.  I don’t know why, but I hope it wasn’t just because I had the biggest moustache.  It took us most of two days to come to a unanimous decision.  (I hope that this also wasn’t just because I had the biggest moustache).  During that time we were all amazed, frustrated, irritated, and flabbergasted.  Adult stood helplessly by as Parent chided and chased Child around the room leaving me to wonder in the end if I was still OK.  But I was and once we decided, we were out of there in minutes.  I’m happy to have been a part of the process, but I’m even happier this morning to be judging only breakfast tacos.

.22 AC Vent in front window

.22 AC vent in front window

And El Rodeo de Jalisco was guilty of being good.  I ordered a nopalitos con huevos a la Mexicana on flour and a barbacoa con cebolla y cilantro on corn.  The barbacoa was typical, good but not out of the ordinary.  It was served with the freshest white onion and cilantro.  The corn tortilla was good but a bit more firm than optimal.  The star was the nopalitos taco.  The pear was soft and slightly acidic as if pickled.  But the slices were delicious in the taquito – not overshadowed at all by the generous mix of eggs, fresh onion, tomatoes, and peppers.  The whole business was wrapped in an excellent flour tort.  Of the two salsas, the almost excessively hot green was A+ material, the ranchero sauce, not so much.  I probably drank more coffee than I needed while we talked and bore witness to the cold outside via our .22 window vent.  Still, me gusto mucho!



El Rodeo de Jalisco on Urbanspoon

Lina’s – Going, But Not Forgotten


Lina’s Mexican Restaurant • 6109 Mcardle Rd • Corpus Christi, TX 78412-3618 • (361) 991-5462

From the Hat

This is the second time that the Taco Show Host and I have chosen the weekly taco research site based primarily on the fact that the shop is closing.  Although I’d never been to Lina’s before, I found myself saddened that she was closing shop.  It’s like The Green Lantern, formerly of Yorktown, TX.  My memory of the Lantern is of a true cafe.  Not one of these pied, glass and chrome places that pass for a diner in the more urban areas of the state, but a cozy, comfortable place with well worn booths, and The Real Thing served up in that curvy glass with a maraschino cherry nestled in the ice.  I can’t drive down the quiet Main St. without thinking about it.  It long ago ceased to exist anywhere but in my thoughts.

Or Mr. Burger, a 4-table dive on the edge of Brady, TX that best I could figure did mostly a drive through or take out business. They had video games inside…a sit-down knock-off of the original Space Invaders and a pinball machine called “The Black Knight”. I spent many an hour keeping Earth safe from invaders and doing battle with the Black Knight in his two-level, multi-ball demesne until he had exhausted my coin. I seem to remember getting burgers to go there a few times – more often though it was a vanilla coke, or some other drink that would make the Twin Sisters Charcoal Filtered Vodka more palatable as we toured Brady in endless circles, identifying others on The Drag by their headlights alone.

Or Milan’s, man I wish this place was still open. This place was hidden in a strip center on the south side of Corpus. Milan and her partner offered up a clever, southwestern-style menu. Shell and I spent many an evening there during our engagement. Quiet, Dark, Romantic, and Great Food – this place and the company were perfect. We heard some vague rumors about taxes…whatever. The bottom line is that it is another example of the transience of things. One day here, the next – memories. And even those are fleeting, reduced now to their emotional content. But I’ll take it.

I’m sure that Lina’s is the kind of place that people will later remember with fondness. Lina, spry and smiling, sat and ate breakfast in the restaurant while we were there. Accompanied by others, the event looked like it had happened a million times. After having a bite of her tortillas, I wished I’d eaten there a million times.


I had a carnitas taco, and a beef super taco, both on flour. The carnitas were served alone in the taco, and needed nothing. I added some of the excellent, very hot salsa about half-way through. The two played well together. The beef super taco was ground beef in the tradition of taco meat. It was richly seasoned with a satisfying amount of salt. Served with fresh iceberg, tomatoes, and a good cheddar – very good. The stars were the great flour tarpoleans. I’ve left the technical analysis of the torts to Ian. The coffee was not as strong as I like it, but flavorful. I plan on creating a few more memories of the place before they close at the end of the month.

From the Taco Show Host

I like things that are a little rough around the edges, a little less than perfect.  Things that shine through in spite of their problems can sometimes be better than things with no flaws.  Perfection, after all, can be embodied in very few things.  The shakers thought they could do it, we see where it landed them.  Persian rugmakers incorporate an intentional flaw in their design so as not to offend god by creating something perfect.  What does this have to do with the price of China in East Westchester? In spite of a few shortcomings to be described in the paragraphs to follow, Lina’s makes tortillas that approach perfection.  I’ve had some good ones in my day, but not this good.  Not to sound like Goldilocks, but they were soft but not too soft, they were big but not too big, they were toasty but not charlie brown.  They are larger than a typical tortilla, about the same thickness, but there is something unique about them that you can’t quite put your finger on.  The texture is unusual, as if there were a thin skin pulled over the body of the tortilla, that is separated from it in most places.  They are of a quality that defies description, the best you can do is to show up before they close at the end of this month and behold the glory that is a Lina’s tortilla.

No homemade corn though, and that’s what I was saying – sometime the flaws make the qualities stand out in greater contrast.  The taco shop in question was old, a little dingy, and the cook looked like he’d been in a fistfight the night before.  The chorizo & egg, though, was heavenly.  I picked it up and juice started pouring out before I could even get a first bite.  So much, in fact, of the bright red juice (yeah, okay, chorizo grease) that I had to put a paper towel on the plate as a dam to keep my carne guisada from being compromised.  I say the redder the better.  Fortunately there was a paper towel dispenser on the table.


The Carne G was something else too – so concentrated was the flavor it needed no salt.  Like Wonka’s Meal Gum, it was as if I were eating a whole side of beef in this not so little taquito.

Shout out to Loring, who gave us the official recommendation for this place – though it’d been on our radar for some time, we wouldn’t have known it was closing and would have missed out without her comment.  I know I’ll be back at least once before the bitter end.



Lina's Restaurant on Urbanspoon