One particular day last week I was thinking about a trip to Elmwood and craving tacos. ’D’ is always craving tacos so he was halfway to the car by the time I’d finished my sentence. As we turned onto Edgefield my stomach started to turn. Would I have to relive the hard tortillas and mushy barbacoa from yet reviewed Hugo’s again? What’s that? You haven’t heard of Hugo’s Beer and Tacos? Here’s ‘D’ to fill you in:Hugo’s Beer and Tacos 1817 S Edgefield Ave Dallas, TX 75224 $1.25/taco, to-go only
I was less dissapointed than ‘A’ after our visit, but I am slightly biased. Hugo’s used to be Lonnie’s Barbershop, the place I received a bi-monthly flat-top for years. The idea that I could get a taco where I once received a high and tight tickles me. But I have to admit being slightly let down by the experience. I was mainly disappointed that a place dedicated to serving such a simple- yet sacred- combination of consumables couldn’t pull it off very well. Now, to be fair, we visited during the construction of close to 100 sq feet of walk in refrigerator space to house Hugo’s beer. Unfortunately that meant there was no beer.
Forgivable. With Dallas voting to eliminate the words ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ from our zoning lexicon, a 6 pack no longer lies 6 miles out of reach. But the absence of half of the allure of Hugo’s didn’t help the other half. The menu at Hugo’s is small, specializing in tacos, quesadillas, sopes (maybe), and an enchilada special. What the menu lacks in variety of dishes it makes up in taco fillings. Al pastor, barbacoa, carne asada, pollo, nopalitos, rajas con queso, and a few more were offered. Unfortunately many of the fillings, including al pastor, were not available. We settled for the barbacoa, carne asada, and nopalitos.
The tacos came out looking amazing, with two different salsas: roja and…amarilla? The novelty of the tempera yellow sauce did not cover up the substandard fillings of soggy barbacoa and rubbery asada. Turns out the enticing corn tortillas were crisped a little too long and were dried out by the time we ate them. It was the vegetarian option that managed to satisfy these meat eaters. The sliced pieces of prickly pear paddle were seasoned with flecks of diced chiles which added to the fresh, bright flavor of the al dente nopales. Our only qualm that it was overstuffed, and thus overbearing after a few bites. I’m hoping it was an off day. Or maybe I’ll be singing a different tune once I get my beer and tacos. Now back to ‘A’.
The wheels of our little Beatrice brought us to the welcoming front porch of Boy’s Taqueria, just a hop, skip, and..well, a block from Hugo’s (we noticed had half a dozen neon beer signs announcing the arrival of the missing beer). It can be a downright pain to remove our little ‘L’ from her car seat these days. So on this particularly lackadaisical day, I opened the heavy glass and metal door of Boy’s alone with mi familia cheering me on from the car.
Boy’s is anything but manly. A mixture of pink and purple vinyl tablecloths drape the half dozen tables with sweet white flowers atop. One pastel pink tulip pendant light hangs from the ceiling illuminating the brick lined window seat covered with simple house plants and local magazines. A mysterious child sized rocking chair sits next to the frozen ice cream bin just begging for an adorable sticky two year old photo op- yet a sign asks that no one sit in it. Seems that the owners enjoy antiques and I couldn’t help but chuckle under my breath at the print out above the chair describing a vintage restored claw foot tub for sale. That was a TacOCliff first.
Peeking into the kitchen’s white slatted, swinging saloon doors, I saw two beautifully weathered women. One came out to greet me in a vivid purple and gold shirt, the other remaining to tend the stove. I pointed to the white signboard with red zip change letters which read among other things: Tacos 6/$5. What a deal! A bubble gum pink poster board listed my taco options in sloppy script. But the words “barbacoa de borrego”, however, were written in feminine cursive and highlighted with a flowery circle. Awkwardly, I lifted my gangly arms and abnormally large hands to form the universal sign for “i don’t know” and said “borrego??” The becoming lady laughed, and after searching for the right words, finally answered with “no borrego”. Once home, we discover that borrego is lamb and lamented our misfortune. Left with the usuals, I ordered one of almost everything which included pollo, barbacoa, fajita, lengua, and al pastor. Chicarron was an option, but never a Tacocliff favorite.
I perched on the aforementioned window seat and watched as the two women stood face to face chopping our meat over a quaint kitchen island. The smells and laughter made me so want to be a part of these women’s lives. Although I was the only patron I imagined this taqueria being filled with joyful families enjoying the service of these two cocinaras.
The wait time was a little longer than most places, but we took it as a sign of a “from scratch” taco preparation. With tacos in hand, I skipped to the passenger side, and off we went to our favorite Elmwood park. ’D’ took ‘L’ for a few laps around the playground while I hungrily took my share of the tacos.
All the promise of Hugo’s handmade tortillas were found in these tacos. A few of the edges were blackened by the heat of the griddle, but they remained soft and perfectly chewy. These are not small tacos, but we could have eaten a few more of the barbacoa and al pastor. I always forget what good barbacoa tastes like until I find a place that does it right. This barbacoa was rich and creamy from perfectly rendered fat. The al pastor was my favorite, having chunks of tender pork and pineapple and other tropical fruit flavors throughout. ‘D’ liked the carne asada which was nicely browned. And all three of us loved the pollo which was a mix of shredded (maybe braised, but probably roasted it had so much flavor) light and dark meat that was so tender and light.
You have a grandmother that you brag about right? The one that cooks the Thanksgiving turkey just right or makes homemade biscuits and gravy like none other? That’s Boy’s. Comfort food.