Upon cresting the hill moving eastbound on Ft. Worth Avenue there doesn’t seem to be a whole helluvalot going on between the intersection of Sylvan and downtown. The Belmont anchors the Northwest corner, a Chase bank building the Southwest. But cross the street and find emptiness- the old Alamo Plaza Motel sign ceaselessly pointing toward a seemingly perpetual vacant lot. Yet, nearly under the giant shadow of gently draping Italian steel, big changes to this corner are in the works. The Sylvan Thirty development on the southeast corner of the intersection is looking to complete 200 lofts, retail, and an organic grocer by fall 2012. Like most things big, it’s also slow. But while the giant sleeps, nibbler hands are hard at work. Mount the same hill on a summer’s Saturday morning and you’ll find no-vacancy.
The site will host a farmers market every other Saturday through late August. Cox Farms, the anchor organic super market of the development, will bring out some of the season’s best produce to sell alongside many other merchants. When we stopped by a few weeks back there was music too. The sum effect off all this breathes life into a corpse of a corner. What a great way to use this space until the bulldozers and cement mixers take over for a while. The remaining Farmers Markets will be held on July 16 & 30th, August 13th and 27th.
This weekend hosts a different type of pop-up market: The Vintagemobile is setting up shop in the Belmont hotel parking lot. Full of vintage clothing and accessories, the converted bus has little to do with the foodie beat that we find so familiar. However, one particular detail about their inaugural weekend made us take note.That detail was tacos, of course.
The purveyors of the mobile shop have promised to hand out free breakfast tacos to the first 25 people who show up alongside the bus by 10:30am. Five of these early birds will receive a taco with a golden ticket, Wonka style, which will entitle them to a lifetime 25% discount. Not bad. But what about the tacos? They’ll be from Taco Joint.
Cue the over-drawled, “Ta-co Jointttt???” a la Pace Picante sauce commercials of the 90’s (TacOCliff does not condone the use of Pace picante sauce, nor does it advocate death by hanging for those who do).
I’m heading into treacherous waters. Taco Joint is the much beloved taco shop on Peak and Gaston. Only, that love isn’t coming from us. We’ve tried to like it. From the classic fajita soft taco to the Lester with its combination of crunchy shell and flour tortilla, we’ve gone in with open minds, but walked out disillusioned. Does Dallas really love tacos made of stale tortillas, boring ground beef, and ranch dip? C’mon, Ranch dip?! To be fair (Ranch Dip?!?!), these pathetic palatables won’t be part of the Taco Joint invasion. The breakfast tacos are much better, though the same tortilla and sauce (ranch…freakin’…dip) problems remain.
So, if you are a vintage clothing freak, show up early, enjoy a taco, and hopefully you’ll be singing about 25% off a lifetime of cool clothes. But, if you’re a taco head, feel free to sleep in. We’ve got you covered with a triptych of Oak Cliff taco joints easily within walking distance from the Belmont Hotel.
From East to West:
709 Fort Worth Ave, 75208
Hopefully by now you’ve tasted the La Monumental, the half burger, half torta, all beast of a burger that is one of the most unique sandwiches in town. Maybe you’ve even ventured to try their Mexican hot dog: a bacon wrapped hot dog with Burguesa’s special sauce (kinda spicy mayo). If you’ve experienced these two options you are excused from not thinking of Burguesa Burger as a breakfast option. Don’t worry, there’s no La Monumental breakfast sandwich. But they do sell breakfast tacos, 3 for $3. They’ll make them for you for lunch or dinner which is when we stopped by this past week. We chose bacon, ham, and chorizo, a side of fries (which are some of my favorite in Dallas) and a drink and got it all for $5. I don’t know how, but we didn’t complain. As we unwrapped each foil pack we found a decent flour tortilla stuffed with eggs, meat, and gooey, golden cheese which made us feel a little like Charlie Bucket. The American cheese had almost melted down to liquid form and spread throughout the eggs and meat. The flacid bacon made it difficult to distinguish it from the ham. Both meats just added salt flavor to the taco- both had probably never been touched by smoke flavor. Disappointing, but not as disheartening as the salsa served alongside. Pace. Or some Sysco-y substitute. Not cool and not the way to represent Southside tacos. However, the chorizo taco redeemed Burguesa from being a total pass. The not-so-greasy chorizo melded perfectly with the egg and added deep chile flavors as well as some saltiness. Ask for some Cholula hot sauce to go along with your chorizo, egg, and cheese and you’ve got a decent taco. Want to send it over the edge into greatness? Add some fries. Definitely get the spicy fries and throw a few into your taco to add a bit of textural yin yang.
Valero Gas Station
709 Fort Worth Ave, 75208
Moving a few yards to the Southwest, a huge billboard above the Valero gas station advertises “TACOS!”. While intended to lure drivers (headed West?) to Fuel City, tacos can be found at the sign’s base.
There’s a lot going on in this gas station so you’ll have to keep a heads up. Pass the uHaul rentals, the Quiznos sandwiches, pizza, elotes, convenience store goodies, and you’ll eventually find yourself in front of a half moon window adorned with pretty tile and a simple menu. We tried to order breakfast late in the day and found most options unavailable. Egg and potato was all that was left from the morning menu, so we supplimented with steak and carnitas. Bland carnitas it turned out. Even the searing salsa couldn’t help the roasted pork. However, the steak and potato tacos were pretty good; on the verge of great when combined. It’s a classic combo- steak, potato and egg- and with the delicate corn tortillas and spicy verde salsa the flavors connected in a familiar, comforting way. Again, it took a little work to put something truly good in our mouths, but the finished result was worth it.
Gordita’s Ahualulco SLP
Approx address: Across from 1286 Fort Worth Avenue, Dallas, Texas
I just visited this place this afternoon and did not write the name down. It is hard to miss traveling west on Ft. Worth Avenue, at the tri-corner of Winetka, Castle, and Ft. Worth Ave. The shop front is covered in large letters announcing the taqueria’s offerings, the largest of which reads something like “$1.00 Tacos”. At 3:00pm I walked into a busy dining room full of people waiting on to-go orders. As I waited for my three tacos, two plates full of the most tantelizing puffy enchiladas passed by, tempting me to ignore my lunch and my budget…next time. The DVD of someone’s quinceañera distracted me from staring at the two ladies with the enchiladas. When I got home I was so excited to find three beautiful corn tortillas staring up at me, accompanied by grilled onions and a jalapeno. The mild, tangy sauce was needed for the bordering-on-bland barbacoa. The real treasure was the carnitas. There are a few ways to prepare carnitas, most producing deliciously tender pieces of pork. But my favorite is to slowly simmer the meat until tender, allowing the water to evaporate leaving hunks of tender meat to crisp up as they fry in their own rendered fat. Sounds torturous but the taste is lushious and luxurious, with crisp bits sending out flares of flavor in each bite.
Carnitas Taco de Maiz
So, to sum up, not a lot of great breakfast taco options. If you want to venture out further than the 1/2 mile these places can be found, we recommend Gonzalez’s sizeable breakfast burritos wrapped in their amazing flour tortillas. Any other recommendations?
Happy hunting, vintage or otherwise!
UPDATE: The three of us had a lovely trip to the Vintage Mobile right after lunch. The Taco Joint taco’s were still out so we passed on them given the heat of the day but we did snap a picture (please see the updated gallery). We met the charming Kelsey and spoke with her about she and Jeremy’s desires for their little shop on wheels. It will be at the Belmont for the near and hopefully permanent future thanks to the generousity of the hotel allowing the use of their electricity. Please go visit! They work hard during the week to find you the best of the best out of Dallas thrift stores and you’ll see new, exceptional finds each week. Taco Joint is a favorite of Jeremy’s, often going twice or more a week. Maybe we can lure him towards our favorites here in the Cliff.