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Archive for November, 2009

After a search for turkey(pavo) tacos came up with few leads(Cafe Brazil does have a Turkey Breakfast Taco, but that doesn’t quite make the cut) we’ve decided to cover another staple of the Thanksgiving table: Abundance. Maybe even over-abundance.

We never worry about finding a taco place to visit during the week. For example this past Saturday we visited both Rosita’s on Hampton and the famous Fuel City for lunch and dinner, respectively (Full reviews of both to come).  We get our fill of anxiety from the questions like, “Which taqueria?” then, “What meat?”, then “Flour or Corn?” then, “Cilantro & Onions?” then, “Salsa Verde or Rojo?” Of course the final product always brings delicious resolution to such problems. But many people deal with another food related problem. Hunger.

When our tables are full of turkey and all the trimmings it is easy to forget that some people, many just like you and me, don’t have enough food to feed themselves or their family. The statistics are staggering: The USDA reports that Texas has the highest number of “food insecure” families in the nation, 1 in 5 children don’t know if they will eat another meal, and the amount of people served by local food banks has doubled over the decade (facts taken from the North Texas Food Bank). There is an overabundance of hungry people in our community.

Today, we are asking you to generously give a donation of any amount to the food pantry of your choice. Give to anyone helping feed those without the means to feed themselves. Then leave a message saying “I gave” on this post. As a bonus we will be giving away a free dinner for two to El Tizoncito (generously provided by owner Leo Spencer) to a randomly selected poster. As the shopping frenzy that is the weekend after Thanksgiving winds down, take a moment to consider those without the most basic of needs. Thanks!

Here is a link to the North Texas Food Bank, where $1 is turned into 4 meals.

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We briefly wondered what to do about  the more than popular pollo asado (grilled chicken) places that dot many corners in our neighborhood. Should we visit the three places within walking distance from our home that serve this delicious alternative to fried chicken? What would the taco purists think?!

But, remember I said we briefly wondered. Whether a place offers more than one type of taco is no ruberic to follow when it comes to finding great tacos.

Pollo Fiesta was the first restaurant we visited when my wife and I moved from college to Oak Cliff nearly 4 years ago. It was just down the street and made the perfect lunch break after a day of unpacking boxes and painting. Walking into the converted burger joint or diner (anyone know what was there originally?) we knew we had found a unique and delicious place to grab a quick meal. Just behind the counter sat at least 2 dozen chickens, spatchcocked (a.k.a., butterflied, backbone removed so it lays flat) roasting over a sizable flame grill. All at once it smelled like 4th of july and Thanksgiving. The 3 piece meal we ordered was cut off the bird and served with warm tortillas, salsa, beans and rice. We made our own tacos that day, but remembered today that they also serve tacos.

Our tacos were again prepared right in front of us, the meat carved from chicken right off the fire. Grilled bell pepper and onion was added to our tacos along with freshly chopped jalapeno and cilantro. Cheese topped off the three tacos that came with our meal and immediately melted to create an edible net to keep all the delicious ingredients inside. Spicy and smokey, these tacos were delicious, especially bites that included pieces of charred skin. While the meal comes with beans and rice, we were full after our meaty and filling tacos. It was a great visit and brought back some great memories of our first days in the neighborhood.

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Dispatch: Portland, OR

Congrats to Isela Ortiz the winner of our free taco contest! Thanks to everyone who has posted so far! Now onto this week’s tacos:

Our first time visiting Portland was like a trip abroad…way abroad. The hilly topography,towering trees, and grey climate created a sharp contrast between North Texas and its flat prairieland full of sun-scorched grass. We were on the edge of America and it felt like it. 7 years later on our 5th or 6th visit to the City of Roses it still seems foreign, yet familiar. Food has helped form that familiarity. So it was no surprise when we found some great tacos on our latest trip.

Admittedly, I didn’t think much of Ole Frijole from the outside.  A tattered white paint job and skinny blue script showed that some time had passed since the storefront’s opening.  Part of the likable qualities of the Texas taquerias are the welcoming poster board menu scribbles.  Maybe it was the dreary weather that added to the simplicity of the Ole Frijole exterior.  Once inside, a friendly greeting by the young cashier and diner-esque atmosphere helped me warm to the place.  Wood and glass panels frame the open kitchen where two taco chefs were busily making the ethnically diverse eaters an array of authentic dishes. 

 Our fare of choice was a lengua regular sized taco, a fish crispy taco, and three chilango tacos; pastor, chorizo, and carnitas.  D said the carnitas were a favorite, slowly roasted until their own rendered fat cooks the meat crispy. Its a unique way to prepare pork and this taco was a delicious benchmark. Our host tried his first Lengua taco and was impressed. A bucked tradition by ordering a crispy fish taco. This is a great example of a popular food getting a local twist. And what a great twist, the crunchy taco providing balance to the flaky tender fish.

Later that night we visited Javiar’s, a 24 hour taqueria with dozens of items on its menu. We chose a few adventurous tacos, including tripas, cabeza, and adobabo. Crispy tripe and charred carne asada were great and A welcomed the heaps of cheese and guac on her pollo asado tacos which were a fav among many at our dinner party. Another Portlander had his first lengua taco so we’re pretty sure a movement is building (Get your lengua tacos now, Portlanders, before they get too trendy!!)  Enjoy the photos and let us know if you visit any of these great Stumptown taco joints.

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This will be a quick post to just thank you our reader for checking us out! We’ve had about 100 hits a week for the past month which has amazed, excited, motivated, and energized us. We’ve also felt pretty full!

While we feel a greater connection to some of the taco vendors in our neighborhood, there is a palpable sense of distance between you our reader. So we’d love to hear from you…tell us what you like, what you want more/less of, what our next taco should be, what’s your favorite place to grab a taco or two, what Masisa means (still waiting to hear from last week).

As an added incentive for you to post something we are offering a

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!FREE TACO MEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

from one of our reviewed taco joints to a randomly selected commenter!!!!  We will give you until the end of the week to post your comment, review, or taco tip. The winner’s tacos will be delivered to you or shared with us at the time and location of your choosing. Its our way of saying thanks for reading about tacos!

Let the posting begin…

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This week A and I encountered some new vocabulary words during our taco hunt. I must have missed the days we covered “Masisa” and “Cachete” in spanish class. But its not as if I would have remembered the words even if they had been taught to me. Over the course of my education I must have spent hundreds of hours working on my Spanish. Yet, all I have to show for it is a mediocre ability to translate objects (fresa – strawberry, basura – trash, lapiz – pencil), a basic knowledge of verbs (though I am forced to “live in the present” since I have no idea how to conjugate in past or future tenses), and a few phrases to cover for my linguistic lack (lo siento – I’m sorry, un poquito – my response to the question, “hablo espanol?”). Unfortunately, I am not forced to use what Spanish I do know with any regularity. But this blog is helping with that as recently as last night.

As we walked up to Virginia’s (vur-GIN-yahs) Mexican Restaurant we were already confused. We’ve passed the cute converted 1930’s bungalow that now houses the restaurant many times before and were attracted by its brightly painted facade and the neighborly vibe it sets as it sits between the many commercial strip centers that surround it. But on this particular night, an adjacent taco stand was perched just yards away from the front door. Had we stepped into a taco turf war? Would we be insulting one of the establishments by choosing the other? Luckily, the phrase “Es mismo?” (something like, “Is this the same as that?”, only without the “this, the, as, and that”) popped into my head and without hesitation I busted it out and received a welcomed, “Si, es mismo!” In response to hungry weekenders needing a late night taco the restaurant has created the equivalent of a drive-thru by setting up a taco stand for to-go orders (“Para levar!”: our first spanish lesson from blog post #1).

My one linguistic victory was short lived though. With no menu to point to it was just me and the taco lady to figure out what A and I would be eating that night. While not knowing exactly what I am eating is not a big deal for me, A is a bit more particular. And of course we strive to accurately report our findings to you, our dedicated readers. Unfortunately, I failed you this week. Virginia’s offers four different tacos: bistek/fajita, lengua, masisa, y cachete. While I was able to determine that cachete is cow’s cheek (a common ingredient for barbacoa) we have no idea what to tell you about masisa (IF YOU KNOW PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT WITH A DESCRIPTION!!). Also, we ordered two of each to take to a dinner party. I knew enough to ask the cook which ones she was making as she prepared our food. However, by the time we arrived to our party the plates looked deliciously alike. So, this post is kinda a shotgun blast of a review, trying to describe something we ate without knowing exactly what it was.

Two tacos stood out from the rest. We were pretty sure one of them was the cachete. Soft flavorful bits of fat were mixed in with tender  meat and did not have the earthy, unfamiliar taste of a rarely savored cut of meat. Instead, the marbled texture of ribeye came to mind. The other stand out was not lengua, but thats as much of an identity we can give it. What we were sure of was the way it reminded us of pot roast in the way its chunks flaked off in tender strips, as if ready to be dipped in brown gravy and served alongside mashed potatoes and a parker house roll.

The ubiquitous red and green salsas were delightfully different, the green picante being thickend, as if with some Mexican crema or sour cream, with hardly any heat to it. The red sauce on the other hand looked as if it could burn your eyes if you looked at it too long, flecked with small charred bits of pepper and chile seeds. We dared try it and were rewarded for our bravery with one of the tastiest salsas so far.

As we left, the owner made a point to get us some to-go menus and tried to communicate something very important to us. With a handshake, smile and an emphatic, “Gracias! Perfecto!” we walked away with an invitation to a party at his house or an option for a caterer in case we ever host a houseparty. Either way the moral of the story is that sometimes going out on a limb, whether with an unfamiliar language (transforming vur-GIN-yahs to veer-HEEN-yahs) or a new food can bring you to delicious results.

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