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Archive for October, 2010

*Note: Unfortunately our camera quit on us a few weeks ago and we have to succumb to using a phone camera to capture images of our taco treats. I know I complained about bad food pictures in the last post and here we are posting some of our own. We are trying to find a place to fix it (it won’t accept the SD card anymore) but until then, these pictures will have to do. Thanks for your patience!

Comederia El Padrino #2
330 West Davis Street, Dallas, Texas 75208
(214) 943-8888 ‎
$1.25 for tacos de maiz/$2.75 for tacos de harina

The sky was quickly fading to deeper shades of blue and violet- Thursday elegantly telling us that it would soon be closing up shop. And here we were taco-less. A perfectly planned picnic playdate with neighborhood friends was quickly turning into a grouch-fest as empty stomachs turned parents and toddlers alike into whining babies. Our targeted taco joint was nowhere to be found! The sign advertising Pena’s Mexican Grill near Lake Cliff Park led us astray. Disappointment was soon discarded as we realized we were still in the middle of the Cliff. A taco stand was certainly close by. But which to try? Then came the memory: half-priced tacos at El Padrino!

That enticing Thursday special is surely meant to lure those headed for a stroll around Bishop Arts on First Thursdays. But the deal is good any Thursday. I’m sure that the great building and the huge menu entice people to stop by no matter the day of the week.

El Padrino fits in with Bishop Arts with its cool-kid exterior while still remaining full of authentic Oak Cliff taqueria  innards. Still, it’s somewhat surreal to see a menu featuring $1.25 tacos alongside a sleek Bentley  in the valet parking lot behind the stand. Of course the owner of that car was probably grabbing a $32 plate of Spice-rubbed Australian lamb chops, with rosemary-dijon sauce , artichoke & potato puff pastry, & glazed baby carrots from Hatties (not dissing but merely comparing). But, writing that suddenly feels like I’m letting my stereotypes get the better of me.

In many ways stereotypes both help and harm us in decision making. Stereotypes make it easier for us to process the millions of intricacies and patterns that make up reality (or at least how we perceive that reality). But often, this same feature of our amazing brain sells reality short, going for the easiest explanation while ruling out what may be the truth. The Bentley’s owner might have been stopping in for a quick taco. Or was working in the shop. Or maybe works at the valet stand. Or…or…or. The goal isn’t necessarily to get rid of our stereotypes. Instead, understanding where they come from and how they affect our daily interactions with the world helps us make better decisions.

Unfortunately, the tacos at El Padrino lived up to the stereotyped perception that many have created about taco stand tacos. The small tacos came two to a foil pack. They were tasty, but a little bit on the greasy side and  a lot a bit on the salty side. The chicken fajita and barbacoa were saturated with salt; the barbacoa was too salty for me to finish. The al pastor were okay but lacked the complex layers of spices we’ve come to expect from the marinated meat. The fajita beef was the standout, even though it was kinda skimpy on meat, kinda greyish with no searing from a grill or griddle, and pretty chewy. There was nothing particularly nasty about these tacos (besides the barbacoa’s mouth numbing salinity). We were plenty hungry by the time we got to our picnic spot and ate them up with few complaints. But thinking back on the meal does not start up my salivary glands like so many of the other Oak Cliff taco spots we’ve come to know.

The best comparison I can think of is of a potato chip. The classic image of a potato chip is that it comes from a bright yellow bag full of thin, translucent chips that can be described using the very same words I used for the tacos: too greasy, too salty, but tasty in its own way. It’s the stereotyped image. But then there are “Kettle Cooked”, “Thick Cut”, or  “Gourmet” potato chips spiced with sea salt or ginger, etc. What a potato chip can or should be is suddenly unlimited. While you may return your hand to the yellow bag without flinching, chances are you pass on it if someone’s got a bag of Kettle Cooked, Hand Cut fried goodness sitting on the picnic table.

The same goes for tacos. El Padrino’s will do in a pinch. But heres to breaking free from stereotypes.

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A year ago today Miles Austin had his first career start as a pro football player, breaking records and the hearts of Chiefs fans with a game winning touchdown reception to give the Cowboys a win in overtime. Since then he has become a bonifide football star, his name uttered alongside bitter curses or ecstatic praise by thousands of fans on any given Sunday.

The same day saw another debut of sorts.

TacOCliff quietly made its way onto the field that is the genre of food blogs with hopes of bringing some attention to somewhat of an undiscovered underdog: the Oak Cliff taqueria. Sure there were a few players on the radar of Dallas food writers (El Si Hay). But much of Oak Cliff went unrecognized. Taking on the role of talent scout, TacOCliff sought to take some farm system talent to the majors (I know I’m mixing the sports metaphors but play along). Really we just wanted to bring some positive attention to our neighborhood and thought food would be a great way to do just that. While far from superstardom, our little blog  has found a place on Dallas’ team and has even garnered some media attention (a sincere thank you to Josh Hixson,  Rachel Stone, and Courtney Keys for the coverage and support). We are awed by and grateful for each visit to our site.

Now some of those first posts certainly displayed our status as greenhorns. But it has been fun to check out old posts, re-reading and remembering. When we stopped into El Tizoncito a year ago, we talked to owner Leo Spencer who revealed some uncertainty about his taqueria’s future. They’ve recently added a second location to the Metroplex which is good news because we can hardly find a seat on a Sunday afternoon. A string of  positive reviews by Oak Cliff Advocate, the Morning News, D Magazine, and the Observer bode well for one of our favorites and we could not be more proud of the success found by this member of team Oak Cliff (some of that pride is also from the fact that we covered it first). So here’s a big congrats to Leo Spencer and everyone at El Tizoncito!

What also comes out in our first posts is certainly a passion for our neighborhood and its cuisine. After living here for 4 years we found ourselves in somewhat of a wilderness. But that was to be expected. Setting up a house is like setting up a base camp. It should be a place where explorations are launched. While it was great to find the quickest way to and from the highway, our taco hunt sent us on scouting missions off the main roads and into uncharted territory. After a year of wandering we’ve mapped out a few oases but still have plenty more exploring to do. We hope that a love for our neighborhood, its food, and the people who create it comes through as long as we do this. And as always we encourage you to go exploring, in Oak Cliff or in your own wilderness.

Now, Comamos!

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Just a teaser this week to tell you about a very important day coming up in America. No, we are not talking about the November election. We’re talking about National Taco Day!  I’m not sure who comes up with these holidays. They range from the very specific (National Apple Brown Betty Day Oct.5th) to all encompassing (Dessert Day Oct. 9th). I find it hard to imagine lobbyists calling on congress to name April 24th National Pigs in a Blanket Day. But who cares how it happens. It’s time to celebrate!!

A great place to start would be Taco Cabana for a free breakfast taco filled with Kiolbassa sausage made right here in the Lone Star State. Yes Taco Cabana is a chain restaurant and a purveyor of the anathema-ed hard shell taco. But if you’ve gotta do the chain thing, you could do much worse. Taco Cabana started here in Texas and you can still eat at some of the first shops to bear the name down in San Antonio. On a more personal note, TC has a special place in my heart developed after years of  feeding “A” and I through college. Breakfast tacos, cheap taco combos and, more often, free chips and salsa bar (I haven’t seen many Taco Cabanas with this feature since then) helped us make all nighters more bearable. Maybe we need to do a taco taste test to see how the chain does up against both its chain and local competition. Sounds like a great post for later in the year.

But back to tomorrow. Why not make both lunch and dinner taco-centric. With so many taco fillings and combinations of ingredients, there is no reason for both meals to end up identical. Check out our previous posts for ideas of how you can do your patriotic duty and celebrate National Taco Day!

Carnitas Taco from Tacos King – Reviewed January 3rd, 2010

Carne Asada from Tres Arbolitos – Reviewed January 17th, 2010

Cabrito from Los Altos de Jalisco -Reviewed March 15th, 2010

Barbacoa from Tacos Chanos – Reviewed on February 21st, 2010

Al Pastor at Rositas – Reviewed May 16th, 2010

Plus so many more! Check out all our reviews!

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