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*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!

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!

This week we travel deep into the heart of Oak Cliff to the neighborhood of Elmwood. Nestled around Cedar Creek is a picturesque community full of tree-lined streets, busy pocket parks, and small shops. Oliver Stone liked it enough to use it as a shooting location for his film Born on the Fourth of July starring Tom Cruise. It even looks pretty  from outer space.

But the real beauty of this neighborhood lies in my memory. It is the setting of my childhood. I rode my bike along those tree-lined streets, scraped my knees at the pocket parks, explored the pools and gullies created by Cedar Creek, and walked to get my hair buzzed once a month by Lonnie at his barber shop a few blocks down (more on him and his shop turned taqueria in a future post). I also had my first case of star-strucked-ness looking at pictures of my mother’s piano students alongside a costumed Tom Cruise.

I almost expected to see the dream car of my youth (a yellow or maybe white- funny how the mind forgets- 1970’s  Corvette Stingray) still parked at the gas station turned auto shop just up Ferndale from La Fondita. The small restaurant is not something I remember from my past. But its 11 years of  business  have given the small taqueria deep roots in this area.  The exterior is one of the most inviting we’ve seen with its bright yellow facade and landscaping of native flowers and shrubs.  We’re hoping the weather will cooperate and let us take a meal or two on the patio in a few weeks. Instead we made our way inside, where the welcoming atmosphere continued.

While we probably did not endear ourselves to the people whose meal we disturbed by opening the front door a little too zealously (it is a small dining room of about 7 tables so be careful on your way in), the staff and patrons were a very friendly crowd. I’m not sure why, but I immediately assumed many of the families eating in the restaurant were regulars. There was just something about their body language that signaled they were at ease, as if sitting at their kitchen table at home.

The owners, Victor and Reyna (who took our order), could be seen in action both in and out of the kitchen. The impressive menu boasts classic taco stand dishes alongside more elegant plates. We brought along some friends who ordered some great stuff: Caldo de Pollo and an item that can best be described as chicken fried chicken. The soup came out steaming hot with a side of rice and tortillas. It was full of chunks of white meat and whole vegetables; a bright orange carrot, silky potato, and zucchini squash, all cooked just through so as to save the delicate ingredients from turning to mush. The other plate held a thinly pounded chicken breast fried in a golden batter. The lightly seasoned batter was not at all greasy, saving a potentially heavy and filling dish from becoming tomorrows lunch.

“A” and I ordered a plate of 6 tacos for us and a bean and cheese sope for little “L”. Turns out she wanted some of the tacos, so “A” polished off her untouched sope. It was plate size, much larger than most we have found. And it was piled high with lettuce and deliciously salty crumbles of queso fresco.

The tacos were impressive all lined up in a row on our plate. Moving from left to right, we tried the lengua first. Always a favorite to end up a taco lineup, these tacos were also great in the lead off spot. Mouthwatering and simple, these tacos had “A” raving that she was back on the lengua taco wagon.

Next was the barbacoa- a total taco opposite. This taco perfectly married tender shredded meat with succulent bits of silky, melted fat. More often than not our barbacoa tacos too closely resemble Yankee pot roast or are overwhelmed by gobs of fat. La Fondita’s barbacoa was full of  richness without the icky mouthfeel that usually comes with overly fatty meat.

The next 3 tacos were a blur of grilled meaty chunks. We ordered the carne asada, another beef filling and a pork taco (update coming when I go back to look at the menu). The differences in the three were slight. The carne asada I believe had more charring on the meat while the other tacos had a piquant, spicy flavor. The pork taco and the non-asada beef taco came with grilled onions. Neither were visually, texturally, or flavorfuly distinguishable. Maybe I got two of the same taco, maybe not. I didn’t worry about it too much. Both were tasty, though too tough for “A’s” liking.

Our last taco was full of delicious pork al pastor. It was so good that we devoured it in a few bites, neglecting to take pictures. Our only complaint was that it could have been a little bit bigger…just because we liked it so much.

Complimenting our tacos was an incredible bright orange salsa. When the tacos came out, the salsa was not included. When I inquired if the kitchen had any more salsas besides the standard tomato based salsa that came with our chips the server was unsure of my ability to take the heat. Thankfully I convinced her I could handle it, but had my doubts when she reappeared with the glowing concoction in her hands. The spicy bite burned in the best way, slowly and in the back of the throat, sparing me from a scorched tongue. Make sure you ask for some.

By the end of our meal our wonderful work was done, proven by an empty plate. On our way out we chatted with the owners who were just sitting down to an after-the-lunch-rush-meal of bright red menudo. We talked a little about how much we enjoyed the food and they revealed a little bit about why it is so good. Victor told us they make the food “just like at home”, with nothing made to sit in a warming tray, no meats grilled up until we order it, no tortillas warmed until they are ready to hit the plate. It sure tasted that way. By the time we said our goodbyes, we realized what a shame it was to have to leave for home- we felt like we were already there.

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Taco Rico
4970 W. Illinois Ave, Dallas TX, 75211
No Phone Listed
Tacos – $.99
Sopes – $ 1.75
Coco Frio – $2.00
All Prices Cash Only!!

There was a time when “the outskirts of town” meant something. Maybe it still does in some regions of the world; maybe even parts of Texas. But around our town, the outskirts of the Metroplex might be an hour away across a half a dozen incorporated municipalities, each with its own outer limits. Our modern day outskirts neighbor outlet malls and antique shops and an abundance of Stepford-type cul-de-sac communities (“from the 120’s”) instead of bumping up against the edge of  the West, the Wilderness, the Wasteland. I can see this as progress in a sense, but I’m awfully tempted to romanticize the way things used to be (especially after reading Lonesome Dove for the first time this summer). And I doubt I am the only one.

For example, last month or so, I read a blog post discussing the boundary lines of Oak Cliff. Now, I understand that the internet is no place for forming consensus. But the responses varied so much that I wondered if they were purposefully recreating the Indian legend of the Blind Men and the Elephant . Some argued for a tiny area encompassing mostly just Kessler Park. Others stretched Oak Cliff far East, West, and South. It was clear that people were searching for the borderlands of the OC. The absence of an understanding of where our outskirts lie seemed to be very important to those responding to the post. And I can see why. To live without an understanding of where one town or area begins and one ends is confusing to both those living in such places and especially for those unfamiliar with our neighborhood.

The discussion was especially heated because it was based around a crime that was reported to have happened in Oak Cliff by local news media. The author of the original thread argued that this crime and many like it are mistakenly attributed to the OC. Of course I also get sick of people giving concerned looks after revealing that my wife and I make our home in our favorite part of Dallas, Oak Cliff. But it seems like an effort to exclude areas that might legitimately deserve their crime ridden reputation will not lead to much actual change in people’s perceptions of our community. Instead, positive interactions within our community are likely to have a greater impact than trying to get them to ignore our blemishes.

After reading the volley of suggestions as to what areas should be left out of Oak Cliff proper, some of which were well reasoned and based on past demarcations, I am unsure whether the taqueria we recently visited is part of Oak Cliff or an outpost in no-man’s land, just beyond our borders. Taco Rico, found inside the Valero gas station at the corner W. Illinois and Duncanville Road, sits on the outskirts of what I believe to be Oak Cliff. While others would say that the location is too far west to be considered a part of Oak Cliff, I would miss boasting about some of what I think of as Oak Cliff’s most treasured features if they were actually correct.

Can you imagine Oak Cliff without Mountain View College? The acres that make up the campus makes for a beautiful corner of Oak Cliff. The buildings have also been recently renovated, all for the purpose of bettering the lives of all sorts of people. From high schooler’s taking college credit to retirees taking continuing education classes, the students of Mountain View College are a welcomed presence in the cliff.

Just north of Mountain View lies La Reunion. Located in the woods between Davis and Jefferson, La Reunion strives to serve the community through programs that promote the arts. Just one of the ways La Reunion is serving Oak Cliff is through a mentoring program called Art Chica’s is actively involved in local high schools, pairing local artists with under served girls in our community. When this artistic organization first came to Oak Cliff, we welcomed them and their mission to our neighborhood.

These are just two examples of cool inhabitants of the western outskirts of Oak Cliff. Instead of leaving these places to be claimed by some neighboring area it would be better to include them and all that comes with these areas for Oak Cliff. Of course this can be done mentally by changing the map in your mind. But the best way to do it is physically, with your presence. Take a jog around the Campus or a tour of La Reunion’s woods. And when it comes to restaurants, with your patronage will let them know your glad to be their neighbor.

I understand if you have not made it to Taco Rico yet. There really is no reason to stop at the Valero station in which it is housed other than the fact that it is one of the only gas stations in this part of the OC. The place is unremarkable, not run down, but just…blah. Not a lot of flash. And the gas is always a little bit more expensive than other places. Except for the new signs advertising $1 Tacos de Trompo, I would have continued passing by this place for years to come.

I’m glad they got those signs.

The menu is basic but balanced, with mostly tacos and tortas but other specialties like sopes, caldo, and hamburgers. A few signs make sure patrons know the establishment is cash only before ordering. But there’s no need to make a large withdrawl at $1 per taco. While I love finding cheap tacos, I sometimes wonder about the quality of the food I am getting. For some reason, I expect $2 tacos to be better than their $1 brethren.

No reason to wonder at Taco Rico. We got 4 quality tacos and a chicken sope for about 6 bucks. From the first glance of the tacos in the to go box (we could have pulled up to the small bar stools n front of the small television set beaming in a soccer match instead of getting our order to go), I saw some good signs that the tortillas were homemade and fresh. I’m not sure there is a scientific way of proving a quality tortilla from a pre-packaged stale one without busting into a restaurant’s kitchen, but there’s something about the way a tortilla crisps up without becoming brittle also retaining a chewy, soft center in the 1 or 2 millimeters such a flat bread allows between sides that speaks volumes. I think you know what I’m talking about: you can just tell.

The lengua taco was a relief. After a few bad lengua tacos (one greasy, one dry) the clean flavors and fluffy, airy texture of Taco Rico’s lengua put a smile on our faces. The same thing happened with the al pastor. We almost swore off ordering tacos al pastor if we could not see the trompo or spit that the pastor meat was roasting on. Lately the pastor tacos we tasted were too sweet or too sour and often grainy in texture. Taco Rico does not have a trompo but the exotic spices (possibly cinnamon or clove- “A” said it tasted like Christmas) were a perfect match for the pork and left us craving more. A completely different flavor came from the barbacoa taco which boasted simple seasonings but complex flavors from the beef. The fajita taco was not the most tender I’ve had but the flavor was classic: strong salt and pepper with just the right amount of heat added without hiding the flavor of the beef.

“A” has fallen in love with the crunch of sopes and the one she got from Taco Rico satisfied her close to weekly habit. The chicken was well seasoned (just the right amount of spiciness) and tender which is all we really ask of chicken. The crisp lettuce and ripe tomato were a good sign that the taqueria uses fresh ingredients (and I don’t mean “fresh” in the same way that the cellophane wrapped Honey Bun advertises itself as “bakery fresh”). Melted cheese, refried beans, and a slice of avacado added layers of richness. A dousing of salsa and thick crema helped intensify the flavors of the sope which was a great deal at $1.75. There was enough for “A” and “L” to share. But alas, I was left out of the feeding frenzy that made the sope disappear before I realized what had happened. Next time.

While we loved this little taqueria, the real treasure lies just a few paces away at a small fruit stand. We saw a small sign for “Cocos Frios” and wondered what it was describing. Perhaps a delicious coconut dessert, possibly a creamy paleta dotted with flakes of coconut shavings. What we found was even better.

Cocos Frios means just that: cold coconuts. Francisco, the man who runs the stand, reached into a large cooler to pull out two coconuts in all their hairy glory. He promptly placed them on a small wooden stump, something that would be used as a chopping block for firewood. If firewood is what you need to chop to keep warm in the winter, the summer equivalent is chopping cold coconuts to cool you down.

Just one swift movement of Francisco’s machete opened up a small crack in the coconut’s rock hard exterior which he then pryed open into a hole, cleaned up, and placed a straw into.

What we then tasted was unlike anything we’ve ever had. The clear liquid is slightly sweet, with a hint of the nuttiness of coconut flesh. It is the primeval Slurpee bringing instant refreshment and relief from the summer heat. For $2, a coco frio is a cheap way to escape to a tropical island. And delightful way to wash down a great taco.

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El Tacaso
902 North Westmoreland Road  Dallas, TX 75211
(214) 333-3612‎
Tacos – $1 each
Hours – Someone told me it is open 24 hours. Not verified.

Ridiculous did not begin to explain what was happening. After covering a distance from Hampton and I-20 to Clarendon and I-35 and a few places in between, we were still taco-less. First try: a stand boasting tacos and “Juicy Lucy” Burgers. Closed (and not just sign in the window closed, but shuttered with a large gate around the place closed). Second try: a tortillaria. Guess what? They just make tortillas (we should have seen that one coming). And so on and so forth.

At times like this the mind races. How could there be a taco drought in the middle of Oak Cliff? Could there be some taco strike or protest we don’t know about? Could the friend we invited along be cursed, preventing taco success? We could always review the tacos at Jack in the Box?!

I know that not finding a place to get tacos in Oak Cliff is impossible (I almost modified  that last word with “nearly” or “practically” before deciding, that I can say, without reservations, that a taco can be purchased in Oak Cliff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year). Yet, here we were; defeated. Unwilling to try just one more stand, our stomachs cursed the taco gods as we retreated from our conquest empty handed.

This week (begin playing Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”), regrouped and ready, we marched forth once more. Rebuffed by numerous obstacles (dead batteries in camera, a trip to Tyler, TX) , we emerged victorious by days end (musical crescendo). Not but a few tortilla ends, cilantro scraps, and expired lime wedges remained on the plate of battle. Success never smelled (and tasted) so sweet…and spicy…and meaty (big cymbal crash).

El Tacaso is one of 5 taquerias located within a half mile from each other where Westmoreland meets Davis Street and Ft. Worth Avenue. It has some serious competition. But it also came with serious credentials. A long time member of the Dallas Police Department recommended it as one of his favorite places to visit when he patrolled Oak Cliff. His recommendation seemed to be supported by two brothers in blue who were finishing up a meal as we sat down to dinner. The numerous certificates of appreciation from Cockrell Hill PD confirmed that the hardworking,  hungry men and women who walk, ride, or drive the streets of Oak Cliff have made El Tacaso a sort of haven. While there may not be scientific evidence to back it up, it seems to be generally accepted that squad cars parked in front of a restaurant signal 1) a safe environment in which to enjoy a meal and 2) that said meal will be above average in the categories of both quality and quantity. El Tacaso is the perfect case study to support such a hypothesis.

The heat seemed to follow us through the doors of El Tacaso. It might have been the combination of a sizzling kitchen, Sunkist orange walls, and early evening sun pouring through the large front windows that made the small dining room so stifling. But it was nothing a large horchata couldn’t fix.Along with the horchata we ordered seven $1 tacos from the ten or so offered on the menu. The menu also includes gorditas, flautas, and several platters (the Pancho Villa looked especially delicious), as well as the taqueria’s namesake dish that looked to be a large burrito. A large white board advertised a weeks worth of $4.99 daily lunch specials that has me planning return trips to sample each dish.

Our platter of tacos arrived with a mixture of corn and flour tortillas filled with the following: beef, chicken, barbacoa, lengua, pastor, picadillo, and carnitas. The only one of the bunch I didn’t care for was the pastor, which had a bit more or the sweet and sour tamarind flavor than I prefer. But the meat-was tender and plenty flavorful. At the top of my list would be the carnitas and barbacoa tacos. Something about the flaky, crisp-edged pork meat of a carnitas taco makes my tastebuds happy. A good barbacoa taco does the same thing. El Tacaso has a great one. In contrast to the carnitas, barbacoa is all about that creamy mouth-feel and in-your-face flavors of salt and beef. On our second visit- this time with fresh batteries for the camera- our barbacoa seemed to contain more pockets of fat, but did not overwhelm us.

The lengua taco did overwhelm “A”. El Tacaso serves their lengua in large chunks which “A” could not get over. I found the chunks to be just as tender and palatable as the diced or sliced lengua meat we find most often. While very good, this taco had more of a bitter, gamey flavor than I remember others having. I would only be able to handle one of these tacos every now and then.

The picadillo was full of soft pillowy potato chunks and pretty mildly flavored ground beef. I found myself squeezing out a dab of medium spiced hot sauce on each bite. The salsa roja seemed to pair perfectly with each meat. It had depth to its spiciness, perhaps coming from a number of different peppers.

The beef and chicken fajitas were especially delicious covered in the salsa. The chicken was tender white meat, flavored simply with salt. Far from bland, the chicken needed help from large ensemble of condiments (plenty of onion, cilantro, lime, and salsa) to really make it sing. The beef, however, was fine with just a few pieces of crisp, sweet onion and a drop of salsa or two. Like a good steak, the beef was seared on the outside and moist on the inside.

Playing host to all these mouth watering fillings were two of the best handmade tortillas we’ve had in a while. Based on appearance, it was hard to distinguish which tacos were made of corn and which were flour. Our mouths knew the which was which,though the differences were stubtle. A bad corn tortilla can be chewy and dry. El Tacaso’s was tender and supple.  A bad flour tortilla can gummy, like a slice of Wonder bread. These were crisp on the outside, nearly melting once in the mouth.

We can’t wait to sit out on the patio when summer leaves in October (or is it November?). Until then, we’ll count on a large horchata and a good taco to distract us from the heat when we visit El Tacaso.

P.S. This taqueria has some of the most unique wall art and decorating we’ve ever seen. Make sure you take a look!

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Dear Reader,

This is the past five months in a taco shell. D, in the dead of winter amidst  12 hours of grad school + a part time job + unpaid internship + unpaid internship hopped over to the windy city for a short weekend (see story on Maravillas). The tail end of a snowy winter saw L turn one and we toasted her birthday with  60 people plus 5 babies in our 990 s.f. house (see story on Taco-Off).    As the lightness of spring set in I (A) crammed for a 16 hour interior design exam while maintaining a regular 40 hour work week, bumping into D & L every few days, which reversed as D’s finals began soon after the completion of my exam (See 4 week absence from posting).  In there, somewhere,  L starts to talk, L starts to walk, L starts to run, bringing us joy throughout.

You may have noticed our taco blog hiatus as the weight of all this busyness fell on us and we could no longer tend this digital space, for you, our beloved readers (w e are so sad to have missed an opportunity for a Cinco de Mayo post…next year, we promise). During those weeks we longed for the red hued juices from a taco al pastor to dribble down our lips.  Our tongues called out for cilantro and onion.  They instead received frozen pizza and peanut butter sandwiches. Skin as pale as white corn, with bloodshot eyes “D” spied the sign for Cool & Hot weeks ago but it has only been this past week that we were able to find the time to stop by. We’re glad you have continued to stop by our blog. We hope it is an escape for those of you reading at work ; a treasure map for the hungry and adventurous eater; or a small taste from home for those far from it. We intend to keep hunting ourselves, so check in with us often!

Gracias!

D&A

Cool & Hot
930A E. 8th St, Dallas, TX 75203

(214) 944-5330
Tacos – $1.39
6 Taco Combo (w/ drink) – $6.99
Single Dip Waffle Cone – $1.25

The official start to summer is still a calendar page away. But my seat belt buckle– a branding iron in the guise of a safety feature– tells me it is here. Friends are found glowing pink these days, mistakenly trusting in Spring to save them from the suffering inflicted on their skin by the sun. We have tilted too far already and the sun still beckons us closer. Worse is coming. It is still safe to venture out into Midday. Later in summer, the movements of the city will begin to resemble a work of apocalyptic science fiction. Water will be rationed. Men in masks will rise before dawn with machines to tend brown landscapes full of dry, sharp blades. The air will be thinned of oxygen, thickened by a choking haze seen by eyes and felt in throats and lungs. We, will survive by keeping the elements at bay. People will move from air-conditioned box to air-conditioned box, jetting to and fro in mobile air-conditioned (for the fortunate) boxes on wheels. Those without the ability to keep their climate controlled will be forced to hydrate themselves with neon liquids– blue and green and orange– lest their bodies be wrung dry like a sponge. A strange scene, yes. But one familiar to millions of Texans who brave the summer heat year after year.Cool & Hot will not be one of those boxed way-stations of cool air. An open air taco stand, it only offers food and shade to its patrons. Yet this little oasis off I-35 will protect you from melting into the thirsty cracks of Texas ground from the inside out.

This gas station turned taco stand beckons drivers to stop by with plenty of blue paint accented by glow in the dark lettering and detailing. But the name is what really intrigued us. Turns out the name describes the place perfectly. The menu is simple: Tacos hot off the griddle and sweet desserts of the cold variety. We love places that beg the question, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  This place has it all. And by “it all” I mean espresso drinks (couldn’t see a machine in the kitchen, but seemed to be legit), tacos for all times of the day, snow cones, ice cream, Mexican Cane-Sugar Coke, Horchata, a drive-thru, and a great patio area. We’ve found our summer romance.

Ordering the 6 taco combo was easy, since there was little else to distract us on the menu and it was a cost effective option at $6.99 and provided plenty of tacos as well as a drink. The selection of meats is not overly complicated either: Barbacoa, Pollo, Beef Fajita, Picadillo, and Al Pastor. What was harder to choose was first, whether to get a snow cone or an ice cream cone. Of course, each category of dessert comes with a dozen or so options, which extended our decision making process. But we knew no meal on a hot Saturday night would be complete without a cool treat.

The words “Dulce de Leche” decided for us especially when paired with “waffle cone” and “$1.25”. That is an unheard of price for an ice cream cone these days and we couldn’t wait to get to dessert. Problem solved! They gave us the ice cream before we were done ordering our meal. We should have known, since the name places the Cool before the Hot (ba dum, ching). Next time, we’ll ask them to hold off on the ice cream until after we’ve had our meal. But there was no real reason to complain. We had an ice cream cone in hand, tacos on the way, and no scolding mothers in sight.

About halfway down the cone our tacos were ready at the pick-up window. First up was the barbacoa. The taco exploded with rich flavors that slow roasting beef brings out, especially when the braising juices are incorporated in the final product. This was the case with this juices-dripping-down-the-forearm barbacoa taco which was more like shredded bbq or pot roast than the traditional barbacoa de cabeza we have had in the past.

The Pollo taco used thigh meat, which I consider more desirable than chicken breast because of the depth of flavor found in dark meat. The flavor was all black pepper, which brought a nice, slow burn to the back of my throat. Again, the juiciness of the meat is to be noted, especially after not having a lot of luck with chicken tacos lately.

The two tacos al pastor we ordered were good, but pretty greasy. We’ve had better, but the layers of spice and roasted pork meat were certainly present and pleasant, just with a little too much oily mess. Another disappointment was the beef fajita taco which tasted great, but skimped on the meat. While the corn tortillas were soft with nicely crisped edges from a turn on the griddle, we would have liked to have noticed the flavor of the fajita meat instead of the tastiness of our tortilla.

We finished off the box on a high note with the picadillo. As with Fuel City’s picadillo taco, this one will make you breathe flames of fire when you’re done. The heat could be visually detected in the ground beef and potato mixture which showed off a green tint, presumably from a generous helping of green chiles of some variety. If you can handle heat, these tacos are not to be missed! There was not much heat in Cool & Hot’s two varieties of salsa. But both pack a good amount of flavor, the verde being my preference for its sweet/tart tomatillo flavored heat; the roja loved by “A” for its more fruity/sour flavor with much less spiciness.

Since we had our dessert first, we were able to linger a bit, unencumbered by mouths full of food as we took in our surroundings. The detail shop across the way kept the neighborhood full of music of all kinds, from rap to hip hop to more traditional Tex-Mex sounds of accordions and tubas following a waltzing bass line. We were asked how we liked our meal by a man sitting at a table across from us who turned out to be involved in the owning and operating of Cool & Hot. Carlos says that this 3 month old taco stand is the end result of a 7 year dream. He was certainly proud of his establishment (and his family, of whom he spoke with even more pride) and shared that same entrepreneurial spirit that we have come across in many other taquerias. When asked about their buisness, each owner shares with us their passionate desire to create food that people love, while also hoping to make a space that enhances the way their patrons enjoy a meal. We are thankful for such people and want to see all the best come to those who have chased the same noble dreams to it’s realization, whether that be a barbeque joint, hamburger shack, gourmet bistro, or a taco stand.

P.S. For those of you reading this post on a Friday or a Saturday: Cool & Hot is open…no matter what time you are reading this, they are open. So go and get what we know you are craving!

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