Sunday, January 26, 2014
I typically stick to smoked meat when writing, but sometimes I need to step outside my self-imposed box and broaden my horizons. Why not do so with my second love?
A simple yet versatile concoction of cooked meat, diced cilantro and onions snuggled in a corn tortilla, often doubled up for durability. Like barbecue, if the meat is cooked right, sauce is unnecessary -- though it can be great company.
I’m no taco connoisseur like Taco Trail’s author, Jose Ralat, but when he speaks highly of a taco joint, I pay attention. It’s not often – if ever – I make a dedicated trip to a taqueria beside a late night drunken stop the closest one I locate. When Ralat's photo of a taco from El Come Taco appeared on Instagram, my taste buds started talking.
Although the novelty taco can be entertaining and seemingly adventurous, do they serve sesos or tripas or could they pull off a taco filled with chapulines? No. If you do not know what any of those words mean, allow me to translate – veal brains, calf intestines, and grasshoppers. Yes, grasshoppers.
Growing up in Mexico City, brothers Luis and Javier Villalva worked for their family’s taqueria. Later on, older brother Luis found himself managing Café San Miguel then a little spot over in Ft. Worth known as Revolver Taco Lounge.
With well over 10 years’ experience between the two and a plan, both combined their love of traditional street food with El Come Taco. The restaurant opened roughly eight weeks ago and has quickly gained fans and ground in the local taco scene. Lucky for us, they chose Dallas for their establishment.
Offering attractive hours for the late night crowd, I decided on going a bit later on a Thursday night. You’ll find El Come Taco situated in a small strip center along Fitzhugh Avenue with only a banner announcing its existence.
On the inside is a brightly colored polished, yet bare restaurant filled with tables, one TV, and a beverage cooler. There is also a dining bar along one wall. Each table has the burnt logo of the restaurant which is the calavera, or a skull -- a symbol mostly associated with the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos.
According to Luis, the chalkboard menu provides a well representation of traditional street food found in Mexico City. Javier said several customers have asked for the chapulines taco due to Ralat's photo – the same photo that attracted me.
Luis stated he would like to make it a permanent item at some point. He even hinted at the possibility of the Maguey worm becoming a filling for tacos. The Maguey worm can either be a caterpillar or larva, dependent upon the color distinction. They feed off the agave plant in central Mexico, and this is one reason distribution would be difficult.
I ordered the lengua (tongue), pastor, pollo marinado, tripas, sesos, and campechano, which is a mixture of brisket and chorizo. Beside the lengua, each meat was cooked to a nice crisp texture, thus eliminating any possibility of slimy meat that could harm the integrity of the tortilla. No one likes a soggy tortilla.
The generous amount of cilantro can be overwhelming and may jeopardize the flavor of the meat, so remedy this by removing as much or as little to taste. You have a choice of four sauces and every bottle is meant to be paired with different meats, as evident by the hand-written labels on the lids.
Providing a bit of heat, I found the green avocado sauce to be the most delectable. The other three sauces were a bit less flavorful and mild than one may expect. However, they’re worth trying a few drops with the respected taco pairings.
The menu doesn’t yield to tacos only. You’ll also find tortas, gringas, and even postres. After a quick education on traditional street tacos and listening to the direction the Villalva brothers want to go in, I suspect they will continue moving into a territory that other local taco joints have yet to venture into.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Crossing over the DART tracks into downtown Plano, you will quickly notice new construction surrounding the area off 15th Street. With a recent article from the Dallas Morning News of the city's planned mixed development sprawl southward, it’s not far-fetched to say downtown Plano is very similar to Bishop Arts District.
Adding to the downtown diversity was the announcement of Lockhart Smokehouse's second location in the summer of 2013. December was initially the target month for open doors, but unfortunately this did not occur.
Owner Jeff Bergus said of the date being pushed back, “With every business, there will always be hurdles to jump over, but we’re close. I expect us opening within the next couple weeks.”
Originally there was a downtown McKinney location mapped out before that deal fell through. Though disappointed, Jill was content saying, “Because of that not working out, it gave us another year of learning and planning. I believe we’re in a much better position now.”
“This location gives us something we didn’t have before -- more space to accommodate our customer’s needs. There will be an upstairs dining area which will have a bar over looking the restaurant, and will also serve as dual purpose for an event space," she said.
Wanting to maintain as much of the building's original appearance as possible, they kept partially exposed brick walls, wooden floors, and an exposed ceiling. During the renovation, an old well was found where the downstairs bar is situated. This dated back to when every building had its own well for precautionary measures in case of a downtown fire.
As far as the menu goes, it will remain the same as the Bishop Arts location with a robust local craft beer selection. The service line will be more fluid from entrance to chopping block. One thing the Bergus' didn’t want to do was separate their customers from the quintessential barbecue experience and not allow them the opportunity to view the cutting of the meat.
With the first annual Suburbia Fest being announced earlier this month, there’s no denying Plano is becoming an eclectic place to live and play. If there was anything missing to the downtown's puzzle, Lockhart Smokehouse aims to put that piece in place.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
When it comes to lines, we scoff; cursing those ahead of us for taking too long, since it’s their fault they arrived earlier than us. Our choices are to leave or continue practicing half-assed patience.
Admittedly, there’s a certain sense of entitlement married with accomplishment when we are the ones everyone else is waiting for. You always know that everyone else is now cursing you but you pretend to not notice. You’ve waited your turn and couldn't care less if anyone else gets theirs.
La Barbecue – 1200 E. 6th St. (East Austin). Open Wed – Sun, 11 am until sold out.
If you must deal with any line, here’s a place worth waiting for. Having recently moved from their location on South 1st, the line isn’t a nightmare though it can be a consistently long at times. No fear – with live music on the weekends and free beer, this wait is the most tolerable of them all. My recommendation here is to purchase a handmade link of Pit Master John Lewis’s all beef sausage, along with the well seasoned pork ribs and a thick slice of fatty brisket. If you're wise, order one succulent beef rib and take it to go. Big Red is an encouraged liquid partner to your meal.