Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Taste of Mexico with Dawn and Burt: Our Journey Through Houston In Search Of The Best Tacos!

Back in December our friends Dawn and Burt invited us on an adventure. A Taste of Mexico they called it. They had read an article in Texas Monthly magazine called The 63 Tacos You Must Eat Before You Die. So, when we heard tacos and possibly margaritas would be involved, well, they had us at tacos. Kevin and I were totally on board. I could not wait. So, we picked the night and we were off. With several of the 63 Tacos on the list in the Houston area to choose from, we picked four places/four tacos to try. First stop on our journey was, Laredo Taquería. There we had #63 on the list the Nopales taco. If you are not familiar, nopales are cactus leaves. Yes, that is what I had said. Cactus leaves. I can remember my dad eating them growing up. This was only my second time to try it. It was not bad. Not my fave, but not bad. A very unique flavor. Kind of like cooked bell pepper in texture. But a much sweeter taste. What did rock was that the corn tortilla. It was homemade! Yum.

63. Nopales Laredo Taquería Houston
The porcupine of the plant kingdom, prickly pear cactus is associated more with cartoon humor than with cooking, in yanqui minds, at least. It’s something people fall into backward, not eat for dinner. But the nopales taco at this funky working-class taquería explains why Mexicans have been eating cactus pads forever. Spooned from the steam table into house-made tortillas, the fleshily tender, spicily sour strips of Opuntia ficus-indica combine the flavors and colors of green pepper, string bean, and asparagus. Sparked with tomato and onion, they make a satisfying alternative to meat fillings or a tasty lagniappe on a chicken-and-squash taco. A schmear of beans is free, as is coffee on Mondays when the Texans win. 915 Snover at Washington Ave., 713-861-7279. Open daily 6 a.m.—9 p.m.

Me and Dawn in front of Laredo Taqueria.

Dawn and Burt placing their order.

So, next on our Taco run was El Rey Taqueria. There we ate,#20 on the list, the Pork Cubano. I must say it was pretty darn yummy. If you read in the description below it has plantain bananas in it. And you are probably thinking. Really? Gross? I did. Again something my dad ate growing up and still does. I am not usually a fan. Especially, in a taco. BUT let me tell you. It was very good!! Something about how the meat and banana come together a salty/sweet combo mixed with again (I love carbs!) a great tortilla. OMGoodness. Take me back! Yum.

20. Pork Cubano El Rey Taquería Houston
The classic Cuban triad of black beans, plantains, and sour cream joins happily with Mexican tacos at El Rey, an unpolished but pleasing working-class cafe salvaged from a fast-food joint. In the taco cubano, those traditional beans and bananas share a soft flour tortilla with a selection of meat, including grilled chicken or beef, but the best choice is pork, available by request. Combine El Rey’s radioactive red salsa and puckering tomatillo sauce to bounce off the saccharine plantains, then observe it all magically take on a sweet-and-sour Asian character. It’s fusion cuisine at its least pretentious. 910 Shepherd Dr., 713-802-9145. Open Mon— Thur 7—9:30, Fri & Sat 7—10, Sun 8—4.

The night was young. And the first two places did not serve beer or margaritas. So, that too became our mission. We must at least have one margarita with our tacos!! That is only right. LOL! Our third stop, was probably my favorite place and my second favorite taco of the night. The place was called Tacos A Go-Go. Fun name right? This place was fun. And we finally found some adult beverages to wash down our food with. Beer. Not a margarita. Whatever it takes. So, we had the Lamb Barbacoa taco. Crispy. MMM, my mouth waters thinking about it. It was awesome! I wanted seconds. But I was getting full and we had another stop to make. So, I savored each bite. Make this place a must must on your list of places to go-go to.

61. Lamb Barbacoa Tacos a Go-Go Houston
A giant bust of Carmen Miranda with orange-slice earrings and a pineapple and bananas on her head perches over the door. Inside, you can ogle a mural featuring a devil-horned and -tailed bathing beauty from the Mexican movie Qué lindo cha cha cha. The name and whimsical decor might suggest that Tacos a Go-Go is not serious about its wares. But this cantina-like Midtown storefront takes the trouble to stock Mexican sodas and beers, and its barbacoa taco—a heaping helping of luscious shredded lamb topped with lettuce and diced tomatoes—is some mighty serious eating. 3704 Main, 713-807-8226. Open Mon—Thur 9—10, Fri & Sat 9 a.m.—2 a.m., Sun 9—3 p.m.

It had been a long night. Our stomachs were full. BUT! We were on a mission. One more place to go. Hugo's! And they had margaritas. Can't a girl just get a margarita in this town? Geez! OK. So we are off. Hugo's is a very nice authentic Mexican restaurant. We had been there a few times before. But not for a taco. So this was going to be fun. And last but not least on our list the #35 taco you must eat before you die was the Acelgas y Papas taco at Hugo's. So, we get there. It is beautifully decorated for Christmas. The lights are dim. We wait for our table. We ordered our margaritas! Score. Finally. Then we sit and order the "taco". It comes out. And we all think it is OK. Not the best. So, Burt pulls out his article. Correction. Burt pulls out his Blackberry and reads us the article about Hugo's and says, "Hey, they mention a lobster taquito." "Should we try it?" And I am like Lobster? Why yes? I have yet to meet a lobster I did not like. So we do. We order a round. And another round of drinks, too. Got to have something to wash down the taco. When the waiter brings them out. We look. I take my picture. I think man that is a small taco. Then I take a bite. And this is where I started hearing choirs of angels singing. And the room started spinning. OMG. This was a GREAT taco. WOW! We all agreed. Me and Burt especially because we immediately ordered another one. And I am about to bust a gut at this point. But the taco. You don't understand. It was so good! I had to have one more before we left. Needless, to say we did not save room for dessert. But no harm. We had a great night. Lots of laughs. And some pretty darn good tacos.

35. Acelgas y Papas Hugo’s Houston
While a decadent $6 lobster taquito initially grabs all the attention at this stylish Montrose-area Mexican restaurant, it is a far humbler offering that takes top honors. A down-to-earth duet of acelgas—Swiss chard—and diced potatoes is sautéed in olive oil with a hint of garlic. Just enough of the chard’s agreeably bitter taste remains to rub against the starchy sweetness of the papas. At an establishment where rabbit, octopus, duck, and goat are regularly served, how refreshing to be reminded that carnivores aren’t the only ones who can enjoy killer tacos. That Swiss chard happens to be high in vitamin A and low in calories makes the experience that much happier. 1600 Westheimer Rd., 713-524-7744. Open Sun—Thur 11—10, Fri & Sat 11—11.

Patron Silver Margaritas. The best margarita I have EVER had! Yes, #1 on my list. EVER.

The Acelgas y Papas

My #1 choice for Best Taco of the night. The Lobster Taco. I ate 2 of these. It was like a party in my mouth. It was AWESOME!

Thanks to Dawn and Burt for a GREAT evening. One I will not forget in a really long time. Check out the list. There are a few more in Houston, and tons in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. Get to eating!!


The McKinney's said...

I think this is so fun! What a great memory and yummmm - to find tacos is sucha great adventure - it reminds me of gayle and her hamburger quest!

Danielle said...

I'm so envious. I might launch the taco adventure here in San Antonio. Are there recommended SA tacos?

Amanda C. said...

All I can say is "NO NEW TACOS!!!!" and I can officially say I am hungry for is 10:13 PM...already had my dinner and am hungry again...that food looked amazingly good. What a good time you all had...

TracyB said...

How fun!! I LOVE Mexican food!


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