Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Taqueria Tariacuri

A taco truck located on Fondren, just north of Harwin
This unit has disappeared, replaced by another taco truck I haven't tried.

I spotted this one on my way up to Sabor Venezolano, the Venezuelan truck on Westheimer at Crossview, and had to circle around for a second look. I thought I saw something about Puerto Rico on the side of the truck and I would love to find some Puerto Rican street food in Houston. I don't know what I thought I saw out of the corner of my eye but it's a Mexican taco truck all the way; Tariacuri is a small town in Michoacan.

A look at the menu did reveal some interesting offerings however and I went back a couple of days later to try a Pambazo.

Pambazos are a type of dipped Mexican sandwich and there aren't many places that I know of in Houston that offer them. I saw a roll, not a baguette, dipped in a tub of guajillo pepper sauce but saw no more of the preparation. When it was presented, the roll was dry and manageable as a sandwich and I thought perhaps it had been baked. The filling was simple, diced, grilled chicken, lettuce and tomato, avocado, a little queso and crema or mayo, I think, but no refritos or some of the other ingredients usually included on a torta. I've only had a Pambazo at one other place here, Mexico's Deli on Dairy Ashford. Usually I have nothing but praise for their sandwiches but the pambazo there was humongous, enough for three servings, soggy and unmanageable as a sandwich, and the main ingredient, Milanesa, was tough and needed a knife to cut. I like this simple Pambazo at Tariacuri much better.

I also tried a Toquere, a thick corn tortilla (a tlacoyo like used for gorditas and huaraches), spread with refritos and topped with queso and crema and a salsa verde then toasted on a grill until the queso melted. Mine didn't look anywhere near as good as the one pictured on the truck and was just okay.

Another item on the menu that looked interesting was Chips Locos under the Antojitos section, a bag of Fritos that appeared to have onions and salsa added. I saw this being prepared for another customer and it looked like pickled onions were used.

A few days later I went back to try another Pambazo and the Chips Locos. There are no prices posted but there is a note in the window that the Pambazo con Chorizo y Papas is on special for just $3. This is a classic Pambazo, Choripapas for short. This time I saw the roll being held over an open flame after coming out of the guajillo sauce; flames leapt up around the roll and when they died down, it was placed on the grill to toast on both sides. The sandwich was another simple one, just diced potatoes, a very bland chorizo, lettuce, tomato, etc. I had guessed before that they use slightly stale rolls for this since presumably they would absorb less of the sauce and toast up better and that was very apparent on this visit as the roll was very stale. The predominant taste was the potatoes and I was disappointed in the stale bread and bland chorizo but again I found this simple sandwich satisfying.

The girl working the truck by herself that day apparently had no idea what Chips Locos was and I left without it but returned a few days later just to try it as a snack. It turned out what I thought were pickled onions being added to the Fritos for the Chips Locos were actually pickled pig skins - cueritos. Along with some lime, that appears to be all there is to the dish; there are three salsas available in squeeze bottles at the truck but for this you are handed a bottle of Valentina Hot Sauce to add to your heart's content. I have since learned this dish seems to be more commonly made with Doritos rather than Fritos and is considered a Naca treat, as are Pambazos and especially the Pambazo Choripapas. Loosely translated, Naca means country bumpkin or 'trailer trash.'

They also offer a Tostada con cueritos.

On another visit I tried a Gordita and a taco. There is no listing of meats available but apparently all they have are 'beef, chicken and pork.' I got a beef gordita and a pork taco (the girl at the window confirmed this was al pastor).

The pork was very tender and flavorful although there was no evidence of pineapple. The meat in the gordita, however, was very gristly. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be fajita or guisado; it looked more like the latter. I've grown really fond of the looser texture of the tlacoyo as opposed to tortillas but I think I'll stick to the pork and chicken options here.

Besides the items I've tried there are burritos, platillos, quesadillas, tortas (Hawaiiana, Campechana, Cubano), tostadas de cameron and coktel de cameron, plus enchiladas con huilotes or con patitas de puerco en vinagre. It's not often you encounter quail on a Houston taco truck. Prices tend to be a little higher than most taco trucks; the al pastor taco was apparently $1.75.

The place has had customers every time I've been by, frequently several standing around waiting.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gone but not forgotten - Sandwiches

I've been feeling rather nostalgic lately.

The Patacones at the short-lived Pana's Cafe on Scarsdale. One of the tastiest sandwiches I've ever had in my life.

The Chicago Italian Beef with hot gardiniera at JC's Chicago Deli on Spencer Highway in La Porte. Regulation Vienna Beef provisions, put together right. I could also mention the Chicago Italian Beef at the short-lived Troy's Dawg House Grill on Live Oak, made with Troy's own recipe for Italian Beef but sadly I don't have a picture. Troy's was better but JC's was the second best I've ever had in Houston.

The Breaded Pork Tenderloin sandwich at the shuttered Heights Camphouse Barbecue (they called it a Pork Burger). The famous Midwestern sandwich; a portion of pork (sirloin is often used but it should be tenderloin), flattened, breaded and fried like CFS.

The Olajuwon Special at Kahn's.