Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Day Enchiladas

So I got my Christmas tamales - from Gerardo's this year - and they're very good.

But today I had a taste for enchiladas - Christmas Eve Day enchiladas? A new tradition?

Enchiladas Espinacas with panela cheese, mushrooms and cilantro at La Guadalupana Bakery and Cafe on Dunlavy. Excellent.

Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Taqueria Tacoocho

'Tacos de la Ciudad'
South Post Oak at Beltway 8

This post has been edited to add some explanation of 'rose meat' and another picture.

Boy did I think I had a real find when I first got a good look at this one. I've seen it many times, even tried to stop once but the driveway of the filling station was so crowded there was no place to park. It's a very well maintained unit that I've observed doing a lot of business on numerous occasions.

As I've mentioned I like to look for the less common offerings and the menu here was very promising. On the breakfast menu are tacos de machacado, lengua en chipotle and tacos revolcados. The regular menu includes mollejas (sweetbreads) and machitos de chivo (goat tripe); mollejas are somewhat rare and I've never seen machitos anywhere so I was very encouraged.

On my first visit, however, I wasn't feeling very adventurous and I went for the alambre - beef (sirloin I think), bacon, grilled onions and poblanos and cheese. This was a larger taco on a beautiful, thick, hand-made tortilla and it was excellent with a very generous amount of filling. Although I only sampled it after finishing the taco the salsa verde was very good, too.

I made another stop a couple of days later and was disappointed to learn that both the mollejas and machitos are no longer served so I tried the suadero and chorizo. These were the smaller Mexico City style tacos for only $1 apiece. I haven't had suadero more than a couple of times but this was the best I've had, tender and juicy pieces of both the fatty and lean portions of brisket I think. The chorizo was very mild but excellent. Both salsas were very good with the green one much hotter.

I tried to ascertain what the revolcados on the breakfast menu are but neither of the crew members nor another customer were able to explain it; I didn't ask if the machacado and lengua are even available and since I seldom go out for breakfast it will be sometime before I get there for breakfast but I will stop at this truck again.

Edit 2/7/10: I came across this explanation of suadero or rose meat... "is a cut of beef... or couple related cuts of beef (depends on the butcher you talk to)... that involves the areas adjacent to brisket & belly... its a tough cut of meat that is usually brined or pickled before a long, slow cooking then finished up on the griddle." The authority goes on to compare it to corned beef and said that since it is pink, like pork, this may be where the name rose meat comes from.

Recently I went back to Tacoocho to try it again.

This time the suadero was not nearly as tender but the cabeza was awesome.

While there, I spotted another truck across Post Oak and went over to check it out. Taqueria Salmanca has mollejas and machitos on the menu also and they were able to serve the mollejas. What I got was not as good as Tacambero behind Canino's but was good nonetheless.

Tacos Pacos

Beechnut @ La Roche, Club Creek just south of Beechnut, and Harwin @ Allday

I noted the first two of these on my survey of Beechnut mobil vendors. I passed the list on to Ziggy Smogdust and he hit the unit at La Roche and was really pleased with what he got. I've since been to the La Roche and Club Creek locations.

I had noted the menu of the La Roche location included cesina and chivo but what Ziggy discovered on the menu also was buche which is new to both of us. Buche is either pig's esophagus or pig's small intestine, considered a type of carnitas because of the preparation method. Ziggy had a beautiful picture posted on the other blog showing the carmelization of the exterior.

I got a ton of cilantro on my tacos and although I didn't get as good a picture as Ziggy I enjoyed the buche just as much. This was the most delicately flavored carnitas I've ever had and I was an instant fan. The chivo also was excellent, not at all gamey although the salsa was on the cusp of gaminess. I couldn't wait to try both of these types of tacos again.

On my second visit I tried the Club Creek location. This unit sits next to a bottled water kiosk and is not quite as down at the heels as the other location.

The menu here lists birria instead of chivo and adds camaron to the list but I didn't notice the birria before I ordered and I got buche and tripas. As the picture reveals there was virtually no carmelization of the buche and it wasn't nearly as spectacular; the tripas was medium crispy with a little charring on some pieces. The salsa, in a dispenser on the counter along the side of the wagon, looked good and fresh and there were also pickled vegetables to help yourself to.

Since learning what buche is and experiencing it I've noticed it on other taco truck menus too and will have to be trying it elsewhere. It is not on the menu of the Harwin location of Tacos Pacos.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Taqueria Chilangos

4330 W. Fuqua @ Monrad, 1 block east of Hiram Clarke

I've been spending some time on the south side again recently, noting taco trucks of course. I've been to El Ultimo on Long Point for tripas recently, Tacos Pacos for buche and tripas and El Barrio Alto for tripitas; I just couldn't face any more tacos today, especially any involving parts of the digestive systems of other animals, so when I saw a torta I'd never heard of before - Chavo del 8 - I had to try it.

It takes its name from a popular Spanish language sitcom about an orphan who lives on the street and likes ham sandwiches. Okay, sounds like a strange idea for a sitcom but I've never seen it. Anyway, the sandwich involves slices of deli ham, 2 melting cheeses (amarillo y blanco), lettuce, tomato, avocado, and mayonnaise but no refritos, all served up on a very thin and huge telera that was nicely toasted on the griddle. In fact the whole sandwich was heated up. Pretty simple and very satisfying.

They also do gringas and have an alambre platillo for lunch.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cruising for Street Food: Harwin

This is another in my exciting ongoing series 'Cruising for Street Food on the Southwest side.' I've been making notes about these units whenever and wherever I come across them and just decided to pull them all together and put them out there in case others are interested.

This time I drove Harwin from Hillcroft out to Highway 6; four of the seven units I found were between Fondren and Gessner:

Tacos El Ranchero
@ Forney, 1 block w. of Hillcroft - this one was doing a very brisk business at 12:45pm in this neighborhood where there are numerous Indo/Pak eateries and others; I noticed lengua and tripas on the menu.

Tacos y Tortas
- a tiny wagon at 8000 Harwin, between Fondren and Gessner; no menu, no customers at about 1pm

La Fogata Mexican Kitchen
, @ Allday, in the driveway of a Fuel Depot station - small hut on wheels, this one has been there a long time.

Tacos Pacos
- @ Allday, this is another unit of the ones I noted on Beechnut and Club Creek earlier. Ziggy Smogdust checked one of those out and I've checked them out too and will post a review soon. This appears to be a real find. Like the ones mentioned on the other list, this one has buche and tripas but no goat on the menu.

Laoxaquena Tacos y Tortas
- 9895 Harwin, close to Gessner

I stopped at this one several months ago because of the name. There is no menu posted anywhere and very little English was comprehended. I inquired about any Oaxacan specialties and was directed to try their Chicken Special.

This proved to be a delicious meal except that the chicken breast meat itself was as dry and tough as leather. The rolled, stuffed chicken breasts were kept in foil on the edge of the griddle; to prepare the plate, they were unwrapped and reheated on the grill, then presented. The stuffing included carrots, potatoes, and ground beef and a portion of a bay leaf. The sauce was excellent; I presume it to be a Oaxacan mole but one I'm not familiar with and I couldn't begin to guess the ingredients, nor could I identify the green or herb in the sauce. This was one of those meals I could have plated up at home to make much more appealing and it would have been an excellent meal had not the breast meat been so dry.

Ricos Tacos Mobil
- a blue truck at Boone in a convenience store parking lot. Noted tripitas, lengua on the menu. A sign on side says - that's the Greek/burger place at @ Bellaire and Bissonnet???

Taquitos Jacala
- 66 station parking lot @ West Houston Center Blvd. I was going the wrong way, the traffic was heavy and there was no place to pull over so I didn't get a look at the menu.

Note: Some units move regularly; these lists are often out-dated within a few days of being published. It has prove to be impossible to keep them updated.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cruising for Tacos: Beechnut

Ziggy Smogdust and I have been tossing about the idea of a taco truck tour of the Southwest side. By way of reconnaissance I made a trek back and forth on Beechnut recently, from 59 to Highway 6, making note of everything available. I travel that way frequently, or at least part of it, and knew there were several but had never stopped at any nor made a list.

I found several new or very recent arrivals and passed along my list to Ziggy. I hit a couple of the units with only so-so results; Ziggy hit a couple and seems to have found a real winner.

One of the things Ziggy likes to pay attention to is whether the place does a good business or never has any customers but we've found that's not always a reliable indicator. I like to look for less common items on the menu - everybody does fajita, pollo, al pastor - but I look for things like lengua, chicharron, maybe tripas, chivo, mollejas. I like a place that does platillos, maybe enchiladas, in addition to the usual tacos, burritos, quesadillas and tortas. I also like a place that has some good naca items like the chips locos or pambazos I found recently at Taqueria Tariacuria. None of these indicators is a reliable guide to greatness, obviously; a place that does nothing but the basics that would appeal to gringos may do them very well.

The reports:

I stopped at Taqueria Barrio Alto en estilo Tierra Caliente, a truck I'd never seen before and the last one I noted, in a strip center parking lot at the corner of Beechnut and Club Creek, just inside the Beltway. I noted the menu included enchiladas but I ordered just a tripitas taco and a chorizo taco. The tripitas were chewy, with no crispiness; not bad but not as great as the tripas tacos at El Ultimo. The chorizo unfortunately was charred to a crisp, burnt and very bitter. This one didn't impress me much but I may stop again for the enchiladas.

(Tripitas on the top, chorizo on the bottom). NOTE: This unit has disappeared; there is now a Honduran bus parked there. See the post on International Mobile Vendors.

A day or so later I went to try Pollos y Tacos El Celaya, a very new, large trailer I had spotted beside a mechanic's shop at Beechnut and Kirkwood. I had never seen this one before and noted on the side they had pierna and cabeza de puerco, two very uncommon items, in addition to pollos asados and the usual taco meats. Alas, the menu in the window had cabeza de puerco crossed out and cabeza de res penciled in. It was okay but the pierna was better; I've only had this a couple of times before but this was the best I'd ever had.

Pierna on the left. This one had a table set up beside the trailer and one of the senoras brought out a folding chair for me to sit in; such amenities are seldom encountered at taco trucks.

Note: this trailer disappeared and has never been seen again.

Meanwhile Ziggy set out to try Tacos Mayra, a truck parked just about a block west of the Beltway on Beechnut that has been there a long time and is frequently very busy. I've pulled in to try this one before but found no place to park so went elsewhere. Unfortunately Ziggy found this one disappointing, the al pastor in particular being gristly and tough. This one may do a big business because it sits in front of a washateria.

Ziggy also tried Alex Mexican Grill, a large trailer on Beechnut @ Leawood, a very recent arrival on the scene. It sits in front of Alex Carniceria and there is also another Alex mobile unit in the parking lot, although not open. This one appears to be a winner. I made it over here myself a few days later and tried the al pastor and longaniza. A carhop comes to your car to take your order; a loud speaker serenades you while you dine. The menu is short but the al pastor is excellent, loaded with flavor. The longaniza (I would have called it chorizo if it hadn't been labeled) was a little dry but very flavorful and spicy. The salsa verde is excellent with a lot of heat. I really liked the accompaniments: grilled onion and nopal, radish and cucumber, plus onions and cilantro, of course. The menu includes suadero and campechano. I'll be back.

The others on my list:

Tacos Pacos - a wagon located 1 block w. of Gessner @ La Roche; it's been there a long time but is seldom busy, I noted Chivo and Cesina on the menu in the window.

Tacos Pacos - actually on Club Creek, just south of Beechnut - been there a long time, frequently busy but the last several times I've been by that way it has not been open.

I've found a third location of Tacos Pacos on Harwin @ Allday, about half way between Fondren and Gessner. A review is forthcoming soon.

Taqueria Puro Michoacan
- on Club Creek, ½ block s. of Beechnut, relatively new to this location.

Melissa’s Corn
- Beechnut @ Corporate, been there a long time

Note: Some units move regularly; these lists are often out-dated within a few days of being published. It has proved to be impossible to keep them updated.

El Mapache

Ziggy Smogdust has been telling me for some time of the great tacos at El Mapache and when he recently sent me this picture.....

I had to go.

Ziggy goes to the El Mapache III at Gulfton and Renwick but in my rovings around southwest Houston I've spotted another one at Richmond and Dunvale, so I headed over to that one - El Mapache El No. 1. Good barbacoa; worth the stop. Thanks, Ziggy.

UPDATE: The unit on Richmond has been replaced with one named El Tepache # III that I haven't tried. I've been to the one on Gulfton several times for the tacos, though, and their special torta, Torta a la Mapache - thin steak, grilled onions, mushrooms, melted cheese (jack?) and mayo. Just $5.

UPDATE: The El Mapache on Gulfton @ Renwick has moved a half block west; there is a unit labeled # 4 parked at Renwick @ Dashwood, just a block off of Bellaire..