By Emily Stringer
In San Antonio the breakfast taco is as honored as air conditioning, trucks, cowboy boots, or barbeque. For that reason, you’re sure to get some ears perked up with the question, “Where’s your favorite breakfast taco joint?” It’s like asking New Yorkers, where they get the best slice of pizza.
You’re likely to get a hundred different answers, for a hundred different reasons from a hundred different people. Is it the fluffiness of the tortilla? How about the spice of the chorizo fillings? Or perhaps the loyalty card? Someone’s grandpa started going to X for breakfast tacos 60 years ago and three generations later, the family still dines at the same taco joint.
Breakfast tacos are all encompassing. You can get your meat, cheese, eggs and potatoes all in one swift bite. And when they are done right, you’ll never go back to pancakes. So, if you’re new to Texas you will need to quickly develop two skills. First, learn how to find shade. Second, find yourself some dependable breakfast taco spots.
It’s all about convenience. Often, the best taco joints are the ones that are within a few miles of your home. There are a few that are worth a long drive but it’s best to stay local. A great way to find a nearby hot spot is to look for an unassuming mom and pop type of place with lots of trucks in the parking lot, and even a few barred windows. Try to avoid white tablecloths, or any place charging more than $3 per taco. If you see too many fancy ingredients, like goat cheese — those places are probably more hype than you’ve bargained for.
Once you’ve found unassuming spot, your next mission is all about tortillas. There are two options, corn or flour. The best spots will almost all have fresh homemade tortillas. Fresh means just made: not reheated, not microwaved (blasphemy!). If it’s a homemade flour tortilla, it will have a soft texture with golden-crisp places, slightly browned and pillowy. The inside should be hot, but feathery soft
A homemade corn tortilla will have a grainy texture, not mushy or overly moist and it will have a robust, buttery corn flavor.
Important signs of taco shenanigans include soggy, stiff, or rubbery edges. These are strong indicators of yesterday’s reheated tacos. Take the kids and run out the door to the next Jalisico sign.
Every fluffy shell needs a hot date, right? The eggs should be custard-like. The cheese should be freshly shredded. Tacos with American cheese are generally acceptable Tex-Mex, but you can also find places that are using natural cheese.
The meats should have a strong machismo. Bacon will need crisp edges. Soggy bacon is another strong signal that you haven’t found the right eatery yet. The chorizo needs a bull-kick of spice.
When choosing tacos, keep in mind that you’re going to order several different flavors. This way, you diversify your taco investment, thus increasing your chances of finding the perfect taco.
Simple is sometimes better. Egg and cheese is a tried and true standard and it is hard to mess it up, provided the tacos are freshly made. Kids, almost without exception, love a good, warm bean and cheese taco.
Then there are the carnivorous delights, carnitas (pork), barbacoa (tender, shredded beef) and bacon (oink). When you take your first bite a small clump of filling should ooze on your plate. If this doesn’t happen your cook is stingy.
Like most things in life, a little color adds a lot of flavor. Some people insist that the best breakfast taco spots are all about the salsa. A true red salsa can dress up even a reheated tortilla. It’s likely that your server will bring you two types of salsa. The green tends to look like the stuff used to slime teenagers on Nickelodeon in the ’90s. This stuff has serious spice. The red salsa can be soupy or chunky and still be delicious. I also prefer to order a side of ranchero sauce as it usually comes out warm and keeps my taco warm.
I also always order a side of guacamole but I don’t think most born and raised Texans do this. Either way, a drizzle of the red, a little green and perhaps some more red (ranchero) will make your taco pop. And don’t worry about the drips. It’s OK to get messy.
Breakfast tacos are an adventurous reminder of true Texan culture. So sit back, enjoy the experience and never try to tell a local where the best breakfast tacos are – you want them to tell you! Tell us some of your favorite breakfast taco places. Below are some of the places I enjoy:
Breakfast Tacos with Local Badges of Honor
- Taco Haven, 1032 S. Presa St.: The flour tortillas set the bar high
- Las Carnitas, 1310 S. W.W. White: You may have to ask twice but do get the carnitas
- El Mirador, 722 S. Presa St.: A downtown tradition of great Mexican food.
- El Milagrito Cafe 521 East Woodlawn Ave.
- Blanco Café, 7934 Fredricksburg Road: Families have been coming here for years.
- Titos, 955 S. Alamo St.: A popular location in the King William area
- Eddies Taco House, 402 W. Cevallos St.: Definitely putting the term hole-in-the-wall to good use. I’d say stick with the drive-thru and enjoy in the comforts in your own truck.
- Ruthie’s, 11423 West Ave.
- Rolando’s Super Taco, 919 West Hildebrand Ave.
- Any place with a lot clogged parking lot at 8 a.m.!
Emily Reynolds Stringer is a guest writer at SavorSA. She is the author of “Beyond Burning Bras” and is a writer specializing in food culture based in San Antonio. She blogs at DefiningDelicious.com and tweets @definedelicious