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Cool Off with a Refreshing Cucumber-Ginger Margarita


Cucumber Ginger Margarita

Cucumber Ginger Margarita

The thermometer is telling us that summer is fast approaching, so what better way to spend a warm Friday evening (or any evening, for that matter) than with a refreshing margarita?

Celebrity chef Roberto Santibañez isn’t content with a classic recipe. In his recentt cookbook, “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” (John Wiley and Sons, $19.99), he offers a variation made with cucumber and fresh ginger added to the mix.

When I tried it, I made two slight variations: I omitted the powdered sugar, because I prefer my margaritas tart, tasting of lime and, in this instance, ginger. I also chose not to strain the drink, so I could get all that chewy fiber from the  ginger and the cucumber peel. I will admit it made the drink chewier than you might expect, but it still went down easy.

Cucumber Ginger Margarita (Margarita de pepino y jengibre)

1 1/4 cups silver tequila
1 cup Cointreau
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 juicy limes)
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped peeled ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Ice cubes

Blend the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, cucumber, sugar, ginger and salt until smooth, about 45 seconds. Season to taste with lime juice and sugar. Strain the mixture through a sieve, if desired, and into a pitcher and refrigerate until cold.

Stir well, pour into 6 ice-filled glasses and serve immediately.

Makes 6 drinks.

From “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode

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Bring the Bold Flavors of Street Tacos Into Your Home Kitchen


Tacos de hongos (Mushroom Tacos)

Tacos de hongos (Mushroom Tacos)

Like to use smaller chiles for their great flavor and heat. Here’s a tip from celebrity chef Roberto Santibañez: Don’t seed those smaller chiles.

Anyone who has seen  Santibañez in action knows that he wants smaller peppers, from serranos to habaneros, cut up with the seeds and veins intact. That means a little extra heat, but that’s the point of the pepper, he says.

I was reminded of that when reading his recipe for Mushroom Tacos, which appears in his new cookbook, “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95), written with JJ Goode. The ingredient list calls for three chiles, serranos or jalapeños, “including seeds.”

Whether you include the seeds or not is up to you, of course. What will impress you, however, is not the chiles so much by themselves but the great array of street-food recipes in the book, such as the two recipes that follow for Mushroom Tacos and Tacos of Poblano and Bacon. One bite of either and you’ll likely return to this book often to make everything from Duck Carnitas Tacos to Tortas with Chicken in Green Mole or a Cucumber-Ginger Margarita.

For those of you who are diabetic or just avoiding corn and flour tortillas, you can use cabbage leaves or lettuce to wrap your taco fillings in, like I’ve done. They’re a great low-carb substitute.

Mushroom Tacos (Tacos de hongos)

“A little effort,  a lot of flavor. Multiple varieties of mushrooms (try cremini, oyster and shiitake) make for an even more exciting combination of textures, but even plain old portobellos become something special with the addition of chile, herbs and a touch of butter. Without the tortillas and condiments, you have a side dish that goes well with just about any taco or tamale you can dream up.”

Use a little oil at the end, instead of the butter, and you can make these vegan.

1/4 generous cup olive or vegetable oil
Generous 1 cup diced white onions
3 fresh serrano or jalapeño chiles, finely chopped (including seeds)
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 pounds fresh mushrooms, stems trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh epazote leaves or 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Mushrooms cooking for tacos.

Mushrooms cooking for tacos.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pan over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, chiles and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, toss very well to coat in the oil and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are cooked through and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the salt and cook for 2 minutes more, then stir in the butter and epazote until the butter has melted. Season to taste with salt.

Serve alongside 10 warm corn tortillas and top with crumbled queso fresco and sliced canned pickled jalapeño chiles or tomatillo-chipotle salsa.

Makes 10 tacos.

From “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode

Tacos of Poblanos and Bacon (Tacos de rajas con tocino)

“Crispy bits of bacon and a web of melty cheese nite strips of roasted poblano chiles in this incredible mixture that needs no salsa or topping. That said, tomato salsa certainly wouldn’t hurt and, if you really want a rich treat, stir in cheese until it melts.

1 1/4 pounds fresh poblano chiles (about 3 large)
6 thick-cut slices bacon (about 6 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 pound Chihuahua or provolone cheese, shredded (optional)

tacos, tortasRoast, peel, seed and cut the poblanos. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat slightly once the bacon renders its fat, until the bacon is uniformly golden brown and slightly crisp, about 8 minutes.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, then add the onion to the pan. Cook the onion, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper and cook 1 minute, then add the poblanos, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Cook until the poblanos are warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Add the cheese, turn off the heat, and toss until the cheese is melted.

Taste and season with salt, if necessary, since bacon varies in saltiness.

Serve alongside 10 warm corn tortillas and top with a smoky tomato salsa.

Makes 10 tacos.

From “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode

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Low-Carb Tacos Are a Real Easy Treat


Low-carb Tacos in a cabbage shell.

I had some roasted pork belly left over from my recent trip to Tim’s Oriental & Seafood Market and wondered what to do with it. Bonnie Walker came up with a great suggestion: tacos. A few strands of cabbage, some radishes and you’re all set.

Except for the corn shell.

I don’t do flour or corn all that often because of my diabetes, so tortillas were out.

That’s when I remembered the low-carb tacos at Urban Taco in the Quarry Village, which are like chicken wraps in that they come in a large lettuce leaf.

Instead of shredding the cabbage, I could use a cabbage leaf as the sturdy shell.

I warmed up the meat, and the rest of it fell into place, down to the fresh cilantro I picked from the backyard. Great flavor and part of my diet. They were so good, I had the rest the following evening.

Low-Carb Tacos

3 or 4 cabbage leaves or large lettuce leaves (see note)
8 ounces meat of your choice, such as carnitas, carne asada, roasted pork belly, ground beef or picadillo, lengua or tripas

Toppings:
Radishes, sliced
Pico de gallo
Jalapeños, sliced
Queso fresco or other cheese
Salsa
Cilantro
Salt, to taste

Note: Cabbage heads can be tight. To peel whole leaves more easily, carve out the core at the bottom and separate the leaves slowly from the bottom up.

Lay out the cabbage leaves on one or two plates. Divide the meat among the leaves. Top with your choice of toppings, such as radishes, pico de gallo, jalapeños, cilantro, queso fresco, salsa and cilantro.  Salt to taste.

Serve immediately.

Makes 1 to 2 servings.

From John Griffin

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Tacos and Burgers in the Alamo City. Any Questions?


Barriba Cantina opens Monday at 111 W. Crockett St.

In the kitchen at Barriba Cantina.

Saturday was a night for celebrating the new at two restaurants in San Antonio.

Barriba Cantina on the River Walk at 111. W. Crockett St. is a haven of “tacos, tequila y mas,” as the restaurant bills itself. Though it doesn’t open until Monday, the restaurant hosted a pair of preview parties on Friday and Saturday to help inaugurate the space, which is located on the two stories above its sister restaurant, the County Line.

The sign on Crockett Street.

Tacos filled with chicken tinga topped with caramelized onions, corn pico de gallo and ancho cream sauce or tilapia with jalapeño ranch and avocado tomatillo salsa were dished up.

When the restaurant opens, the tacos will be offered in plates of three with rice and beans, so you can expect heaping potions of the mango pork carnitas with mango and avocado tomatilla salsas, pickled onions, cotija cheese and more. Or the Del Rey, which was created in memory of Randy Goss, the Rib King of San Antonio who had been a part of the County Line’s success for years; this taco featured beef marinated with chipotle chiles and came topped with chipotle slaw, caramelized onions, salsa and cotija.

Purple Reign

A special emphasis is made on using lean meats, whether it’s the pork or the chorizo that was used in the Queso Deluxe, a treat that also featured guacamole and corn pico de gallo on top of the cheesy dip.

Mango Pork Carnitas Tacos at Barriba Cantina.

The bar is a big part of Barriba Cantina’s fun, and house specialties include the Purple Reign made with Ciroc Vodka, limoncello, violet liquor, Dulce Vida Organic Agave Nectar with blueberries as well as the Olé, a potent blend of Cinco Vodka, blackberries, raspberries, lime juice and soda.

Every bar in San Antonio has to have at least one margarita, and Barriba’s lineup includes the Skinny Dulce Vida Rita, a blend of Dulce Vida Silver, a splash of orange juice, agave nectar and lime juice.

Barriba Cantina will be open daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. Click here for the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Clellan and Matt perform a sound check on the new patio at Big Bob's.

Big Bob’s Burgers, 447 Hildebrand Ave., was also celebrating the opening of its new patio and stage out back.

The new restaurant, housed in what used to be Cookie’s near the San Pedro Avenue intersection, featured Clellan and Matt as the inaugural act performing in the space, which is decorated with picnic tables and a few nice plants. It looks far better than a dilapidated back alley it appeared when owner Bob Riddle first stated work on the space.

Big Bob's Cheeseburger

The visit was also a chance to check out Big Bob’s cheeseburger and a few of his crispy onion rings.

Click here for more on Big Bob’s Burgers.

 

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Johnny Hernandez Serves Up Ancho Adobo Tacos de Bistec


Ancho Adobo Tacos de Bistec with Grilled Corn and Tomatillo Salsa

Ancho Adobo Tacos de Bistec with Grilled Corn and Tomatillo Salsa

Chef Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria Ice House and True Flavors Catering recently created several recipes for McCormick & Company, including a savory treat called Ancho Adobo Tacos de Bistec with Grilled Corn and Tomatillo Salsa.

The spice company was in town this week to kick off its Asando Sabroso Tour, a multi-city sweep from San Antonio to Los Angeles designed to show off its new seasonings while offering grilling tips for the summer season.

The local stop was at La Gloria in the Pearl Brewery complex, where Hernandez’s staff offered up the tacos in a fundraising effort to benefit the scholarship program at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.

Ancho Adobo Tacos de Bistec with Grilled Corn and Tomatillo Salsa

Grilled Corn and Tomatillo Salsa:
3 to 4 ears fresh corn
3 fresh tomatillos, papery skin removed, rinsed well and diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 green onion, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 radish, halved and thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons diced red onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon diced jalapeño peppers
1/4 teaspoon salt

Ancho Adobo Steak:
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon powdered ancho chile pepper, such as McCormick Gourmet Collection
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef sirloin steak
3 boiler onions, halved
12 corn tortillas (5 1/2-inch)

For the salsa, remove husks and silk strands from corn. Soak in water for 15 minutes. Grill corn over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until tender and lightly charred, turning occasionally. Cut kernels off cobs (about 2 cups). Mix corn, tomatillos, cilantro, green onion, radish, red onion, lime juice, oil, jalapeño peppers and salt in large bowl until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to blend flavors.

For the steak, place garlic, cilantro, lime juice, water, ancho chile powder, salt, paprika, red pepper, black pepper, and cumin in food processor. Cover. Process until smooth. Reserve 2 tablespoons. Place steak in glass dish. Add remaining adobo; turn to coat well. Cover. Refrigerate 15 minutes or longer for extra flavor. Remove steak from adobo. Discard any remaining adobo.

Grill steak over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness, brushing with reserved 2 tablespoons adobo. Grill onions 2 to 3 minutes per side or until slightly charred. Grill tortillas 1 minute per side or until warmed.

Slice steak into thin slices. Slice onions into thin strips. Serve steak and onions in tortillas. Top with salsa.

Tips:  Boiler onions are small onions with a sweet, pungent flavor. They are often used whole in recipes for stews, kabobs and roasts. If unavailable, substitute cippolini or small sweet onions. McCormick offers all of the dry herbs

Approximate nutritional value per taco: 399 calories, 11 g fat, 44 g carbohydrates, 39 mg cholesterol; 800 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 31 g protein.

Makes 12 tacos.

From Johnny Hernandez/McCormick

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Melissa Guerra’s Tacos de Acelgas Are Filled with Chard


Red and white chard

The cover of Molly O’Neill’s new cookbook, “One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, $50) promises “600 recipes from the nation’s best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters, and chefs.” That means Dungeness crab from San Ramon, Calif.; lobster chowder from Stonington, Maine; and Kansas City ribs.

Given the melting pot that is America, there are also plenty of dishes with international flavors, such as Sri Lankan Dry Potato Curry from New Rochelle, N.Y.; Israeli couscous from Party City, Utah; and Penang beef with rice noodles from Santa Fe, N.M.

What there is not in 830 pages is a single recipe from anyone in San Antonio. The closest the book comes is a recipe from Melissa Guerra, who is listed as being from McAllen. Guerra, who owns the eponymous Tienda de Cocina at the Pearl Brewery, offers up a crispy fried taco recipe with chard, or acelgas, that can be served as a snack or a vegetarian main course.

You’ll find both red and white chard at farmers markets these days.

Melissa Guerra’s Tacos de Acelgas

3 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 or 2 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons corn oil, plus additional for frying, divided use
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound fresh red or white chard, washed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
32 corn tortillas (6-inch size works best)
3 ounces crumbled cotija cheese or shredded Monterey Jack (about 3/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Place a wire rack over another baking sheet.

Purée the tomatoes and garlic in a blender or a food processor. If necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water to facilitate blending.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the purée, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While tomato purée is reducing, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook for 10 minutes, until tender. Drain thoroughly.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the chard and minced garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the filling is very dry and well flavored. Remove from the heat.

Wrap 8 tortillas at a time in a clean, damp kitchen towel. Heat them in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high, until they are steamy and pliable. Remove 1 tortilla from the bundle and lay out flat. (Keep the rest well wrapped in the towel.) Fill the tortilla with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the chard and roll up tightly. Place the taco on the wire rack over the baking sheet, with the curved edge of the tortilla underneath. Dampen, warm, fill and shape the remaining tortillas into tacos in this fashion.

Heat 1/2 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Place the tacos one by one in the hot oil. with the curved edge still underneath. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, then gently turn oven with tongs and fry the other side about 1 minute, until crisp. Remove from the oil and drain on the paper towel-lined sheet pan.

Place all the tacos on a serving platter, pour the warm tomato purée over the top, and sprinkle with the cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

From “One Big Table” by Molly O’Neill

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Use Leftovers in BLT Turkey Tacos


Use bacon and leftover turkey in tacos.

Use the leftover dark meat in these little treats, which are best served on small street-size corn tortillas.

BLT Turkey Tacos

8 ounces boneless leftover turkey meat, with skin, if desired
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large gloves garlic, peeled
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup mayonnaise
About 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
12 (4-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
2 strips bacon, cooked crisp and broken up, or more to taste
1 cup shredded lettuce
4 pickled jalapeños, diced, or to taste
1/2 cup pico de gallo

Preheat a heavy (preferably cast iron) sauté pan over medium heat. Toss the turkey with the oil. Reheat.

Crush the garlic with a pinch of salt to a smooth paste and stir it into the mayonnaise. Thin the mixture with the extra-virgin olive oil.

Thinly slice the turkey, trying to keep some of the skin on each slice, if using. Place a bit of turkey in a warm tortilla; top it with bacon, lettuce, jalapeños and pico de gallo.

Variation: Add crumbled blue cheese or sharp white cheddar.

Makes 12 small tacos.

Adapted from “Amor y Tacos” by Deborah Schneider

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Grilled Tuna Tacos a Meaty Treat


Are you looking for some fresh ideas to incorporate more seafood into your diet? Here’s one dish so tasty that you won’t believe you’re giving anything up for Lent. As Rick Moonen, creator of the recipe, says, “Can I tell you these things rock? Meaty tuna gives the tacos the kind of kick you’d expect from skirt steak.”

Grilled Tuna Tacos

Cabbage:
1/4 pound napa or savory cabbage, shredded
Juice of 1 1/2 limes
Coarse salt, to taste

Rub:
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 (5-ounce) pieces tuna, 3/4-inch thick
Coarse salt, to taste

Serving:
12 corn tortillas
Lime wedges
Ripe tomatoes, sliced into half-moons
Coarse salt, to taste
Guacamole
Mango salsa (optional)

For the cabbage: Combine the cabbage and lime juice in a mixing bowl. Salt it well and toss with your hands or a big spoon. Taste for salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you need it.

For the rub: Combine the chili powder, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds in a spice grinder. Process to a fine dust. Pour the rub out into a small bowl.

Heat up your indoor grill or heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.

Spoon the oil onto a plate and rub the fish in it, coating it on both sides. Season the fish on both sides with salt and the rub. Use all of the rub and work it into the fish.

[amazon-product]061853119X[/amazon-product]Cook the fish for 2 minutes in the indoor grill. If you’re using a grill pan, grill for 1 1/2 minutes per side. Put the fish on a carving board and let it rest while you toast the tortillas.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, or use the griddle you used for the tuna. Toast the tortillas until warmed through and browned in spots, about 30 second a side. Pile them in a cloth-lined basket as they’re toasted.

To serve, cut the tuna into fingers and arrange on a platter with the lime wedges. Pile the cabbage in the center of another platter and surround with the sliced tomatoes. Season the tomatoes with salt.

Set the table with guacamole and mango salsa, if desired; the basket of tortillas, the tuna and limes, and the cabbage and tomatoes, and let everyone dig in.

Makes 12 tacos.

From “Fish Without a Doubt” by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore

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Beto’s Comida Latina: Reel in the Fish Tacos


betos5

Food: 3.5
Service: 3
Value: 3.5

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

Where to have lunch? The car knew the moment it turned onto Broadway: Beto’s Comida Latina.

The fish tacos, the empanadas, the quesadillas – all seemed to be calling me. So, a friend and I turned into the parking lot and turned on to the best meal I have had there in ages.

I have always enjoyed going to Beto’s. The casual atmosphere of the dining room, a few longnecks and the patio out back (too hot for our current heat, but great in the fall), the Latin fare that goes beyond Tex-Mex to embrace Central and South American cuisines. But my last couple of visits were average, nothing to get worked up about.

I’m glad to see that has changed. Most everything we had at that lunch was marked by a welcome vibrancy, from the fresh ingredients to the steaming hot nature of the food itself, that was nearly irresistible.

betos1The fish tacos were the special that day, with a pair and a salad arriving for $5.99. Don’t pass this by if you can. Our version flirted with perfection. The cilantro coleslaw on top was fresh and crunchy, the poblano sauce creamy with just the right amount of bite, and the grilled fish juicy and plentiful. There was a slight bit of water coming from the tacos, but it didn’t affect the flavor.

It also didn’t affect the hold that great fish tacos have. For some reason, this dish has never caught on in San Antonio as well as it should. So, we should be extra thankful that Beto’s, among other places, has cultivated a devoted following for them. For those of us who love them, their hold is as gripping as the latest John Lescroart or Michael Connelly mystery.

The accompanying salad was topped with pickled red onions and slices of jícama, which added two contrasting yet complementary textures to the crisp romaine.

A spinach and mushroom quesadilla bore no trace of the promised chipotle, and it didn’t really need it. Who needs more when you have soft spinach leaves and mushrooms melting into one with the corn tortilla thanks to a judicious amount of cheese.

betos4A sauté of fresh vegetables, ranging from squashes and tomatoes to eggplant and sweet potato, with a sprinkling of queso fresco on top, made a substantial side dish and a nice balance to the carbohydrates from the tortillas. (Beto’s, ever attentive to people’s dietary needs, offers low-carb options as well as gluten-free dishes. Ask your server.)

But you can’t go low-carb and enjoy Beto’s signature dish, its flaky empanadas, made with puff pastry. From a choice list of savory fillings, including chicken poblano and beef and red chile, the calabacita con puerco called, and it proved an excellent choice with its stew of squash and pork with a touch of sweet corn.

I heeded the call once again when the waiter mentioned mango-rhubarb among the dessert options. The luscious sweet-tart nature of the fruit a good foil for the buttery pastry.

Give in to such calls every once in a while. You could be as amply rewarded as we were at Beto’s.

betos3betos2

Beto’s Comida Latina
8142 Broadway
(210) 930-9393
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday
$-$$

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Erick’s Tacos: Embracing the Heat


erikstacos8

The setup of Erick’s Tacos is different. The part of the kitchen where you get your tacos is housed in a mobile unit on one side of the dining area. The other part, where you order your raspas and licuados, is on the other side.

Food:3.5
Value: 4

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

In between is a former garage with no fourth wall or door. That means you are sitting in the heat of the day while you eat some incredibly spicy tacos. Only a few overhead fans keep the air circulating.

Yet no one seems to mind.

Maybe it’s because the tacos are so good. Maybe it’s because the Mexican Coke is almost as icy as a raspa. Maybe it’s because the scene feels just right.

Whatever the reason, I found myself looking forward to a return visit almost as soon as I had finished the first.

On that discovery day, I encountered a slight language barrier as the cook spoke no English and my Spanish was a bit rusty. I somehow managed to get the plate of tacos al pastor on small corn tortillas that I had wanted. The appearance was dazzling to the eye, as the tacos arrived showered with an abundance of cilantro and onion.

erikstacos3With a squirt of lime juice and a squeeze of fiery green salsa, they tasted even better than they looked, and the tortillas were so hot they singed my fingertips.

The heat of the seasoned pork and a welcome touch of grease made each bite reveal depths of flavor that went beyond the usual world of Tex-Mex. I washed it down with a Mexican Fresca made with real sugar instead of corn syrup or nasty chemical-tasting artificial sweeteners. The zing of the soda’s grapefruit flavor was a perfect complement to chiles.

Who needs air conditioning with food this good?

I was so pleased with the meal I returned with a friend the next night. This time it was for tacos made with a mixture of chorizo and bifstek while he had tacos al carbon covered with crumbled white cheese. We ordered the dinner plates for $5.50, which came with four mini-tacos, grilled onions and one of the hottest cooked jalapeños in some time.

The tacos al carbon were pristine compared with the others, dripping in chorizo juices. Yet I wasn’t sorry with my order.

While some might blanch at the mention of the grease in a few of the tacos, it helped me understand the popularity of Erick’s. The place is busiest, one employee told us, after midnight, after folks have been partying and need a little fortification to face the next day. The tacos de cabeza are probably a big seller then. On weekends, you’ll sometimes find people there after 4 a.m.

The tamales we tried — chicken, instead of the pork that we’d ordered — were plump, full of meat and moist without being greasy. A bit of the cilantro-heavy red salsa added a welcome bite.

Lime and chile proved an unbeatable combination whether we were ordering a fruit cup laden with fresh mango and watermelon or a corn in cup with sweet kernels just cut from the cob. The later was also slathered in mayonnaise, offering a tantalizing balance of sweet, sour, hot and spicy.

Most everything at Erick’s Tacos is eaten with your hands (you can get a spoon if you need one). But good food needs no pretense.

erikstacos7erikstacos5erikstacos1erikstacos4erikstacos6erikstacos2

Erick’s Tacos
12715 Nacogdoches Road
(210) 590-0994
Hours are 11 a.m. until at least 3 a.m. daily.
$

$ = $10 or under per entrée
$$ = $10-$20
$$$ = $20-$30
$$$$ = $30 and up

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