Mr. P’s, 1601 Guadalupe St.

Mr. P’s, located in the heart of the West Side on Guadalupe Street, is not a taqueria or a truck or even a trailer. It is, I guess, what one would call a souped-up taco stand with indoor and patio seating.

This tiny converted home, and former raspa stand, offers a limited assortment of breakfast tacos, barbecue tacos of brisket and chicken, and other items like hamburgers and sandwiches, mangonadas and strawberrynadas. It’s all served from a window that faces Guadalupe. Or, you can order from a couple of spots inside the gate.

The piping hot bean and cheese was good, with really tasty and simple homemade beans; and maybe the best quality cheese I’ve had — must be Tillamook or something. The smoked brisket and chicken tacos were both good. The chicken, which comes with pico de gallo, had a really nice smokey flavor and was well seasoned. The brisket was solid and chopped some. It was all fresh, and I left the place feeling not weighed down — as is the case with most taco experiences in San Antonio — but like I had eaten healthy.

Mr. P’s, 1601 Guadalupe St., (210) 574-1419

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Worth traveling across town for
Average S.A. taqueria. Some hits, some misses
Mostly misses

What do you think? Is there a taco I should have ordered, but didn’t? Have any taco news, issues or concerns? Email me at

Maria’s Cafe, 1105 Nogalitos St.

Ordering at Maria’s Cafe is an experience unlike any I’ve had in San Antonio. The standard array of San Antonio tacos is on display in a diner-like letter board. Look around and you’ll find specialty tacos written on additional signage like the Taco Loco #2 (wieners, papas, beans, cheese and pico de gallo; also recently named a Great Taco) and the Taco Ondo (papas, egg, carne guisada gravy, bacon and cheese; above).

A handwritten sign near the kitchen window shills a taco called El Hugo, a slice of brisket, an over-easy egg and pico de gallo — a combo you’d find easily in Austin, but that’s embraced here. There are even off-the-menu items Maria’s super fans describe such as the enchilaco, a single beef or cheese enchilada inside a puffy taco shell.

Friends have been telling me about this place for years, and now I know why. Everything about Maria’s Cafe was simply wonderful. Perfect flour tortillas and excellent fillings. Everything’s fresh, including a very seedy and coarsely chopped pico. I cannot emphasize enough the freshness of the food that comes from that kitchen. I don’t know everything there is to know about Maria’s. Its menu is one that you keep exploring. “It’s the real deal” says the sign outside. They’re not BS-ing.

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Maria’s Cafe, 1105 Nogalitos St., (210) 227-7005

Worth traveling across town for
Average S.A. taqueria. Some hits, some misses
Mostly misses

What do you think? Is there a taco I should have ordered, but didn’t? Have any taco news, issues or concerns? Email me at

Great Tacos: Taco Loco #2 at Maria’s Cafe

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Taco Loco #2 (wieners, papas, beans, cheese, pico de gallo); Maria’s Cafe, 1105 Nogalitos St.; (210) 207-7005; 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

You could throw a dart at the menu at Maria’s Cafe, a near South Side taqueria pillar, and hit a great taco. Maria’s is that good. If I could describe the food there in one word, that word would be “freshness.” I don’t know, but Maria’s might be my favorite taqueria.

Of all the great tacos Maria’s has to offer, the Taco Loco #2 — an assembly of wieners, papas, beans, cheese and pico de gallo — was the most memorable. With flour tortillas quite excellent, they assemble together wieners, papas, beans and cheese. On top of it all is about the freshest and best pico de gallo I’ve had so far writing this blog. It’s one of those roughly chopped picos with the small chunks of serrano pepper — seeds and all. The tomato and onion are chopped just as coarsely.

The entire taco, again, is fresh. It’s one of those crazy mixtures where all of the ingredients really work together. The combo of ingredients may seem all thrown together and random, a la a trash can-style taco, but this isn’t the case with the Taco Loco #2. The bean and cheese on the flour tortilla is the base of the whole thing, but well cooked and seasoned potatoes and wieners elevate this taco into Great Taco status.

Other Great Tacos

Carne guisada at Mi Celayence, 2903 Fredericksburg Road

Chicharron en Salsa Ranchera at Mama’s Kitchen, 504 Hildebrand Ave.

Ham and egg at Mendez Cafe, 201 Bartholomew Ave.

Taco Mexicano at Yatzil, 502 S. Zarzamora St.

Have any taco news, issues or concerns? Email me at

Taco Fest to hit La Villita just before Fiesta

Except more taco-themed events popping up this year.

From the folks behind the Maverick Music Festival now comes Taco Fest: Music y Más, slated for noon-11 p.m. April 14 at La Villita. Consider Taco Fest a primer to Fiesta (April 19-29), which is like the ultimate taco festival, as it’s scheduled for the Saturday before the kick-off.

The press release promises more than 30 taquerias and more than 20 bands and DJs.

Participating kitchens include Chisme, Tommy’s Restaurant, Soluna, Tomatillos Cafe y Cantina, Don Pablo’s, Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant, La Casa de Barbacoa, Los Cocos Mexican Restaurant and Frutería, Mr. Meximum, Chela’s Tacos and Marioli. According to the release, each eatery will offer at least one taco at priced $2.

Musical acts include La Santa Cecilia, Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath, Santiago Jimenez, Jr., Girl in a Coma, Money Chicha, El Conjunto Nueva Ola, Piñata Protest, Femina-X, Bombasta, Los #3 Dinners, Grupo Frackaso, and Eddie & the Valiants.

“Taco Fest is a long overdue celebration of San Antonio’s favorite food,” said Taco Fest creative director, Jim Mendiola, who is part of the same production team behind the Maverick Music and the Día de los Muertos festivals, among others. “From foodie tacos to classic breakfast tacos, we will showcase in one place the amazing diversity of tacos that make San Antonio famous.”

Tickets range from $15 to $75; kids 10 and younger admitted free. Visit for more info.

Other taco events to keep an eye on include the Twisted Taco Truck Throwdown, usually held in May at the VFW Post 76, which turned seven last year. I like that one because all participating trucks are told to provide at least al pastor tacos for $1.

Finally, ¡Taco Libre!, an event that began in Dallas and expanded to Austin last year, is planning to land in San Antonio this year, but has yes to find a date.

(Re)introducing The Tacoist newsletter

I just couldn’t quit being The Tacoist.

With renewed motivation that comes with a new year, I’ve decided to bring back The Tacoist, but in newsletter form only. Here’s the plan: I’ll continue to eat tacos — because, one must if they’re to call themselves a San Antonian — and I’ll give my thoughts of them via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’ll then use those posts to build a monthly newsletter.

Yes, this is definitely more doable and realistic than trying to write complete reviews for every taqueria I visit being that I have a full-time job.

Though The Tacoist will live mostly through newsletter — right now, the name is the S.A. Taco Report, but I’m welcome to suggestions — I plan to write the occasional essay and continue adding to the Great Taco list to keep the site alive. Hopefully, some point down the road, in two years maybe, I can make this my full-time job and the reviews and features will return.

So please, if you haven’t already, sign up for the newsletter. The first one launches Friday, Jan. 5!

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Oh, and don’t forget that there’s merch for sale, like this “Body by Tacos” onesie. (Hey, I have bills to pay.)

Under new ownership, Mama’s Kitchen still attracting regulars

Chicharron en Salsa Ranchera at Mama’s Kitchen, 504 Hildebrand Ave.

Previously published:
Review: Mama’s Kitchen
Great Tacos: Chicharron en Salsa Ranchera at Mama’s Kitchen

Mama’s Kitchen is a renovated bright yellow house nestled between a hair salon and a jewelry store on 504 W. Hildebrand Ave. Its trademark yellow sign on the front declares to passing motorists: “110% Mexican food.”

For the better part of a decade, the restaurant has been a popular destination for residents of the surrounding Alta Vista neighborhood and for students of the nearby universities, who receive a 10 percent student discount.

Inside, Mama’s looks like your average Mexican joint: aguas frescas immediately to the right of the entrance, fake plants, pictures of lunch plates hung on the vermilion walls. The old-fashioned style of the place has a certain charm, but the restaurant is set to undergo some big changes.

Owner Hanz Estrada bought the restaurant in March from Gloria and Ofelio Mondragon, who started Mama’s as a change of pace from their previous lives as truck drivers. Estrada has worked his way through the restaurant industry over the past 10 years, starting as a drive-through operator at a Steak and Shake. He now manages a Mediterranean restaurant in Plano and lives in McKinney, and has set his sights on Mama’s as his ingress to life as a restaurateur.

When Estrada heard from a friend about a little Mexican restaurant for sale in San Antonio, five hours from McKinney, he was understandably reluctant. But when that friend gave Estrada’s phone number to the Mondragons, who began contacting Estrada personally, he was compelled to take a weekend road trip to check the place out. After he tasted the food and read promising reviews online, Estrada purchased the restaurant.

Estrada, 35, has big plans to modernize Mama’s Kitchen. He wants to open a second location within the next three years, but he’s starting with small steps. His first change is online ordering; customers will soon be able to order their tacos online and pick them up in the store.

“People get comfortable with what they know instead of adventuring to what technology brings out right now,” Estrada said. “I want to solidify that first.”

Estrada acknowledged the restaurant’s parking situation won’t make to-go orders easy — there’s room for about four cars in the front and a smattering of additional parking in the back — accessible by a tight squeeze between the restaurant and the neighboring hair salon. He said he’s in talks with the owners of the salon to use some of their parking space for Mama’s.

He said he doesn’t plan on removing many menu items, but with the help of his mother, Blanca Estrada, who has been working in the kitchen since he bought it, he’s adding new items and tweaking old ones. Blanca Estrada has been a chef for 20 years, and owns a restaurant in Mexico City, where she normally lives. For four years in the late 80’s, she went to culinary school in Mexico, where she said she was taught by an instructor who was the personal chef of the Miguel de la Madrid, the president of Mexico at the time.

Days after buying the restaurant, the Estradas completely replaced the chicharron en salsa ranchera with a new recipe — from a green sauce to a red one and chewy pork skins to soft, slow-cooked ones. That same month, the Tacoist published an article lauding the new recipe and later named it one of San Antonio’s Great Tacos.

In addition to the typical taco combinations, Mama’s is home to some you won’t find in most taquerias — including rice and egg, spinach and egg, and liver and onions. Hanz Estrada said his first instinct was to remove these unusual tacos from the menu, but was surprised at how popular they are. Blanca Estrada said she thought the old menu was “bueno” and required only small changes.

Estrada’s changes so far have been gradual enough that some customers did not know there was new ownership at all.

“I wasn’t even aware there was a change,” Carlos Saavedra, a regular at Mama’s, said.

Saavedra and his friends Thomas Duckworth and Paul Sickler have eaten at Mama’s for four years, Saavedra said. The group convenes at the restaurant, each coming from different corners of San Antonio, to eat breakfast once or twice a month.

“I think it’s always good when you go out to eat that you know that when you go there, you’re going to get what you expect, and that’s that this place is,” Duckworth said.

“And nice service, too,” Saavedra added. “Very welcoming.”

Waitress Silvia Najera has worked at Mama’s for four years, and said she enjoys getting to know regulars.

“I like to be a waitress because I can speak with a lot of people,” Najera said. She said that something as simple as knowing a regular’s typical order can bring them joy when they’re feeling down.

Najera said regulars often enjoy the menudo, which Saavedra also said is one of his favorites.

Hanz Estrada puts a great deal of trust in employees like Najera since he lives in the Metroplex and only comes to San Antonio on weekends, and Blanca Estrada will soon head back to Mexico to tend to her own restaurant. He said running a restaurant that way requires trust in his employees.

“It’s a matter of believing in people,” he said. When he trusts his employees, he said, they feel empowered to run the restaurant in his absence.

“Whenever you empower the people to do stuff, I think you can achieve great things,” he said.

Najera worked alongside the Mondragons for years. She described the restaurant under their leadership as “classic.” She summed up Estrada’s ambitions in six words that could easily replace the restaurant’s old motto with:

“More modern, more fresh, more new.”

Los Habaneros, 4614 Callaghan Road

Written on a window at Los Habaneros were the words “Homemade Tortillas Flour & Corn.” But at this restaurant near Holmes High School, the emphasis was on the corn.

In my order of four tacos, I had a machacado and egg on one of the best corn tortillas I’ve had. The tortilla was fresh, wrinkly and flaky, like it had just come from puffing up on the comal. The machacado was seasoned excellently — like any good beef jerky or dried meat, the flavor lasted as I kept chewing. The well-cooked egg was kept to a minimum and mixed in well with the meat and diced veggies, which were more soft than crispy.

The rest of the tacos were ordered on flour tortillas, which were across the board good, but also inconsistent in preparation, it seemed.

For example, on the papa a la Mexicana, the tortilla was chewier than the others. However, the filling was excellent. The potatoes were well cooked and perfectly seasoned. The whole mixture, essentially pico de gallo with potatoes added, tricked me into thinking there was a sauce. It was that flavorful.

The tortilla I had with the carne guisada was very, very good. It was pillowy soft and ideal for soaking up the stewy bits. This carne guisada fell apart to the point that it seemed shredded. As for the seasoning, the dish was more meaty and had way more pepper than salt.

The bean and cheese with bacon was the lone misstep for me.

I couldn’t get a read on the beans — they were on the denser side and not smooth and creamy like I prefer. The fat from the bacon helped provide flavor, as it always does. This flour tortilla was one of the softer ones, but I detected a little bit of fat cooked in, possibly from the bacon.

For the order, the waitress brought a cooked and chunky salsa to go with a homemade bottled green sauce — both about average

Going back to the tortillas … I must be clear: The flour weren’t bad. They were all tasty. The treatment of each seemed to vary. That’s all. With that corn tortilla, though, no question it’s greatness.

Los Habaneros, 4614 Callaghan Road, (210) 444-9260

Worth traveling across town for
Average S.A. taqueria. Some hits, some misses
Mostly misses

Ben Olivo

What do you think? Is there a taco I should have ordered, but didn’t? Have any taco news, issues or concerns? Email me at