Before crowning myself The Tacoist — I’m self-absorbed, I admit it — I made a living writing about downtown S.A. for the Express-News. This began in 2008, a year before the “Decade of . . .blah, blah, blah” (you know the rest) was ushered in by then Mayor Julián Castro.
I lived downtown for 10 years (I’m now in Government Hill up Broadway, which is gentrifying as you read this) and yet I never visited Café Alameda in the shadows of the historic Alameda Theater on West Houston Street. Four blocks away, from my apartment, all these years, were some of the best flour tortillas.
Let me pause this write-up for a minute to discuss flour tortillas. I’m starting to doubt all previous mentions and descriptions of flour tortillas on this blog. There are indeed gradations in quality — I mean, like you, probably, I’ve been eating them my entire life. But it’s not until you juxtapose them — I’m starting to realize — that you can truly begin to grade them, to rank them.
Because the tortillas at the Alameda are pretty #@&*%! special. They are soft, fluffy and pillowy. When your fingers touch them, they sort of give a little. I don’t know, people — these flour tortillas are hard to beat.
There also was an odor, but I’ll get to that later.
But for what was in the tortillas . . .
My favorite was the egg a la Mexicana, which was served piping hot and was balanced and loaded with flavor from the diced onions, tomatoes and pepper. The pepper kicked me in the throat a few times. The bean and cheese on corn was solid with homemade beans that my taste-tester and I thought were refried in vegetable oil instead of in pork fat. As you can tell from the photo, the beans were covered in yummy yellow cheese. The corn tortilla was very good.
The chilaquiles had incongruous red chips that spilled out of the taco’s ends as if it were molecular gastronomy at a pretentious restaurant. In reality, these chips had respectable crunch, but were also greasy. The egg, cheese and other ingredients soaked up the grease some.
The carne guisada was disappointing. Kind of a two-note carne guisada — meat that had good flavor at the beginning of chew, but then trickles off toward the end and dries up texture-wise.
As for the stink — unfortunately, Café Alameda smelled like a sewer, slightly. I stayed because I was already there — the story of my life. The smell didn’t go away so much as I got used to it. Hopefully, the odor isn’t a regular thing. I wouldn’t know, after all.
Café Alameda, 342 W. Houston St., (210) 354-4414
— Worth traveling across town for
— Average S.A. taqueria. Some hits, some misses
— Mostly misses
— Benjamin 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.