Look, I don’t enjoy being the a-hole food critic. It’s no fun. Bad reports may be fun to read, but they’re certainly not fun to write. I have no problem blasting the latest pretentious restaurant in the latest hipster neighborhood. But the places I visit as The Tacoist are, for the most part, mom and pop places. That’s the point of this blog — to shine the spotlight on restaurants that the media has ignored. Just because they aren’t located in Southtown or the Pearl or on the St. Mary’s Strip doesn’t mean some of these taquerias aren’t doing great things in the kitchen. On the other hand, it’s important to realize that some of these restaurants may not want the attention.
Now I’m meandering.
The flour tortillas at El Taco de Jalisco on Vance Jackson sucked.
I cannot describe their quality more tactfully than that because I’m not that good a writer. And these poor people probably don’t deserve this harshness. The service there was very, very good, as the service is at 98 percent of taquerias in San Antonio because we are a hospitable people and that’s in large part what makes us a great city. But excellent service can’t save these tortillas.
They were overall thick and, in some places, hard. So hard that the tortilla of the papa a la Mexicana, for example, crumbled, I shit you not. Maybe these tortillas were respectable when they were first made, but the ones I ate were stale. There’s no other explanation.
The discovery of severely subpar tortillas will happen when you attempt to eat at every taqueria in San Antonio — you’ll find some bumps in the road. This is disappointing because the fillings weren’t as bad as the tortillas. There were glimmers . . .
The machacado, for example, had very good meat flavor and was definitely not dull. The egg was not the best and a bit overdone, but the flavor of the dried meat carried this taco to respectability.
The carne guisada was braised in a red sauce as opposed to the murky, muddy stew that defines the South Texas version. One bite in and the stew immediately rang of guajillo pepper — more of that mild and mellow flavor. The meat itself didn’t have a lot of fat, which was great, but then I started to chew and it was difficult. My jaw got sore the way one’s jaw does when chewing gum incessantly. Aside from the guajillo, this carne guisada didn’t pack much flavor. Kind of a one-note stew, which is a sin for stew.
The potatoes in the papa a la Mexicana actually tasted great and were well-cooked, but they were in desperate need of seasoning. The diced onion and peppers added that pop that makes this taco so brilliant. But, again, those tortillas.
So, I switched up the tortilla by ordering bean and cheese on corn. Yes, a very good tortilla that was thick and had mild corn flavor. But the beans . . . flavorless and grainy. Grainy like they had never achieved that perfect tenderness while in the pot. Not good.
The one true highlight was the red sauce. I couldn’t figure it out, but it was like a mixture of dried peppers — hints of the ubiquitous chile de arbol — and tomatoes. It was very tasty, but unfortunately not enough to save these tacos.
And so this visit to El Taco de Jalisco is another reminder of the important role the tortilla plays in a taco. As I’ve said before, it is literally the foundation of every taco. You get that wrong, and you’re pretty much a goner. They make other foods at this restaurant on Vance Jackson as you can tell from the writings across the facade. Yes. Go for the sopapillas. Though I didn’t have them, I’m sure they’re wonderful. They’re also free.
El Taco de Jalisco, 4407 Vance Jackson Road, (210) 349-6906
— 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.