Carne guisada; $2.39; Mi Celayence, 2903 Fredericksburg Road, (210) 732-1122
We all have our go-to tacos. Mine is carne guisada. There’s nothing like braised beef that’s cooked for a long period of time, building layer upon layer of flavor throughout the process. Or, as some cooks have told me, it’s all about keeping it simple with high quality ingredients.
Nobody does carne guisada better than Mi Celayence — at least in the 51 taquerias I’ve visited so far. Mendez Cafe on the South Side comes close, and then there’s a huge drop off from the others.
Before taking a bite, I recommend opening the flour tortilla and just admiring it. This is stew in a tortilla, so it’s intrinsically messy. I don’t trust carne guisadas that stay in the tortilla. You’re supposed to eat as much of the beef chunks as you can and then save some tortilla and sop up the sauce that’s nearly covered your plate. And at Mi Celayence, it’s all about the sauce. It’s has depth of flavor that’s meat-based. But upon close inspection you’ll notice jalapeno seeds and red flakes and other bits of ingredients unrecognizable because they’ve disintegrated through the slow cooking process. There are black bits that are probably Maillard bits the cook scraped from the bottom of the cooking vessel — where the real flavor comes from. Um, hell to the yeah. This — all of this — and the meat is tender with absolutely no fat.
Fellow taco enthusiast The Palate, who makes regular appearances on this blog, says he could taste the tomato paste, which indicates they’re not cutting corners in the kitchen.
All of this would be enough to raise this taco’s jersey into the Tacoist rafters, but then the flour tortilla is perfect and pillowy and fresh.
So, yes, please, please, please take the time to eat this taco from this place and experience a truly great San Antonio taco.
— Benjamin Olivo
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