Hacienda el Tule, 403 SW Military Drive

The Palate and I cruised down SW Military Drive, because that’s what you do. You don’t drive down SW Military Drive. You cruise. And in the sea of business signs — amid the Peter Piper Pizzas and Chinese restaurants and auto stores — we spotted, in one of the endless retail strips, Hacienda el Tule.

(Yes, you read that correctly. The Palate is back! Or, was back for this write-up, at least. Good to bring some respectability and real tastebuds to a Tacoist post.)

Having two of us meant more tacos to taste. Overall, Hacienda el Tule’s tacos were about average. However, there were surprising moments.

The papa ranchera would have been a very, very good taco if it hadn’t been for a few slightly undercooked potatoes. Otherwise, the tomato-based ranchera sauce was excellent.

We both really enjoyed the “chicharron w/sauce.” Usually, you’ll see the sauce described as red or green. Here, it’s just “sauce.” That’s because it appears of red or orange hue, but it’s obvious there was tomatillo mixed in. The result is a tangy and very acidic sauce. And delicious. It could have used some salt to cut through the acidity, but otherwise this was a very tasty taco. The skins were cooked perfectly.

The Palate really liked the machacado and egg. So did I, but I thought the meat was over salted and the egg slightly overdone.

The carne guisada had good flavor up front, but then it trailed off considerably. The beans in the bean and cheese were average on a very good corn tortilla. The chorizo and egg was your standard, average, blah chorizo and egg. (My least favorite kind of breakfast taco.)

Hacienda el Tule generally delivered the flavors. When it didn’t, like in the case of the carne guisada, the garlicky green hot sauce served as one of the best flavor enhancers I’ve had in any taqueria. So why isn’t my rating higher? The flour tortillas were very standard.

If you’re cruising down SW Military Drive, know that there is some talent inside Hacienda el Tule’s kitchen. But there are also setbacks.

Hacienda el Tule, 403 S.W. Military Drive, (210) 924-4232

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 ben@thetacoist.com.

El Patio, 805 S. Seguin Road (Converse)

While in Converse …

This isn’t a community or part of town I’d normally eye for the latest taco discovery. But I was in the neighborhood for my job-job and this restaurant — El Patio — looked promising.

It’s located in what looks like a covered patio just down the street from D.W. Rutledge Stadium, home of the Judson Rockets. I had high hopes for this place because it’s mom-and-pop-looking and has all the appropriate signage, like “Breakfast Taco Special — 3 Tacos For $2.99 — No Mix.”

I asked the waitress for her recommendation and she half-heartedly pointed me to the country guisada, which is country sausage in a sauce. It was good. The sausage quality seemed somewhere in the middle — not the cheap stuff, but not Kiolbassa. The sauce was thin but not runny — it stuck to the triangular pieces of sauce. And it had a nice kick from the peppers.

The carne guisada was actually very good. El Patio’s version isn’t big on the stew. It’s the meat that takes top billing. It was well-seasoned and had very little fat. Perhaps a bit on the dry side, but it wasn’t hard to chew. This carne guisada just tasted like MEAT, if that makes sense.

It was impossible to get a handle on the beans in the bean and cheese because they were covered in like a cheese casing. Like, no light was touching those beans. It was OK, but I will give props (do the kids still say this?) to the corn tortilla. It seemed very homemade and cornmeal-y, like it could have made a great gordita in another life — er — patting.

The chicharron was a disappointment. It was clearly fried pork skins that were covered in the same chile de arbol red sauce that was on the table. Absolutely no indication that it was cooked over a period of time.

I could have made that taco.

El Patio, 805 S. Seguin Road, Converse, Texas, (210) 566-1739

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 ben@thetacoist.com.

Roy’s Taco Hut, 6211 San Pedro Ave.

When you order tacos at Roy’s Taco Hut on San Pedro Avenue, you must indicate “small” or “large.” Because if you don’t say “small,” they’ll go straight to “large.” It’s like the default size is large. Or, “Texas size”, as the tacos are coined at Roy’s. That’s the way the menu lists them—$1 less for small tacos. So they’re not regular taco-sized tacos, but “small.”

On that most wordy note, I ordered the Taco Caliente, one of their big-ass specialty tacos, which ends up being carne asada and grilled onions and peppers. Pretty standard. And not hot, really. The peppers delivered more flavor than heat. The tortilla broke easily so I ended up eating the strips of beef and veggies with a fork. The meat was slightly dry, but the taste certainly was there—the nicely grilled meats and veggies mixed together well with the flour tortilla.

Looking back at the menu, I regret my choices. Roy’s was a solo expedition, so I could only shove so much taco down into my panza. I went twice, because the big tacos posed a serious challenge. But the other specialty tacos looked delicious.

Roy’s Super Taco is carne guisada, guacamole, beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato. And the Vanessa Supreme is beef or chicken fajita with sour cream, guacamole, lettuce and tomato.

I went with the chicharron with chili and egg. If you can get past the texture of the pork skins, you’ll probably really like this taco. It has an excellent meshing of the very porky skins with a smoky sauce and perfectly scrambled egg. The skins, however, are gelatinous. They giggle when you shake the plate.

The stew in the carne guisada was greasy and thick. It’s flavor was good but slightly off the normal Tex-Mex flavor profile. It was carne guisada, for the most part. I couldn’t pinpoint the mystery ingredient.

The bean and cheese on corn and chilaquiles tacos were average. That was my impression of Roy’s Taco Hut—pretty average to slightly above average tacos in a rock ‘n’ roll setting. In fact, the rock memorabilia is laid on so thick, it’s more nauseating than cool to look at. Before you even enter the place, The Beatles famously cross Abbey Road in Roy’s large front windows.

I invite you to get past the schtick and try some of the more intriguing taco offerings. There was also a carne guisada with bean and cheese; carne guisada gravy taco (no meat!); and the enchilada taco (very meta).

Roy’s Taco Hut, 6211 San Pedro Ave., (210) 366-1166

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 ben@thetacoist.com.

Bee’s & Sisy’s, 111 N. Flores St.

Before it moved to its spot on Flores Street, a half-block from City Hall, Bee’s and Sisy’s operated from a hole-in-the-wall in the cluster of 1930s buildings on Commerce Street just before one reaches Market Square. I loved that space. It was like a big city mom-and-pop restaurant — tight quarters, low ceiling, beat up tiled walls, bins full of produce, and pan dulce brought daily from its Castle Hills location.

Bee’s and Sisy’s current downtown space is more spread out and diner-like — a counter to the left, booths to the right and tables in the middle. I sat at the first table as I walked in — to take advantage of the natural light, for photos — and in one of the booths, facing me on the diagonal, was an older dude meditating with his coffee. The svelte man dressed sharp — a collared shirt (white undershirt) tucked into casual slacks that hovered over a pair of Stacys.

An older woman came in and asked me for change, but I didn’t have any. She sat at the booth next to me, while her companion, a younger woman, used the restroom.

I ordered my usual bean and cheese on corn and carne guisada on flour and improvised the rest of the order.

The carne guisada was different. Its stew was dark red and oily. Made with dried peppers, possibly. I loved the salsa on this taco.(More on the salsa later.)

The flour tortillas were also different. They were oval and slightly skewed — shaped like painters palettes. They were thick and doughy and smooth. Thick, but not hard — almost spongy.

Occasionally, the roar of a VIA bus drowned out Vincente Fernandez, but only for a few lines.

The bean and cheese on corn was very, very good. The corn tortilla was flaky, brittle in parts, but obviously homemade. Its rich corn flavor overpowered the beans. So I really had to hone in my tastebuds on the beans, which I determined were buttery, slightly watery (which is fine) and semi-coarse.

Around 8:30 a.m., the regulars began walking in and took their seats.

The potato and bacon on flour was nice. The bacon crunched like tripas. The potatoes were pretty much cooked perfectly, thought I got one that was on the rawer side.

Over the booths hung tacky Fiesta-colored Fiesta posters. Displayed across the counter was random merchandise — purses and picnic caddies.

Melones sat on the countertop; $1.70 each.

The chorizo and egg was your typical San Antonio amalgamation of chorizo and egg. It tasted fresh and was fine. But the house sauce really elevated this taco.

This sauce was a tough to figure out. Not a pure green or red, but like a greenish brown. I thought maybe it was serrano with something red mixed in. It’s flavor was excellent and it kicked me in the back of the throat a few times.

I love these types of restaurants — the San Antonio taqueria, but downtown. There aren’t that many of these types of Old San Antonio establishments left. Oasis Cafe nearby on Main and Roosevelt Buffet (a beer bar) a few blocks south on Flores, being two examples. I stole the term “Old San Antonio” from a barber in his 80s named Willie Cedillo, who’s still cutting hair at his shop nearby on Main. Five years ago or so, his wife operated a Mexican slash Columbian restaurant in this very space. Before opening his shop in the mornings, you could find him sitting on a stool at the counter. I heard Cedillo is finally going to retire soon. He’s been cutting hair downtown continuously since the 1940s. But that’s another story that has nothing to do with tacos.

I’m sure tacos were involved.

Bee’s & Sisy’s, 111 N. Flores St., (210) 271-9540

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 ben@thetacoist.com.

El Gallito de Jalisco, 9226 Wurzbach Road

A recent visit proved that even a really good tortilla can’t save some tacos.

El Gallito de Jalisco make such tortillas. They’re not the greatest of all time, but they’re very good. They’re fluffy smooth and really flat on one end and thick on the other suggesting they were pressed in-house.

What they carried, unfortunately, were mostly misses.

The highlight was the bacon and egg — very good with lots of bacon that’s mixed in beautifully with the egg. You really get your money’s worth with this one.

But then I had the bean and cheese on corn. The tortilla was cooked almost to a crisp and the beans seemed canned. I realize these are strong words, but that’s what they tasted like to me.

The carne guisada was flat and did not have any depth of flavor that comes as a result of cooking the meat over a long period of time. It had a nice flavor at the beginning and then it trails off. It needed more seasoning. The chunks of onions and bell pepper were not a good sign — those veggies should be mushy and unrecognizable after being slow-cooked for hours.

Finally, the papas rancheras has a very good tomato-y sauce, but the potatoes were mushy. And way too many potatoes at that.

I must give props to El Gallito’s chile de arbol sauce, which was dark red (almost orange) and very good. Another sauce was brown but seemed like it has some green elements in there I want to say were tomatillos. Not sure. But it had excellent garlicky taste and some good bite.

The lesson here: Treat your tortillas well.

El Gallito de Jalisco, 9226 Wurzbach Road, (210) 614-7114

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 ben@thetacoist.com.

El Sol, 1815 Pleasanton Road

You can tell that El Sol Mexican Restaurant on the South Side (across from Harlandale High School) is more than a restaurant when you pass a table covered with bracelets and earrings for sale. Once inside, the shilling keeps on going. I looked down on the table and there appeared two Virgen de Guadalupe keychains with notes tied on them from a woman claiming to be deaf: $3, if we were so inclined. Three minutes later, I looked down again and the keychains had disappeared. I never saw the woman.

A man came armed with spangled Spurs shirts and tank tops — literally around each arm. Another held out to each table a metal plate with the words “Go Spurs Go” engraved on it. A father and son duo belted out corridos as they walked through the restaurant’s different chambers.

I thought: Who cares about the food? I was having a great time soaking up the atmosphere on a Sunday morning on the South Side.

Turns out the food was fantastic.

This is one of those places where clearly everyone in the neighbor knows of it — and not many people outside the neighborhood do. And that’s the way it should be.

There with a new sidekick, The Conch, we went to town:

» The Coaches taco was a combo of bean, scrambled egg, bacon and cheese. Very, very good. The Conch liked how the bean and scrambled egg are a natural mix and then you add bacon and cheese. I tried a trash can-style taco before and didn’t prefer it. This one, I do.

» The carne guisada was also very good and seemed more of a simple rendition with tender meat and thin and watery stew.

» The barbacoa on flour was not greasy, semi crunchy. It included some fat, but not enough to discard. Great flavor on a flour tortillas that was also very good.

» The bean and cheese on corn was also very good with the beans and cheese equally played in a tortilla that was soft and obviously homemade.

» The patties and egg was about what you’d expect from Jimmy Dean-style breakfast patties and nicely scrambled egg — freakin’ delicious.

» The chicharron con salsa was good — the salsa seemingly placed on top of the skins as the taco was made and not braised together for a long period of time. Still very good with a chunky kind of ranchera sauce.

» The papa, chorizo and egg mix was my least favorite, but still good.

I really liked El Sol and gladly give it two and a half salsa cups. It’s not three, because everything there was very, very good — but nothing like outstanding. But I’d say it’s still worth the crosstown visit because of the seven tacos we had, none of them were bad or even mediocre. They were all very good.

El Sol, 1815 Pleasanton Road, (210) 923-5553

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 ben@thetacoist.com.

Bertha’s, 2629 W. Martin St.

I’ve come to realize that some readers of this blog won’t ever step foot into some restaurants I highlight. It’s a shame because one of the points of this thing is to encourage people to venture out of their community and explore the rest of San Antonio — all in the name of tacos.

I don’t mean to sound critical. Well, part of me does. I think most of it has to do with routine. When it comes to tacos, we definitely all have our routines.

For me, Bertha’s on the West Side will likely become part of my routine when I’m not on official taco business and just want to enjoy them without trying to describe what they taste like while taking copious pictures of them.

Though it lacked seasoning, Bertha’s homemade beans inside a handmade corn tortilla was excellent. I liked the fact that the cheese in this taco was an accessory and not the focal point. But back to the tortilla: This is easily one of the best corn tortillas I’ve had. It was soft and kind of the right thickness with excellent corn flavor. The beans were more coarse and watery — a style straight out of most abuelita’s kitchens.

I would put money that Bertha’s is adjacent to many abuelita’s kitchens. It’s located on West Martin Street closer to downtown — where it’s mostly rows of worn-down neighborhood and not a lot of retail.

The corn tortilla was the highlight, but the flour were serviceable. Great flavor. OK texture. More of a conduit for what’s inside them rather than a major player.

The other tacos were all slightly above average. The carne guisada was tender and well seasoned and had a deliciousness that sneaked up on me. The egg and ham was average. The machacado was brilliant-looking with its sharp colors of dark dried meat and colorful diced veggies; it tasted fine, but needed salt.

The green sauce is worth noting. It seemed a blend of roasted serrano peppers and tomatillos? Or, perhaps jalapenos. It was very coarse and very good.

What kind of sold me on this place was its vibe. Cozy. Like being in a grandma’s home. I do my best to avoid such cliches, but Bertha’s really is like that. Maybe it was the painting of The Last Supper I could see from my seat. Or the waitress who was one of the warmest and friendliest — she practically called me mijo. Or the cost: their daily lunch specials are $3.99. Or that it’s a West Side hole in the wall. I’m pretty sure it was all of that combined.

Why wouldn’t you want to traverse town for an experience like that?

Berth’s, 2629 W. Martin St., (210) 860-6143

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 ben@thetacoist.com.