El Mariachi Loco, 610 Isom Road

When the waitress at El Mariachi Loco brought our tacos — 10 in all — I told the group, “I’m going to be weird for a second.” I grabbed the plates and took them to a table next to a window, next to the natural light, for photo purposes.

“That’s OK, this is what I paid for,” said The Yellow Cheese of Texas.

She was being funny, but she got me thinking: Why not start a taco fantasy camp?

The Yellow Cheese was there with her bestie, The Big Bender — two lady friends who I had met for the first time 12 hours earlier at a mutual friend’s birthday gathering, which included booze, Hard Bodies tacos and birthday cake.

In the drunkenness it was decided that they should accompany me on my taco adventure the next morning . . . nothing happened. And then we met for tacos. The Yellow Cheese happens to work in food and I needed her expertise to decipher a flavor I have never tasted, and that I’ll probably never taste again in a local taqueria: curry.

This was the flavor embedded in the carne guisada at El Mariachi Loco — which I have determined is the greatest name for a taqueria ever. But curry? Later upon reflection, the Yellow Cheese and Big Bender thought coriander, as well.

So we asked the waitress, and later chatted up the owner, and it was determined that they use Maizena (corn starch) to thicken the stew. Definitely different, but also tasty and tender.

Later, she used the starch or masa or something to make us a vanilla atole — which is like a horchata but thicker and hot.

I fell in love with El Mariachi Loco. It’s in what looks like a portable classroom. A humble place that is totally chill. The owner chatted up the Yellow Cheese and Big Bender, two white girls, and totally ignored the Mexican with the camera. El Mariachi Loco is located in the industrial part of the northside that’s in the shadows of the airport. The windowless Marty’s Cocktails, for those wondering, is across the street.

El Mariachi Loco’s flour tortillas were especially good. They were smooth and almost translucent, soft and layered to indicate they had puffed up. Thin, but with some fluff.

I enjoyed all of the tacos. The ham and egg was respectable. The bean and cheese had flavorful beans and was really cheesy. The bacon and egg with cheese had coarsely chopped bacon that were like little pops of flavor. The papa chorizo was more mashed potatoes, so I wasn’t a big fan, but at least the chorizo was high grade and therefore not greasy. Really good migas — not dry and very crispy chips.

The al pastor Monterrey style was dry but flavorful. I liked the addition of the cheese, but The Big Bender didn’t care for it.

The machacado was very good. The meat needed more seasoning, but I loved the pop from the bell pepper and onion, and it had a nice burst of heat from the peppers. Loved it.

So this was my adventure. And now you know that if you become a Tacoist groupie — girl or guy — you automatically get a cool nickname. The Yellow Cheese of Texas and The Big Bender have set the bar.

El Mariachi Loco, 610 Isom Road, (210) 979-0457

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.

Taco Rey, 11825 West Ave.


Editor’s Note: After much consideration, I have lowered my salsa cup rating for this restaurant.

As soon as I saw the hat, I knew this place was legit. The portly cook on the flattop at Taco Rey donned a paper white hat, the same hats the short order cooks wear at diners. The more I thought about it, the happier I was — this cook didn’t have to wear the hat, but he does because he’s a taco wielding badass. And the tacos proved my instincts correct.

The Norteno, for example, was steak, beans and white cheese in a tortilla wrapped in foil. The steak was juicy, the avocado slices ripe and the beans tender. The flour tortilla had a smoothness and sheen that comes from them being warmed on the griddle — the same surface that the meat is cooked.

The menu described the Trash Can as “a little bit of everything.” It wasn’t my favorite but it wasn’t because of lack of skill. I don’t prefer egg, bean, cheese, potato and bacon in a single taco, is all. Perhaps the true definition of a breakfast taco, but it wasn’t for me.

The bean and cheese I ordered on corn and the tortilla was one of those soft, white-corn, almost flaky tortillas that are common at barbacoa joints. This was more of a bean taco with the cheese in a supporting role, and it was delicious.

The carne guisada was not a traditional Tex-Mex carne guisada meaning I couldn’t detect any chili or tomato paste. But rather the stew was more like gravy. Thicker, globby. But with excellent flavor nonetheless.

It’s also important to mention the skill that went into the salsas.

The green was more chopped up green pepper rather than a liquid. And the red was made from toasted chiles (you could tell from the black burnt flakes) but orange, which could be attributed to the adding of oil. Don’t mess around with this sauce — it’s as hot as any in an S.A. taqueria. The heat easily makes it way to the bottom of your throat.

Lastly, there was a third sauce that was brought out with a basket of chips. I tasted it over and over because I was trying to figure out its make up. It was like roasted tomato based. Or perhaps the sauce was cooked later as it was toasty. It had the typical onions and peppers, but also chopped cilantro and green onions. It seemed to have a slight sweetness. Whatever was in it, the salsa was very good.


Taco Rey, 11825 West Ave., (210) 341-3030

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.

Agave Grill, 9307 Broadway


In the end, the pierna saved the day.

Pierna, or the leg of the pig, is a taco that’s foreign to me. It’s not a cut of meat I’m used to seeing on menus in San Antonio. And a recent visit to Agave Grill on Broadway would have yielded a thumbs down from me if it weren’t for this taco.

The meat was shredded like barbacoa and a little dry like machacado. It was crispy from the cooking process and had an excellent pork flavor. Well seasoned. I loved the addition of onions and peppers. Not fatty or greasy. All in a big fluffy tortilla. This is one of those tacos that requires some of the house salsa — not to add flavor but to add moisture.

The rest of the menu is pretty standard for San Antonio breakfast tacos.

The chilaquiles was disappointing. Maybe it’s just not what I’m used to. The red tortilla strips were semi crispy. The cheese was white. And it had a bold onion flavor. However, the egg was an afterthought. This was almost like a traditional chilaquiles, which is chips and cheese and salsa. The flavors were there — this wasn’t a bad taco — but disproportioned for my taste.

I was not a big fan of the bean and cheese. I couldn’t get a good read on the beans.

The carne in the carne guisada was well-seasoned and soft and tender. But the stew lacked that certain depth that is necessary for a proper braised dish. This carne guisada was cooked in some kind of pepper given the redness of the sauce. Guajillo, I’d guess. Try the house green hot sauce with this one.

Everything else was about average. The tortillas. The red and green salsa. Blah! Get me out of this report!

Agave Grill, 9307 Broadway, (210) 824-0777

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.

Mi Abuela’s, 2313 N.W. Military Drive


Here’s a Mexican restaurant in Mi Abuela’s near Castle Hills where the corn tortillas are actually better than the flour. I didn’t think that was possible in San Antonio. I walked in and I was immediately struck by its tidiness — a big contrast from the places I usually gravitate toward.

My waitress pushed the more meaty tacos, because I arrived there late, late morning. She also asked me if I knew how to fix the TV, which had gone blizzard. I didn’t, and then I ordered (mostly) breakfast tacos.

The discovery here, again, was the corn tortilla that I had with bean and cheese. There is no way to tell if the actual abuela slash cook is making these tortillas or whether they’re made at a tortilleria and then brought here. And even if they’re made in-house, are they created from store-bought Maseca or from scratch? No matter, these tortillas were excellent. They were perfectly round and soft with a medium thickness. And they were flexible and light.

I’ve been asking myself lately why I don’t order more tacos on corn. The reason is that flour tortillas are more of a staple in San Antonio, and therefore the quality is consistently high. Corn can be hit and miss and we usually only eat them with barbacoa. Or, at least that’s what we did along the 36th/Esmeralda/Hillcrest corridor.

Back to Castle Hills. On this corn, the beans were on the watery side and needed more seasoning, but respectable, otherwise. But again, the corn tortilla carried this taco.

I broke from my exploration of the breakfast taco and ordered the carne asada con frijoles. (The waitress sold me and it was pretty much lunchtime.) The meat was well-seasoned and not too chewy and mixed well with the grilled onion and bell pepper.

The flour tortilla was the problem — they seemed old and some slightly overdone. This is not good for any taco as the tortilla is literally the foundation.

And so the papa chorizo was OK with high quality chorizo that was not too greasy. And the potatoes were well done. But that tortilla.

The chicharron and egg was actually very good, about as good as chicharron in scrambled eggs can get — the crispy and soft textures married. But that tortilla.

At Mi Abuela’s the restaurant (not my actual grandmother) go with corn.

Mi Abuela’s, 2313 N.W. Military Drive, (210) 290-9350

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.

Taqueria Los Arcos, 13777 Nacogdoches Road


How did I discover Nacogdoches Road just last week? I’ve driven on Perrin Beitel Road before, but never to where it turns into Nacogdoches, which is like the S.W. Military Drive of the northside. Not really. But it’s definitely more working class than any neighborhood I’d associate with the northside. All those taquerias and tire shops. And not just a Culebra Meat Market, but a La Michoacana Meat Market.

We picked Los Arcos — a tiny place in a retail strip that’s wedged between a pho restaurant and a Rios Golden Cut, the chain where I went for all my ‘dos during my elementary and middle school years. The tiny restaurant fills up with people standing around waiting for to-go orders.

And for good reason. The tacos at Los Arcos were good across the menu. I find this to be unusual. At most taquerias, taco quality usually fluctuates — certain tacos they will have mastered, while others not so much. The six tacos we ordered at Los Arcos were all of high quality — not one distinguished itself from the other. No standout.

If I had to nitpick, I’d single out the flour tortillas. They were more doughy than they were pliable. For me, a perfect flour tortilla you should be able to grab from the sides and twist with ease. The tortillas here are thicker and chewier — like they never puffed up on the comal.

But, again, the fillings were all high quality.

The chilaquiles had crispy chips and the other ingredients mixed beautifully with the egg. The shredded cheese was one of those prepackaged medley deals with stringy strands of white and various yellows. I prefer — I think we all prefer — the thicker-shredded nuclear cheddar cheese, to steal a line from Anthony Bourdain.

The beans in the bean and cheese had good flavor and were light in a corn tortilla that was soft with medium thickness. The papa chorizo was about as good as papa chorizo gets, well-done potatoes lightly coated in chorizo and not at all greasy. The sausage in the country and egg was clearly a higher brand of sausage. The carne guisada had hints of tomato paste and chili powder — a sign that they’re putting in the effort — and therefore had the complex flavor that’s required with this stew. The machacado was well balanced with curiously seasoned meat. Cumin, perhaps.

Any of these tacos could be enhanced with the two hot sauces — your typical serrano-based green and chile de arbol-based red.

If it hadn’t been for the slightly disappointing tortillas, Los Arcos would be high on my list of best taquerias because the fillings were that good. You must understand, these aren’t bad tortillas. They do just fine. But they definitely are far from being the best.

Now, I can’t wait to explore the rest of Nacogdoches.

Taqueria Los Arcos, 13777 Nacogdoches Road, (210) 599-1822

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.