Los Habaneros, 4614 Callaghan Road

Written on a window at Los Habaneros were the words “Homemade Tortillas Flour & Corn.” But at this restaurant near Holmes High School, the emphasis was on the corn.

In my order of four tacos, I had a machacado and egg on one of the best corn tortillas I’ve had. The tortilla was fresh, wrinkly and flaky, like it had just come from puffing up on the comal. The machacado was seasoned excellently — like any good beef jerky or dried meat, the flavor lasted as I kept chewing. The well-cooked egg was kept to a minimum and mixed in well with the meat and diced veggies, which were more soft than crispy.

The rest of the tacos were ordered on flour tortillas, which were across the board good, but also inconsistent in preparation, it seemed.

For example, on the papa a la Mexicana, the tortilla was chewier than the others. However, the filling was excellent. The potatoes were well cooked and perfectly seasoned. The whole mixture, essentially pico de gallo with potatoes added, tricked me into thinking there was a sauce. It was that flavorful.

The tortilla I had with the carne guisada was very, very good. It was pillowy soft and ideal for soaking up the stewy bits. This carne guisada fell apart to the point that it seemed shredded. As for the seasoning, the dish was more meaty and had way more pepper than salt.

The bean and cheese with bacon was the lone misstep for me.

I couldn’t get a read on the beans — they were on the denser side and not smooth and creamy like I prefer. The fat from the bacon helped provide flavor, as it always does. This flour tortilla was one of the softer ones, but I detected a little bit of fat cooked in, possibly from the bacon.

For the order, the waitress brought a cooked and chunky salsa to go with a homemade bottled green sauce — both about average

Going back to the tortillas … I must be clear: The flour weren’t bad. They were all tasty. The treatment of each seemed to vary. That’s all. With that corn tortilla, though, no question it’s greatness.

Los Habaneros, 4614 Callaghan Road, (210) 444-9260

Worth traveling across town for
Average S.A. taqueria. Some hits, some misses
Mostly misses

Ben 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.

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.

Taqueria Huentitan #2, 6502 Babcock Road

Taqueria Huentitan #2 — located in a fast food building shell in BFE northwest San Antonio — offered a rare rollercoaster of emotions. I remember praising the ingenuity of one taco one moment, then spitting out some of another minutes later.

First, the carne guisada. Perhaps it needed a little bit more seasoning, but otherwise the meat was tender and the stew flavorful. The stew left me wanting more. I could tell this was a simple carne guisada — not a lot of ingredients.

The flour tortillas were soft with medium thickness — completely serviceable flour tortillas for San Antonio.

The ham and egg wasn’t the most photogenic taco ever. The egg amounted to yellow and white egg crumbles mixed in with bits of ham in a tortilla. So, the eggs weren’t whisked. And yet the taste was pretty good. I applied the red sauce — a straight-up chile de Arbol, vinegary sauce — and it definitely helped. This red sauce was very, very good, actually.

I ordered the pierna (pork leg) taco on corn and I immediately gave it a thumbs down. I bit into it and the thumb went lower. The tortilla was hard. It looked homemade, but not very good. I mean, the tortilla was literally hard. The shredded meat was well seasoned, but dry. It needed grease. So I added that vinegary red sauce and the quality of this taco shot up several notches — hard corn tortilla and all.

The bean and cheese was the low point — not just in this visit but in the brief history of this blog. Parts of the cheese were discolored. Like they were paler than your normal unnatural, nuclear yellow cheese. “Something not right about the cheese,” I wrote in my notes. Took a bite. Yup. That cheese was rancid. Couldn’t even tell you about the beans.

I must now explain my rating. I’m giving this place one salsa cup — not half a cup, or no cups — because the pierna taco with the red sauce and the carne guisada tacos were actually really good. If the bean and cheese had been edible, this place would have received the standard two salsa cup ratings. The lesson here: Beware of rank cheese.

Taqueria Huentitan #2, 6502 Babcock Road, (210) 558-8595

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.

La Barranca, 1026 Cincinnati Ave.

After I ate my tacos at La Barranca, I walked to the Woodlawn Casting Pond and Park a stone’s throw away, popped violet flavored Canel’s gum and had a lovely stroll. Though I was attacked by two geese — they do this thing where they bring their neck and head go low to the ground as they charge at you — I don’t hold it against them because that’s who they are. They’re assholes.

Oh right: the tacos. At La Barranca, they were fine and respectable tacos. I really enjoyed the bean and cheese on corn. Especially the corn tortilla. They were uniform in shape suggesting they went through a machine of some sort. But these had very good corn flavor and were soft. They held good plain mashed beans with a decent amount of cheese.

The carne guisada was quite good, actually. The meat had a really nice meat flavor suggesting they’re not skimping on the quality. A bit salty with some kind of chili powder. The meat was a little chewy, and there wasn’t a lot of stew. But this carne guisada was much tastier than most. And on a flour tortilla that was soft and totally respectable.

The chilaquiles on flour was hot temperature-wise with crunchy chips; very eggy and not much cheese — but I loved the application of fresh pico de gallo. The potato and chorizo was kind of meh. Good chorizo, not greasy. Well cooked potatoes. But the ingredients didn’t come together well. Kind of plain to average.

Back to the stroll. This is as good a place as any to mention the importance of Canel’s gum as a post-taco digestif. There should be a City of San Antonio ordinance requiring all Mexican food restaurants to have Canel’s gum on hand at all times. Let’s make that happen, folks.

La Barranca, 1026 Cincinnati Ave., (210) 733-8283

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 Taco de Jalisco, 4407 Vance Jackson Road

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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 ben@thetacoist.com.

Los Laureles Cafe, 1918 West Ave.

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This is blasphemy, I realize, as a native Texan, but bigger isn’t always better. Like those Mexican plates that come with the three cheese enchiladas, and the chalupa, and the gordita that sits on the beans because there’s no more room on the plate, and the rice — all squished together — two flour tortillas in a warmer on the side. You don’t have to finish the whole plate!

With breakfast tacos, sometimes the tortilla is too big. I prefer regular-sized tortillas that are filled three-quarters of the way with whatever — carne guisada, bean and cheese, etc. Something that’s manageable, more crafted. With the extra large tortillas, you inevitably end up tearing away the edges because it’s extra, and end up with a pile of homeless tortilla scraps.

These are the kinds of tortillas being served at Los Laureles Cafe on inner West Avenue. Size aside, they are about your average flour tortillas in terms of taste.

Overall, the tacos were pretty good.

The papa ranchera looked chaotic, all thrown together. The potatoes looked like they were once cooked to perfection with crispy edges but were just now being used. On the soggy side. Texturally, not the greatest start. However, the ranchera sauce was very good. It had that pureness of any tomato-base sauce, almost like a really good and simple pasta sauce. Comforting. An actual sauce, but then like a fresh pico de gallo added as another layer. Adding the house green hot sauce here would be a mistake. And again, way too much tortilla, but what are you going to do?

The bean and bacon on corn had very, very good beans. They were watery — less mashed and almost whole —but a pure bean flavor and seasoned just right. The bacon was bacon so, yes, it tasted fantastic. The corn tortilla was huge, like its flour brethren, and thin and crispy on the edges.

The chilaquiles was another monster. Usually, a taqueria gives you a smaller portion, like a taco portion. This one seemed like an entire chilaquiles breakfast plate in a tortilla. Good crunchy chips. Nice egg ratio to the other ingredients. Somewhat average.

The machacado and egg had really good beef flavor. Not chewy, but kind of crunchy. Hot egg. Oddly, I found a few chips in there which immediately inspired the macha—quiles. I’m serious. How cool would that be? This machacado perhaps needed more seasoning. And such little portion as the tortilla blanketed the machacado/egg mixture.

Overall, respectable tacos. I really liked that ranchera sauce in the papa ranchera. And how about that macha—quiles? Let’s start a movement, but on regular-sized tortilla please.

Los Laureles Cafe, 1918 West Ave., (210) 736-1255

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.