Mr. P’s, 1601 Guadalupe St.

Mr. P’s, located in the heart of the West Side on Guadalupe Street, is not a taqueria or a truck or even a trailer. It is, I guess, what one would call a souped-up taco stand with indoor and patio seating.

This tiny converted home, and former raspa stand, offers a limited assortment of breakfast tacos, barbecue tacos of brisket and chicken, and other items like hamburgers and sandwiches, mangonadas and strawberrynadas. It’s all served from a window that faces Guadalupe. Or, you can order from a couple of spots inside the gate.

The piping hot bean and cheese was good, with really tasty and simple homemade beans; and maybe the best quality cheese I’ve had — must be Tillamook or something. The smoked brisket and chicken tacos were both good. The chicken, which comes with pico de gallo, had a really nice smokey flavor and was well seasoned. The brisket was solid and chopped some. It was all fresh, and I left the place feeling not weighed down — as is the case with most taco experiences in San Antonio — but like I had eaten healthy.

Mr. P’s, 1601 Guadalupe St., (210) 574-1419

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

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

Efrain’s Food Market, 1222 Saltillo St.

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated that a painting of a building behind the register was of Efrain’s. It is not.

Here’s the scoop on Efrain’s Food Market on the West Side: The tacos didn’t change my life and — from the look of things — the tortillas come from packages. Still, I loved the place.

Efrain’s is a throwback to a time when families bought their groceries from the mom-and-pop store down the street. Efrain’s has survived. The store is located on Saltillo Street, a side street off the main thoroughfare of Zarzamora. You wouldn’t know it was there unless you took a wrong turn or unless you were from the neighborhood.

I heard of Efrain’s from a student at Memorial High School — where I attempted to impart journalistic wisdom recently; I think I succeeded — who rhapsodized about the barbacoa and tamales.

When I arrived there on a Sunday, around 10 a.m., the tamales were sold out. I was there for the barbacoa, anyway.

Though it’s not much of a grocery store or meat market anymore, Efrain’s, which was founded in 1953, is still popular in the community. There are those old-school grocery store shelves — the ones that are at chest height — that have some produce such as onions, bananas, dried guajillo peppers, and some household cleaning items. There are a few tables for dining in. It’s all very tightly spaced and cozy. Behind the cash register are pictured of loved ones and lots of Jesus signage. A painting of what looks like the Efrain’s building back in the day is the centerpiece of the arrangement.

Where you’re drawn to is the meat counter. A expansive colorful sign informs you of the choices — barbacoa, chicharrones, carnitas and lengua by the pound. Breakfast tacos only on weekdays. Tamales by the dozen.

On the weekends, the place does steady traffic for its barbacoa, pork carnitas and tamales. This isn’t a restaurant. So the food is cooked and put in warmers, and they tell you what your choices are for that day.

On the weekday when I went, I had a papa ranchera, which was spicy from what seemed like serrano. The potatoes were on the mushy side, but still had very good flavor. However, they seemed old a little old, like the papas had been sitting in the warmer a while.

The beans in the bean and cheese on corn were very good — creamy, fatty and rich in flavor. But the corn tortilla was obviously store-bought.

Another taco — I didn’t get the name because I’m a bad reporter — I can only describe as pork and beans. Like salted pork. Good, not great.

The carne guisada was disappointing. Its flavor was OK with a strong chili powder flavor. It also seemed stewed in water and not in any kind of stock.

Which brings us to the barbacoa. They loaded up the corn tortilla, which was nice. And the meat was good — not greasy and with some fat. Clean, but also very just average. I was expecting more flavor. But, honestly, the slight blandness wasn’t anything a little salt and the very good green hot sauce didn’t fix.

The pork carnitas were similar — well cooked, tender and shredded. But definitely in need of seasoning and salsa verde.

Before wrapping this up, I must say that the service was excellent. The family who runs Efrain’s is extremely friendly, which might explain why it’s remained open since the 1950s.

Efrain’s Food Market, 1222 Saltillo St., (210) 435-4004

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

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

Pedro’s Cafe, 2116 Guadalupe St.


Walking into Pedro’s Cafe on the West Side had me worried. No West Side taqueria should be this empty, especially on a Saturday morning.

Then I ate the tacos. It can’t be the food, I thought. My fellow taco critic, The Palate, didn’t seem as enthused but I thought the tacos were consistently good across the board. At times, they even produced some surprisingly tasty flavor combos I had never had before.

One such combo was the country a la Mexicana on corn. The diced veggies were grilled to the point that they were caramelized. This sweetness complemented the sausage well. This sweet and smoky mixture was in a toasty corn tortilla — not burnt — an excellent amalgamation of flavors.

Even wilder was the ham and egg on flour. Seems a bit banal for San Antonio. The egg was overcooked, but not ruined. But then we added the cinnamon-y green sauce and — OK, I’ve never tasted that before. That’s right. The green sauce, which was either jalapeno or serrano, had a note of cinnamon. And it went well with the ham. Like a warm and spicy taco.

The papa guisada was another mini revelation. What’s the difference between this taco and papa a la Mexicana or papa ranchera? I have no clue. This sauce seemed more like a thicker ranchera sauce, which is basically tomato, onion and pepper cooked till mushy. This one had a distinctive garlic flavor. And these potato cuts were smaller instead of the larger chunks that sometimes don’t fit in a tortilla.

Another hit was the carne guisada, whose stew had a lasting flavor and whose meat was tender. I couldn’t get a read on the beans in the bean and cheese. (I know, I have one job.) The bean and chorizo had good flavor but was too greasy.

So why the nearly empty restaurant on a Saturday morning in the heart of the West Side? These tacos didn’t suck. In fact, some of them were very, very good. The flour tortillas weren’t the greatest of all time, but they had that pliability and softness that I always look for.

If you’re in the neighborhood, drop by Pedro’s. Maybe you can tell me.

Pedro’s Cafe, 2116 Guadalupe St., (210) 354-3848

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

El Rinconcito, 1401 S. Brazos St.


One of the hair-netted cooks, who was young, attractive and assertive, asked me “para llevar?” from the exposed kitchen I faced as I walked into El Rinconcito on the West Side. I said “for here,” because I’m a coconut and then she motioned me toward the dining area to the left.

Indeed, the layout of El Rinconcito seems turned around. You enter into a room that is a waiting area and kitchen — the two separated by a counter where the waitresses place and pick up orders. A restaurant at the Pearl will open up its kitchen to be hip, but here it is genuinely cool.

An older waitress who very well could have been the proprietor — she seemed to be running things — took my order by memory. I was nervous because she was multitasking, as waitresses do, inputting other taco orders into her memory banks, making drinks, busing tables. Ten minutes later, she delivered my tacos, just as I ordered.

I ate the tacos — two very good, one average and one mostly inedible — but I just enjoyed sitting in this restaurant. I’ll visit a taqueria around 9:30 a.m., to avoid the morning rush, but this place filled up nicely with a second morning rush. Two older men were having some kind of reunion. A family sitting by the register broadcasted their orders. Four workers in hardhats and rain boots, the lone male bellowing “Ho, ho, ho” every few minutes, sat down near me. It wasn’t until I made out the “K” stickers on their hats that I realized they worked at the Kiolbassa facility a half-block away. I wanted to ask, “How is the sausage made?”

This might also explain the quality of the country and egg. I would bet $20 (no more, because I’m unemployed) that they use Kiolbassa sausage in all their dishes that require sausage. The high quality of this smoky sausage made this taco. Also, the flour tortilla was top-notch — soft, chewy and puffed up in certain parts.

The beans in the bean and cheese had a very bean flavor, which suggested to me the lack of lard or bacon grease or another heart-stopping enhancer. Perhaps they were cooked in very little vegetable oil as these beans tasted clean and light.

The potato and egg was about average. Kind of a hard taco to mess up.

The carne guisada, unfortunately, was mostly fat. I spat out about 75 percent of the filling into a napkin. The actual meat had decent flavor and was in a decent stew.

When the waitress came back, I ordered two bean and cheese on corn for the road, because I wanted to take the bean back to The Tacoist Test Kitchen for further examination. I waited and waited. So I went up to pay the bill, and another waitress found the ticket minus the to-go bean and cheese. I filled her in. She swung around to the kitchen and shouted in the order and then I paid. This, while my original waitress reminded everyone that my to-go tacos were on corn.

Removed from my original table, I took a seat in the waiting area and observed the chaos of the kitchen. They weren’t shouting at each other — the cooks and waitresses — but communicating in get-shit-done speak. Again, more time passed. Another waitress noticed me sitting there, checking my phone and immediately turned back to the kitchen and scolded the cooks about forgetting my bean and cheese tacos. The cooks looked at me with eyes that said, “Why didn’t you say anything?” And I actually said, “I thought the order was in!” The attractive cook spooned up those clean beans and slapped them in a corn tortilla with attitude while emasculating me in Spanish. I kind of liked it.

El Rinconcito, 1401 S. Brazos St., (210) 222-1350

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

El Santos, 1419 Castroville Road


Taquerias like El Santos can be frustrating because they seem all over the map in the quality of what they do. Located on the West Side on Castroville Road, El Santos is wrapped in burglar bars on the outside but which is actually a nice restaurant once you get inside. But just as the corn tortillas were quite good, the beans were off in a suspect way. Just as I loved the country ranchero taco, the bottled red sauce singed my tongue.

This is also a place recommended to me by my uncle, who lives with my grandma Sandoval not too far down Castroville, for those corn tortillas. They are yellow and soft and patted on sight. I have no idea if they’re cranking the molino in the back or if the masa is a mix or what — but they were still tasty. You also can buy in bulk: a dozen flour tortillas are $3.99 and corn tortillas are 50 cents each.

But let’s dig into some tacos.

My favorite was the country ranchero. Its smoky sausage was closer to what you’d get at home. I have no clue what sausage brand they’re cooking with. The ranchero sauce had a rich and clean tomato flavor with super fresh onions and bell peppers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was the bean and cheese. You can just tell when beans are homemade, and these did not taste like that.

The machacado was a bit overdone, but the flavor was definitely there in a semi-crisp flour tortilla. The egg in the chorizo and egg was a bit overdone. The papa a la Mexicana was dry and therefore needed hot sauce, so I applied the red.

Man, oh man. The red is one of those sauces that’s so hot you can’t taste much of anything else. It’s more brown than red. It seemed based in a kind of smoked chile like chipotle or some other dried pepper. The green was also hotter than it should have been, oily and lacking in flavor.

The chilaquiles with crispy chips was good in one of those yellow corn tortillas. It got me and my taco associate thinking: this corn would be epic with some nice homemade beans that’s it. Maybe order some of those tortillas to-go and you can make that happen at home.

El Santos, 1419 Castroville Road, (210) 432-8403

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

Isela’s Tacos, 3650 Culebra Road


The name of the place is Isela’s Tacos, but it should be Isela’s Wonderful Tortillas. What filled the tortillas was good to very good, but the tortillas emerged as one of the best so far on this Tacoist odyssey.

I realize this is about the 17th time I’ve written these words. They can’t all be the best tortillas? Because then I’ll be The Boy Who Cried Tortilla. Or, can they? This is San Antonio, Texas, we’re exploring here. Or is it that when in San Antonio, Texas, you judge flour tortillas by a higher standard, because we are the standard?

What I’m trying to say is: The flour tortillas at Isela’s Tacos are excellent. They are light and kind of that perfect thinness. And they have that softness and pliability that comes from the puffing up of the taco from its time on the comal.

I was sitting in a booth next to a window, and when I opened the tacos just enough to show what was in them — for photo purposes — steam rose in the light. And it continued to rise. These tacos were made fresh.

The chilaquiles was one of the crispiest chilaquiles I’ve had with very good crunch and fresh eggs. The chips weren’t that greasy. The pepper in the taco gave it a nice bite throughout.

The papa and bean was very good, too, with its smooth and seemingly whipped beans as a kind of accompaniment to well-seasoned potatoes.

Then I made a mistake. I also ordered the huevo a la Mex, which I realize is a chilaquiles but without the chips and cheese. Again, damn good tortilla, and freshly and perfectly cooked egg that had a nice pop of flavor from the diced onions and peppers.

Finally, the chorizo and bean was too creamy. It ran. Less mass in the taco and more like a liquid. And a strong chorizo flavor — you could actually single out the paprika. Messy. So good, not great.

If you want it, the green serrano sauce was potent and watery, and the only one available.

But back to those tortillas. Yes, I recommend them. I also recommend this place. I instantly gravitated here as I was cruising Culebra Road because it looks dumpy from the outside. But inside, it was nearly spotless and a big restaurant with like 20 booths and tables. They have, like all taquerias do, an old retired dude drinking coffee and eating tacos alone who eyeballs everyone.

Isela’s Tacos is one of those places I’ll return to to further explore its menu, and to eat more of those tortillas.

Isela’s Tacos, 3650 Culebra Road, (210) 928-7980

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