Drive-by Tasting: Rock N Taco

SCENE OF THE CRIME | Carne asada and carnitas tacos lacked punch, but still had more than the watery margaritas. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

One visit. One meal. One shot to get it right

Direct marketing works. But it can backfire, as it did with Rock N Taco.

After a long, hard week at work, I needed to unwind. As if the World Wide Web sensed my stress, an e-mail popped into my in-box: $2 margaritas at Rock N Taco for happy hour, it said. Free appetizers. I had my plans.

Problem was, when I arrived at the nearly deserted McKinney Avenue restaurant, there were no apps set out, no reminder from the waitress of the great happy hour prices on tequila drinks. In fact, she told me they were three dollars.

Strike one. But it’s only a buck, right? Might as well. I ordered one on the rocks.

Strike two.

When the margarita finally arrived, it had about as much punch let in it as a boxer in round 9. Flat and favorless, it was a watery waste of agave nectar. I ordered a second, frozen, to see if the volume provided by the ice improved things. It did, slightly. Now you couldn’t tell so much that the alcohol content tasted on par with the basement brunch at the local Baptist church. At least it left me free that evening to operate heavy machinery.

I still don’t know what the appetizers taste like at Rock N Taco, as they were never set out and I didn’t bother ordering any. I stuck with the “rock your own” taco plate.

Let’s discuss the name for a second, too: Taquerias are as common in Dallas as vowels at the end of names in the barrio. Adding the word “rock” to one doesn’t, alone, justify charging three bucks per. (The best tacos in town are from the little lady inside the Fiesta on Ross Avenue. One dollar and she smiles at you.) You wanna rock me? Rock me! That doesn’t happen here, despite the zebra-print upholstery, signature drink called a “pink thing” (please, guys — grow up) and TVs blaring sports from every peripheral angle.

The tacos are the style I prefer: Small and packed densely with protein. But the carne asada taco, while flavorful, was as tough as a calculus midterm; by contrast, the juicy carnitas seemed like they hadn’t been seasoned at all. Of course, you can add some salsa (the tomatillo version is actually quite delicious, with lots of heat) and some a la carte sides: I tried the sliced avocado (good, but how can you mess that up?) and a chile-lime corn relish that was gummy but engaging.

Service didn’t impress me. Not at all. The margaritas took forever to arrive, and my water remained un-refilled as if they were rationing it in deference to Japanese tsunami victims. The waitress made me tab out early because her shift was ending and spent most of her time chatting with the only other person in the place (not a customer, it seemed, but a friend). I skipped dessert as I didn’t have another hour to wait for it to arrive.

Overall impression: Lacks buzz, lacks service, lacks consistent flavor in the food. Some of the items might actually deserve props (that salsa!), only it would require a repeat visit to get them.

Recommended: No.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

FEEDBACK: Cancel DMN subscriptions, Saving Easter in the Park, Tell TCA what you think

Cancel DMN subscriptions

The policy of the Dallas Morning News, which excludes same-sex marriage announcements while printing “traditional” marriage announcements, is discrimination, pure and simple. I just cancelled my subscription to the News, as I do not want my money supporting such discrimination. I urge other News subscribers to do the same, telling the News the reason for your cancellation.

Joe Ball, via e-mail


Saving Easter in the Park

Over 20 years ago, Oak Lawn was different. Known for our gays residents, artists and bohemians, Oak Lawn was a destination and a diamond in the conservative rough that was Dallas, Texas. People traveled miles for the safety, solace and solidarity provided just entering Oak Lawn’s boundaries. Events dotted the year. Obviously they were heavy on the gay side but they also were heavy with people that loved and didn’t judge us.

Easter in the Park was one of those events, and it was the most diverse of them all. Even the Dallas Symphony showed us the love by spending a cherished religious holiday with the scourge of the Christian community — we, the lowly homosexuals, and our proud brethren.

Fast forward to 2011. Those people we sought refuge from, that always showed us fear and contempt, infiltrated Easter in the Park and took our tradition away from us. The event was to be moved and made more “family friendly.”

I guess no one told them we were family already and our traditions bind us.

Gentrification is the same dance in any country and in any city. Bohemians, artists and gay people move to architecturally rich but neglected parts of town and make lemons into lemonade. Transformative magic happens, property values go up, tourism increases and good press abounds.

Then waves of yuppies come, each being a little less tolerant than their predecessor. They do not share the live-and-let-live mentality that allowed the first batch to come in the first place. They demand chain establishments and upscale amenties and folks with the income to afford them.

Long ago created to protect Oak Lawn’s character and history, the Oak Lawn Committee abandoned that mission ages ago. The last bit of history they let be destroyed were all the apartments that fell between Wycliff, Douglas, Rawlins and Hall. What were once charming duplexes and apartments are now what John Waters might call a “communist day care center.”

The committee is chock full of developers, and their last decade seems to have been dedicated to the three-story rectangle and the wonders it bestows on mankind. If you are unable to reside in one of these for $300,000, $400,000 or $500,000, then pity you, please leave. Be careful Oak Cliff. You’re next.

It isn’t just developers’ fault. The block on Cedar Springs where JR.’s resides used to be a historic collection of quaint storefronts that mirrored across the street. Now a collection of cavernous cinderblock buildings house our bars. They are so large and impersonal, they require a few hundred people to achieve the intimacy 50 used to provide. If we lose Easter in the Park, then we lose a piece of ourselves and where we came from. Those that fought for where we are today would be mortified. I hear them turning in their graves.

I intend to show up in Lee Park on Easter and have a contest with myself to see how gay I can look for the family-friendly crowd. When it comes to respect, I give what I get.

Michael Amonett, via e-mail


Tell TCA what you think

Please call the Turtle Creek Association and Cathy Golden at 214-526-2800 and voice your opposition to the hijacking of the Easter in the Park event, done apparently to exclude gays this year, which was thwarted only by heavy arm-twisting. Read the press; join the Facebook fan page and, most importantly, show up! Ms. Golden can have her own “family-friendly” Creek Craze on April 17 if she wants. I was born into a family and have a family of choice and consider myself friendly. Doesn’t that make me “family-friendly”? Perhaps not in Ms. Golden’s “hetero-Republican-marriage-and-two-kids” world, but the world has changed a lot. I remember when Lee Park was a cruise spot with a popular tee room; it was all some people had. I personally think it’s fantastic that youth today have no clue what a cruise park or a tee room is. There are real role models to aspire to today and real, healthy community events —including Easter in the Park.

This is really quite typical of how things tend to operate. We move in to an area, organization or event and make it fabulous — and then get run off. I will oppose any change that Ms. Golden wishes to bring that would take us all back to the “golden days” when gays were marginalized on a grand scale, forced into the bushes, darkened cruise spots and closets. Change is coming folks; change is here. We’re here; we’re queer; get over it! Oh and one more thing: Thank God for drag queens and trannies. If it were not for them, we as the gay community would not exist. Look back on Stonewall and remember; we must never forget to honor the bravest amongst ourselves. I stand in awe of people who are just who they are and live life day after day against threats of violence, hatred, homophobia, misogyny (which is where I personally believe that homophobia has it’s real origin), and just live out loud!

Daniel Shipman, via Instant Tea

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Catholics For Equality urging support for marriage equality bill in Maryland

The Maryland House of Delegates is expected to take up consideration of the same-sex marriage bill there about 11 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time, I assume) on Friday, and according to Maryland Catholics for Equality, “out-of-state anti-gay calls are flooding Annapolis” to try and get the bill defeated.

So the organization is urging pro-equality Maryland residents to be sure and call their delegates to counteract the anti-gay forces.

In an e-mail that just hit my inbox, Maryland Catholics for Equality say: “Call NOW and let your Delegates know three important things: you are an actual constituent (not out of state), you are Catholic, and that you stand with the majority of Catholics in Maryland in support of HB175 — Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. Ask them not to bow down to out of state pressure.”

The measure has already passed the Maryland Senate and Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk. But things are close in the House of Delegates, where the bill was initially expected to pass easily.

If you aren’t a resident of Maryland, don’t cheat by calling the delegates and saying you are. But keep an eye on Instant Tea tomorrow, and we’ll let you know what happens.

—  admin

Polis, Franken tell bullies to ‘pick on someone your own size’ as they introduce SNDA

Rep. Jared Polis, left, and Sen. Al Franken today introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act that would protect LGBT students from discrimination and harassment.

As President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a group of students, parents, teachers and other concerned citizens — including Fort Worth’s own Joel Burns — at the White House today, Openly gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., introduced identical bills, called the Student Non-Discrimination Act, in the House and the Senate that would protect students from discrimination and harassment based on “actual or percieved sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In an e-mail announcing the proposed legislation, Polis cited recent efforts by school officials in Flour Bluff High School, near Corpus Christi, to prevent a gay-straight alliance from meeting on school grounds.

“It’s bad enough when a school turns a blind eye to bullying. But when a school district in Texas moved to ban all extracurricular clubs in order to avoid having to approve a Gay-Straight Alliance, it really crossed the line,” Polis said in the e-mail. “The school itself became the bully.”

He added, “Our message is clear: Pick on somebody your own size.”

Polis acknowledged that “the odds of this bill passing this session are uncertain” because some Republicans, “regardless of their personal beliefs, are reluctant to vote for LGBT-friendly legislation.

“But, even though the odds are against me, I can’t stay silent in the face of bullying — especially when the people who are supposed to protect students from bullying have become the bullies themselves,” Polis said, encouraging individuals to become “citizen sponsors” by adding their name as a supporter here.

The ACLU has quickly come out in support of the legislation, with ACLU legislative representative Ian Thompson saying that the legislation could have “a profound impact in improving the lives of LGBT students in our schools.”

Thompson pointed to the numerous LGBT teens who committed suicde after being bullied relentlessly in the late summer and fall of 2010 as evidence of the need for the legislation. Seth Walsh, 13, was one of those teens, and his mother, Wendy Walsh, is an ACLU client. She, too, weigh in today on the need for the SNDA.

“I can’t bring my son back. But schools can make a difference today by taking bullying seriously when students and parents tell them about it. It’s time for change. We have to create better schools for everyone,” said Wendy Walsh, who was also among those attending the White House Conference on Bullying.

In a written statement released after the SNDA was introduced, ACLU officials pointed out that while federal laws currently protect students on the basis of their race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, no federal statute explicitly protects students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The SNDA, like Title IX, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the various disability civil rights statutes, is not simply legislation that would remedy discrimination after it occurs, but instead would also have the important impact of preventing discrimination from occurring,” the ACLU statement said.

To read the ACLU’s statement in support of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, go here. To see video of Wendy Walsh telling her son’s story, go here.

—  admin

Puppy in need of adoption — save me from myself!

My name is Gulliver. Help me find a home.

Every week in the print edition, we profile the Pet of the Week; this is not that. This is an act of self-preservation.

Some very evil lesbians, who know what a soft touch I am with needy puppies, have tried to get me to adopt a fourth dog. I once had four dogs at once, but none were puppies and none over 30 lbs.; I currently have a 40+ lb. 9-month-old Lab named Gulliver who is as much work as two dogs alone. (Here’s more proof they are evil: They stole the name Gulliver for their new dog less than a month after I did.)

So why does all this matter? Because these women have another rescue they are taking care of named Buddy, and they can’t keep him. If they don’t adopt him out soon, they will trick me into taking him and we can’t have that. So one of you needs to step up.

Here’s the deal: Buddy is about 10 months old, probably a Chow- or hound-and-Shar Pei mix who was discovered in a neighbor’s front yard suffering from dehydration, starvation and injuries from a fight with a larger dog. He’s something of a miracle baby. His recovery is progressing: He’s already added 6 lbs. to his skinny frame. He’s probably as big as he’s gonna get. And by Monday, he’s have all his vaccinations and lose his testicles. In other words, the perfect boyfriend.

If you can adopt him — and please, somebody, do it! I can’t take another pet! My cat will commit suicide! — contact e-mail Gyrlchef@yahoo.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Leaders of gay student group at Baylor react to school’s decision to deny their charter

As we noted the other day, Baylor University has denied a charter for an LGBT student group called the Sexual Identity Forum. The university apparently doesn’t think college students are mature enough to talk about sexuality issues unless the discussion is “professionally facilitated,” whatever that means. Baylor has a policy prohibiting students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” The Sexual Identity Forum, which insists it isn’t an advocacy group, plans to appeal the denial of its charter and will continue to meet informally in the meantime — at least until the administration tries to shut it down completely. Openly gay and extremely brave Baylor senior Samantha Jones, the president of the Sexual Identity Forum, tells News Channel 25 that she decided to launch the group after the school’s administration failed to respond to the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, whose death was a wake-up call to gay students around the country: “We didn’t get an e-mail saying, ‘This is someone who you can approach if you’re struggling with this,’ …nothing,” Jones says.

—  John Wright

White House bullying conference set

According to an e-mail sent this afternoon from the office of the White House press secretary, President Barack Obama, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services will be hosting a Conference on Bullying Prevention at the White House on Thursday, March 10. The conference will include “students, parents, teachers and others” from “communities from across the nation who have been affected by bullying as well as those who are taking action to address it.”

The announcement said participants will have the chance to talk to the president and “representatives from the highest levels of his administration” on how to work together to prevent bullying.

—  admin

Gay couple complains about city’s handling of discrimination complaint against Morning News

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A few weeks ago we reported that two Dallas council members are reviewing the city’s handling of complaints filed under an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We’re still awaiting the results of that review, as well as the city’s response to an open records request filed by Dallas Voice for statistics related to complaints filed under the ordinance.

In the meantime, a gay couple who recently filed a complaint under the ordinance is complaining about the city’s handling of the matter. Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup filed a complaint against The Dallas Morning News, which refuses to publish same-sex marriage announcements in its Weddings section. The couple claims the DMN policy is a violation of the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

In a letter to Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, the Walkups said it’s been more than 60 days since they filed their complaint, and they haven’t heard anything from the city. The Fair Housing Office is charged with investigating complaints under the ordinance. Below is a copy of the couple’s e-mail, which they forwarded to Dallas Voice as well as City Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano:

Hi Beverly,

It has been over 60 days since we formally filed a complaint against the DMN for discrimination based on our sexual orientation. As you recall, my husband and I had a legal wedding on 12/10/2010 and tried to submit our paid wedding announcement to the Dallas Morning News and we were denied equal access to this public accommodation. Our ad was refused and money refunded based on the Texas ban on SSM.

We reached out to you 30 days ago to seek a status on our case and you told us to “be patient” and we have been. After 60 days, we must say that the lack of any follow-up to our case has been an extreme disappointment. We are a customer of the City of Dallas and your department has not done anything to reach out to us to advise us of any updates about our case.

We expect better service from the people we pay to enforce our laws and there should be no excuse to the lack of follow-up on our discrimination complaint. Please advise when we can expect an update from your department.

Mark & Dante Walkup

—  John Wright

Dallas police issue statement on safety, alleged increase in gang activity at NorthPark Center

The Dallas Police Department issued the following statement today in response to an unsubstantiated, viral e-mail claiming a huge increase in gang activity at NorthPark Center:

Safety at North Park Mall

There have been multiple inquiries in the last twenty-four hours from the media regarding safety at North Park Mall. These inquiries were apparently spurred by an e-mail from a mall patron who noted an increase in young people at the mall and increased police presence as well as from an informal conversation about the situation with off-duty officers there. Please know the following:

North Park officials report an increase in the number of young people at the mall, particularly around the movie theaters. The report we have from patrol and gang unit officers is that there is no discernable organized gang presence there. The Dallas Police Department’s gang unit did go to the mall during the week of the Super Bowl as a routine measure. They made one arrest. They then did a follow-up but found no compelling reason to continue monitoring the mall on a regular basis.

Reported crime at the mall is actually down since the first of the year as compared to the same time last year. There have been 14 reported Part 1 crimes (not counting shoplift cases) compared to 21 last year. And the overwhelming majority of the offenses both years involve thefts of or from vehicles in the parking lot. There have been two robberies and one aggravated assault reported in the mall so far this year. While those certainly are a concern, they closely parallel the number and kinds of crime seen in previous years and by no means suggest an up-tick in offenses at the mall.

In late January additional off-duty Dallas officers were hired by the mall in anticipation of an influx of visitors coming to Dallas for the Super Bowl. The mall decided to keep hiring additional officers, particularly on weekend evenings, as a precautionary measure.

It is always a best practice to be vigilant of your surroundings whether it is walking in your neighborhood or shopping at your favorite locations. North Park security and the Dallas Police Department will continue to work to keep the mall a secure and vibrant shopping area where the public can go with confidence of being safe.

—  John Wright

In midst of gay teen suicide crisis, Houston’s Kinkaid School removes Safe Space stickers

Texas Monthly‘s March issue features an interesting piece (already available online to subscribers) about the ideological battle that’s gripped Houston’s prestigious Kinkaid School since a parent — who also happened to be one of the highest-paid bankers on Wall Street — wrote an e-mail that went viral in 2009 complaining that the school had become too liberal.

Texas Monthly‘s John Spong concludes that in the aftermath of the e-mail, conservatives appear to have won the day at George W. Bush’s alma mater: At least three openly gay Kinkaid staffers have resigned their posts, sexual orientation is excluded from a new diversity policy at the school, and GLSEN Safe Space stickers were removed from classrooms and offices:

With gay suicides and bullying in national headlines, that move struck many as beyond tone-deaf. For them, the school’s reasoning—that the stickers implied that one group was more protected than others—showed greater concern for some people’s political views than for the welfare of vulnerable students. The same objection was raised when the board clarified its edict on “student exposure to issues relating to sexual orientation.” Faculty had pointed out that kids trying to understand their sexual identity often reach out to them; a gay Kinkaid alum I talked to credited one such teacher with saving his life. Could that conversation now get a teacher fired? The board stressed that the proper place for these sorts of conversations was at home or in a counselor’s office, adding that teachers were not to initiate those discussions. As one current faculty member put it, “We’re allowed to have those conversations; we’re just not allowed to tell the kids we’re allowed to have those conversations. That’s the thing that’s confusing.”

—  John Wright