As every schoolboy knows, “Cinco de Mayo” is Spanish for “Let’s go into a food coma by eating tacos.” Which is exactly how I spent my weekend.
Technically, I didn’t undertake this voyage gastronomique on Sunday, the actual 5th of May, but on Saturday, so-called Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be with you”), but that was necessary in order to allow my body time to recover before the work week.
I embarked on my personal Cinco de Mayo food festival with my friend, taco blogger José Ralat-Maldonado, founder of the recent North Texas Taco Festival and author of The Taco Trail. This is a usual enterprise for José, who organizes such tweetups every so often to showcase the best taquerias in Dallas. And his judgment is stellar.
We started the adventure by pounding a shot of anejo to “prime the pump.” Then it was off to indulge in what numbered six tacos plus a Mexican Coke, setting me back at the end of the afternoon by a mere $12.50.
The trail started in Oak Cliff at a place called Los Torres Taqueria in Clarendon, which José insists is an actual magical realm not unlike Middle-earth, Hogwarts or a gym where only hot guys hit on you. Los Torres is the only Sinaloan taqueria in town, meaning the style of tacos mimics that of the Mexican stage of Sinaloa between Sonora and Chihuahua. The distinctive feature of the tacos here is that the are available with handcrafted harina (flour) tortillas, and boy, are they worth the extra 25 cents. The tortillas are crisp without being stiff like fast food corn tortillas, and the blasphemy of Cool Ranch Flavoring has never touched their creation. Fresh off the griddle and warm, they envelope the carne asasa al carbon, diced beef grilled to a light crunch, as well as the tender succulence of the barbacoa roja. The simple fixin’s bar avoids the tyranny of choice with just a few salsas, lime, cilantro and pico to accompany the tacos; they subtly augment the flavors.
The next place on our jaunt was truly a hole-in-the-wall, by which I mean you literally talk to a guy through a hole in a wall. Fito’s is actually a mini-chain of three taco stands, based in Oak Cliff. A little building adjacent to a tire shop, it’s not just unpretentious, it’s hardly inviting. But looks can be deceiving. Enclosed by a plastic awning, you can order from the many pictures of tacos gracing the façade. Don’t worry — you don’t have to point; they speak English perfectly well, though if you speak Spanish, all the better.
The fixin’s here are even more minimalist than Los Torres — other than grilled onions and cilantro on your plate, you get a choice of red salsa or salsa verde for you to squirt along your trompo (meat shaved from a tower of grilled pork, which resembles a cyclone as drawn by a first grader). The trompo could be considered the specialty here, although I also very much enjoyed the bistek, both enlivened by the punch from two heat-imparting salsas.
The final stop on our tour was Mi Tierrita Taqueria y Pupusaria, across from the Tradewinds Social Club in Oak Cliff and next door to a spooky Santeria shop. Here, trompo really is the highlight, and I was not disappointed, with bits of pineapple providing a tart contrast to the rich meat. I was also pleased, though, the tortillas were extra greasy this day. And the barbaocoa was delish, too.
The bad thing about the taco trail expedition: We didn’t get to try the pupusas here, or go back for more tacos once we were done. We were full.
And Cinco de Mayo was thusly celebrated.