Posts Tagged ‘Tex Mex’

Taco Tex and El Milagrito Cafe – San Antonio

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by virginia

After eating some very good puffy tacos at Henry’s, we continued our taco crawl with a stops at Taco Tex and El Milagrito Cafe, which I had read were some of the best breakfast taco places in San Antonio. Taco Tex was a very nondescript storefront in a strip mall (I forgot to take picture of the sign), but it was surprisingly crowded given the time of day (it was a little late for breakfast, a little early for lunch on a weekday).

Josh ordered two tacos for us and brought them out to the car where I was waiting with J. The first was a beef fajita al carbon taco, which had lots of big strips of meat, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese. I was kind of surprised to see the lettuce, tomato, and cheese, but I guess that was the “Tex” part of the taco? They really didn’t need to be there, and actually detracted from the overall flavor of the taco. The beef was tender and well seasoned, and the grilled onions were the only topping I thought the taco needed. The flour tortilla was soft and had a nice chewiness to it.


Beef fajita al carbon taco from Taco Tex

The pastor taco was our main reason for visiting Taco Tex. It’s seasoned pork marinated with chiles, spices, and pineapple. There was lots of meat piled into the taco, but nothing else, which also surprised me. Usually there is some pineapple mixed in, and maybe some chopped cilantro and onion on top. Nevertheless, the meat itself was had a good char on the outside that gave it a nice texture and lots of flavor. The filling was a little sweet, a little spicy, and definitely woke up our taste buds.


Pastor taco from Taco Tex

Overall, we thought Taco Tex was solid joint with tasty, cheap tacos, but it’s definitely not a can’t-miss destination. If you’re in the area and hungry, it’s a great place to grab a quick, satisfying bite. The flour tortillas were good, and the pastor packed a lot of flavor.


El Milagrito Cafe was our last stop in San Antonio. Since we had an hour and a half drive ahead of us on our way to Austin, we decided to stop in for a full sit-down lunch, having already whet our appetites with the tacos we had eaten earlier. The menu was huge, and as usual, we had a tough time deciding what to order; I wanted to eat pretty much everything listed. J snacked on the complimentary tortilla chips and salsa while we debated our options.

Chips and salsa at El Milagrito

Chips and salsa

We ended up getting one more batch of tacos, mixing up flour and corn tortillas based on our waitress’ recommendations. First we tried the barbacoa, which is beef that is slow cooked under its incredibly tender and falling apart. The flavor of the barbacoa was intense, almost gamey, though the texture was a bit too soft for my taste. It came with chopped cilantro and onion on the side, which we added on top of the taco with a squeeze of lime juice. We ordered this one on a corn tortilla, which was nicely griddled and didn’t have that gritty corn flavor that usually deters me from corn tortillas.

Barbacoa taco from El Milagrito

Barbacoa taco from El Milagrito

We also got al pastor on a corn tortilla, wanting to compare the al pastor here with the one we had just eaten at Taco Tex. The pork here was cut up in bigger pieces, and it seemed saucier, whereas the Taco Tex seasoning was more cooked into the meat. It was milder in flavor, not as sweet or spicy, but also filled to the brim with meat. Again, I was surprised by the lack of pineapple. Maybe that’s just a NYC thing?

Al pastor taco from El Milagrito

Al pastor taco from El Milagrito

An article I had read about El Milagrito said to order the Asada a la Mexicana taco with guacamole on top, so we did. It was grilled steak mixed with diced peppers, onions, and tomatoes (I guess representing the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag). While I liked the creaminess and extra oomph that the guacamole added, the steak itself was on the blander side, but tender. We ordered this taco on a flour tortilla, which was slightly thicker than the corn tortilla but had a nice flavor and a great chew to it.

a la Mexicana taco from El Milagrito

Asada a la Mexicana taco from El Milagrito

We also had to get one last “true” breakfast taco before leaving San Antonio. We went for the Taco Loco, which was chorizo, potato, beans, and eggs on a flour tortilla. It was a ton of filling, a ton of flavor, and something I would happily eat for breakfast every day.

taco from El Milagrito

Taco Loco (with chorizo, beans, potato, and eggs) from El Milagrito

We picked up another chicken fajita taco for J, which she ate half of during lunch, and then finished the rest after we arrived in Austin. She seemed to really enjoy the chicken, which was tender and well seasoned, and she loved the flour tortilla.

Chicken fajita taco from El Milagrito

Chicken fajita taco from El Milagrito

Overall, the tacos from El Milagrito Cafe were among our favorites in San Antonio. They had the best flour tortillas, the fillings were abundant and flavorful, and the overall vibe of the restaurant was great. It’s nothing fancy but it’s bright and clean, service was spot on, and prices were ridiculously cheap. The most expensive tacos we ordered were $2.25 each (the barbacoa and Asada a la Mexicana), with the rest coming in under $2. Pretty much all of the breakfast/lunch plates on the menu were less than $7. If I had the stomach capacity, I would have ordered even more food than we already did. I wish we had a place like this closer to home, and if we’re ever in San Antonio again, I would happily go back.

Taco Tex
15104 San Pedro Ave.
San Antonio, TX

El Milagrito Cafe
521 E Woodlawn Ave.
San Antonio, TX

Puffy Taco Round-Up – San Antonio

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 by virginia

The puffy taco is a San Antonio specialty that involves a light, flaky, deep fried tortilla as the taco shell. These puffy shells are nothing like the hard, tortilla chip-like taco shells that we’re used to back east. We decided to try out three of the most well-known puffy taco places in San Antonio and see what makes these tacos so special.

First up was Ray’s Drive Inn, which claims to be the home of the original puffy taco. We stopped there for a quick snack after touring all of the beautiful San Antonio missions.


While the outside of the restaurant looks like an old time car hop, you actually order and get your food inside. J was asleep so Josh got our tacos and brought them right outside to the car where we quickly devoured them. We shared a puffy beef taco and a puffy chicken taco.

Puffy tacos from Ray's Drive Inn

Puffy tacos from Ray’s Drive Inn

Our initial thoughts about the puffy shell was that it was surprisingly soft and not as crispy as we would have hoped. It had a strong corn flavor but a slightly gritty texture. Both tacos came topped with chopped iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. The beef filling was slightly spicy and was well seasoned, but the chicken was dry and bland. It could have used some sauce or salsa, though that might have rendered the puffy taco shell even more soggy.

Puffy chicken taco innards

Puffy chicken taco cross section

Overall, we weren’t overly wowed by the puffy tacos at Ray’s Drive Inn, but we continued on our puffy taco crawl at our next destination, La Hacienda de Los Barrios. Our friend James actually recommended it to us, though we had also seen its sister restaurant, Los Barrios, featured on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. La Hacienda is a bit off the beaten path, in a somewhat rural area well north of downtown San Antonio. It’s a huge space though, with lots of adjoining rooms and plenty of seating, including outdoor space.


Since we were there for dinner, rather than just a snack, we did end up ordering more items, though of course we had to get the puffy tacos. We went for the same meats as at Ray’s – one beef, one chicken. The tacos were ordered a la carte so each showed up on its own large white plate, which was odd only because the plates were much larger than the tacos. What ended up happening was that each taco had fallen on its side and wound up sitting in a pool of condensation from the heat of its own shell. That rendered half of each taco soggy, which was really a shame because the other half was super puffy and crispy, just what I thought a puffy taco shell should be like. The shell didn’t have as much of a pronounced corn flavor, which I preferred because it didn’t overpower the flavor of the meat.

    Puffy beef taco from La Hacienda de Los Barrios

Puffy beef taco from La Hacienda de Los Barrios

Again, we liked the beef better than the chicken, just because beef tends to have more flavor in general. However, the chicken here was shredded more finely and had more seasoning, which gave it more taste. It was also more moist, and we thoroughly enjoyed both puffy tacos.

Puffy chicken taco from La Hacienda de Los Barrios

Puffy chicken taco from La Hacienda de Los Barrios

We also shared a Rio Grande plate, which included an enchilada verde, a chicken flauta, and a stuffed burrito. The enchilada was filled with chicken and covered in a tangy tomatilla sauce. The stuffed burrito was filled with beef picadillo and topped with melted cheese and ranchero sauce. The chicken flauta was in a crispy shell but on the dry side; it tasted better after dipping into the salsa they gave us with chips at the beginning of our meal. It was a large plate of food, rounded out with rice, beans, and guacamole salad. The enchilada verde was the star of the plate, with its nice and bright sauce.

Rio Grande plate

Rio Grande plate – stuffed burrito, chicken flauta, enchilada verde

We got a carne asada taco a la carte for J, though she was a bigger fan of the complimentary tortilla chips that graced our table. After had her fill of the beef, which is to say, after she took two bites, we shared the remainder, which was filled with strips of tender and well seasoned steak. The taco came with with guacamole, lettuce, and pico de gallo, and the flour tortilla had a nice chewiness to it.

Carne asada taco

Carne asada taco

Overall, we were pretty pleased with the food at La Hacienda de Los Barrios. While the puffy tacos suffered from a slight presentation issue, they were tasty and I could finally see why a puffy taco shell is so appealing. The combination plate that we shared was a huge amount of food and let us try a variety of offerings from the massive menu. Everything we tried was freshly prepared and well seasoned.

Our last puffy taco stop was Henry’s Puffy Tacos. It was actually the first stop of a little taco brunch crawl we did on our last day in San Antonio, but more on that separately, as the other joints didn’t involve puffy tacos.


We ordered our usual beef/chicken combo and ate them immediately in our car outside the restaurant. Josh accidentally added guacamole to the tacos, which was different from our previous puffies, and I admit, the guacamole might have given Henry’s an edge. It added an extra element of flavor and prevented the meat, especially the chicken, from drying out. The beef was also different here – it was grilled strips rather than the ground beef that we got everywhere else. I don’t think Josh specified each time he ordered; he just asked for chicken and beef, and we ate whatever they gave us. But the puffy shell was the real standout at Henry’s. It was light, crispy, and had good flavor that complemented the toppings well.

Chicken and beef puffy tacos from Henry's Puffy Taco

Puffy tacos from Henry’s Puffy Tacos

Overall, Ray’s had the densest puffy taco shell, which made it our least favorite. It was actually a pretty disappointing introduction to puffy tacos for us, and had us questioning what made a puffy taco so special. Fortunately, our next two tries fared much better. Henry’s had the puffiest and lightest shells, which put it at the top of our list, although La Hacienda’s puffy taco wasn’t too far behind. We would happily eat at either place again, and experiment with various fillings. In our experience, the chicken puffy tacos just tend to be drier and more bland. Both the ground beef at La Hacienda and the grilled beef at Henry’s packed a lot of flavor and didn’t get lost inside the shell or underneath all the shredded lettuce. I don’t know why puffy tacos aren’t popular outside of San Antonio, as their light and crispy texture is much better (in my opinion) than the standard hard taco shell. Even if the inside layer of the puffy gets soggy from the toppings, the outside stayed crispier for much longer. It’s definitely something that I want to eat again, and I’ll be on the lookout for it here at home.

Ray’s Drive Inn
822 SW 19th St.

San Antonio, TX

La Hacienda de Los Barrios
18747 Redland Rd.
San Antonio, TX

Henry’s Puffy Tacos
6030 Bandera Rd.
San Antonio, TX

Lupe Tortilla – Houston

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by virginia


Our first night in Texas was spent in downtown Houston, although it was really just a stopover for us to break up our drive into more manageable segments for J. Josh goes to Houston often for work, and he warned me that there wasn’t much to see in the city. However, he said that we could eat the best fajitas he’s ever had. That was a pretty bold statement in general, and while he does usually order fajitas whenever we’re at a Tex Mex restaurant, he’s not exactly a connoisseur. I, on the other hand, never eat fajitas, so I was pretty sure that no matter what, they would be the best fajitas I ever ate, but the skeptic in me wondered just how good any fajita could possibly be.

It was getting pretty late by the time we arrived in Houston so rather than going to the hotel first, we drove straight to the restaurant, Lupe Tortilla. I had googled it during our drive and saw that it was a chain restaurant with many branches throughout Texas, which made me even more skeptical. We went to the one closest to downtown Houston and the place was packed. That was a good sign, even though it meant we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table.

Since it was late and we technically had eaten two lunches in Lafayette before heading to Houston, we declined ordering any appetizers. In hindsight, I would have liked to try the queso flameado since I’ve never eaten it before, and we ended up never having it on the rest of our trip. Oh well, just another reason to go back to Texas. Instead, we zoned in on the fajitas and decided to share a mixed pound of beef and chicken.

While we waited for our food, we snacked on the complimentary basket of tortilla chips with salsa and a warm bean dip. The chips were terrific – thin and crispy with just the right amount of salt. The salsa was on the runny side but was packed with flavor and had a little kick to it. We made a pretty good dent in everything while we waited for our food to arrive.

Tortilla chips, salsa, bean dip

Tortilla chips, salsa, bean dip

Shortly thereafter, a large sizzling platter arrived with our beef and chicken, plus grilled onions and an array of accoutrement – guacamole, pico de gallo, shredded cheddar cheese, rice, and beans. We asked for a mix of flour tortillas and corn tortillas. I prefer flour, whereas Josh is usually a fan of corn. I constructed my first fajita with a few slices of beef, some grilled onions, a little guacamole, and a sprinkle of pico de gallo. I used a flour tortilla, which was large in size but super thin, unlike the commercial flour tortillas we get from most places at home or at the supermarket. I took one bite of my fajita and my eyes opened wide – I was believer. These were definitely the best fajitas I’ve ever had, by a long shot. The steak was beautifully cooked and incredibly tender. The meat was well seasoned and had a great grilled flavor to it that helped it stand up to the rest of the accompaniments.

Chicken and steak fajitas with various accompaniments

Chicken and steak fajitas with various accompaniments

I tried a chicken fajita next with a corn tortilla, and while I definitely preferred the flour tortillas, the chicken was outstanding. Moist and flavorful, I couldn’t decide which protein I liked more, the chicken or the beef. Even J, who was on a bit of a meat strike by this point in our trip, devoured piece after piece of both the steak and chicken.

Overall, Lupe Tortilla really did have the best fajitas I’ve ever eaten. And not just by a little. It completely blows any fajita I’ve ever had out of the water. There’s just no comparison. In fact, when Josh ordered fajitas just the other day, I took one nibble on a piece of steak and turned up my nose. I didn’t even ask for a full bite. I think Lupe may have ruined me for other fajitas. In addition to their fantastically flavorful and tender meats, their flour tortilla is outstanding. It’s thin and chewy, yet with a delicately flaky texture, and is more similar to a peking duck crepe than to any other flour tortilla I’ve tasted. The website says they are hand-rolled, and I can believe it. I’d even enjoy eating them plain, without any fillings. Admittedly, our experience with Tex Mex food has mostly been limited to chain restaurants, but I know when my taste buds are happy. And I could not be happier going back to Lupe at any time. Too bad it’s all the way in Texas! I would definitely be going there often if it was close by. Oh well, until next time!

Lupe Tortilla (multiple locations)
2414 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX ‎