From food trucks to restaurants, where to find the most talked about Tex-Mex
When Texans talk food, the subject of tacos invariably arrives at the table. It’s often served with a side order of strong opinions about where to find the foremost fish taco, or the best crispy beef or the perfect al pastor. While this list could never be comprehensive, we took our best bite at it.
— Compiled by Lindsay Canright
Habanero’s Taco Co.
Some of the best nearby tacos can be found in the waterfront hamlet of Seabrook, where Yucatan-style cooking is the order of the day at Habanero’s Taco Co. Vegetarian diners will enjoy the avocado tacos, paired with fresh lettuce, pico de gallo and a mild, yet smoky chipotle dressing. If you show up hungry for meat, try the Cochinita Pibil. They come stuffed with the restaurant’s signature pulled pork, which is marinated in bitter orange and annatto before being slow-roasted in banana leaves.
1908 Hialeah Drive, Seabrook, 281.474.4400, www.habanerostacos.com
Tacos My Way
Hidden in a shopping center behind a Clear Lake area Chevron station, this small taqueria offers almost every conceivable take on the taco. Purists will enjoy the mini street tacos, which come with a choice of chicken, steak, carnitas or chicharron and a topping of diced onions, cilantro and spicy salsa verde. On the other end of the spectrum is the Club Taco, which is stuffed with fajita chicken, bacon and Monterey Jack and topped with lettuce, tomato and a drizzle of chipotle sauce.
17068 Saturn Lane, Houston, 832.240.4179, www.tacosmyway.com
Long an Austin obsession, Torchy’s brought its 21st century take on tacos to Webster last year. There’s a vast array of cleverly named taco concoctions from which to choose — the Dirty Sanchez or the Tipsy Chick, to name a few. But there’s also a secret menu. Ask for the Green Chile Pork “Missionary Style,” which comes topped with pickled onions, guacamole, Jack cheese, cilantro and creamy chipotle sauce. Or, if you’re in a devil-may-care kind of head space, order the Trailer Park “Hillbilly Style,” which features a combination of fried chicken, chorizo, chopped bacon and green chile queso.
19431 Gatebrook Drive, Webster, 281.724.3508, www.torchystacos.com
Mercadito Y Taqueria
Veteran taco hunters know that some of the most satisfying meals can be found in the most humble corners of civilization. Patrons stop in at Mercadito y Taqueria — a no-frills amalgam of corner store and cafe — if they’re out of paper towels or milk. But islanders also know it for the mile-long menu that includes a host of simple, yet flavorful tacos. You can’t go wrong with the pork choices, which come with pico de gallo, queso fresco and a sider of salsa made on site.
3802 Broadway, Galveston, 409.762.5870
If you find yourself on Bolivar Peninsula when a taco craving strikes, you won’t be too far from Steve’s Landing, an airy, rustic restaurant known for its water views. The kitchen makes a monster plate of fish tacos with blackened tuna, green chilies, bacon, corn salsa and cilantro. But if you happen into the place on a Friday or Saturday, the must-try menu item is the Chicken Tikka Tacos. This East-meets-West dish puts a daring dollop of tender and saucy chicken tikka inside a still-warm flour tortilla with a garnish of grated paneer and cilantro.
1290 Bay Vue Road, Crystal Beach, 409.684.1999, www.steveslanding.com
The parking lot at Gorditas, which is across from the beach on Seawall Boulevard, is often packed at lunchtime. Inside, the restaurant hums with jukebox tunes, jovial conversation and the crunch of crispy beef tacos. Settle into a booth, if there’s one available, and order a round for yourself. Your server will deliver a row of tacos topped with salad and cheese. Hidden beneath is a particularly well-spiced ground beef mixture.
712 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, 409.621.1944
The Original Mexican Cafe
For a certain sect of foodies, tacos al pastor are the superlative preparation and The Original’s take won’t disappoint. The dish’s beauty is in its simplicity and adherence to tradition — fresh flour tortillas, made on site, are filled with impeccably seasoned pork and onions and served with a side of pico de gallo, rice and beans.
1401 Market St., Galveston, 409.762.6001, www.theoriginalgalveston.com
Donuts, Kolaches and Tacos
Named for a breakfast trifecta, this League City shop serves up dishes that wink at the culinary roots of Texas. The menu is a symphony of all-American doughnuts, Czech-style kolaches and breakfast tacos — all made fresh under one tiny roof. If you’re on the tail end of a particularly ambitious pub crawl, you might stop by when the shop opens at 4:30 a.m. The chorizo and egg taco makes for the ultimate nightcap and will work magic to stave off a hangover.
5010 W. Main St., League City, 281.332.5159
Shrimp ‘N Stuff
A torchbearer for local seafood since it opened in 1976, Shrimp ’N Stuff is staying true to its culinary foundation while expanding into new ventures. Its newest branch in downtown Galveston serves breakfast tacos. Later in the day at either eatery, try the fried shrimp tacos, which are topped with your choice of lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo and chipotle sauce. Don’t overlook the side of black bean relish, which is a revelation in its own right.
3901 Ave. O, Galveston, 409.763.2805 or 216 23rd St., Galveston, 409.974.4609, www.shrimpnstuffdowntown.com
Top tier trucks
Long before food trucks were trendy in Texas, there were taco trucks, catering to the workaday folks who could appreciate the convenience and an authentic, affordable meal. Here are some relative newcomers that have everyone talking.
— Compiled by Felicia Barcelona
Golden Rooster Taqueria
Golden Rooster Taqueria food truck isn’t gold, but actually a welcoming tropical island green. Javier and Janie Rodriguez, and their children, run the truck. The family moved here from Tampico, Mexico in 1999, bringing with them recipes that merge Texas with Tampico. At Golden Rooster, you’ll find such fare as fish tacos made with local catfish, topped with a tasty secret sauce. Try the crab empanadas and a generously sized shrimp cocktail, served with fresh cilantro and avocado, both made with local seafood.
Golden Rooster Taqueria, 3324 Broadway, Galveston
Locals and tourists alike line up at Tacon’ Madre in Galveston Historical Foundation’s Hendley Green, an urban green space in the heart of the island’s downtown. Janet Gutierrez, her four children and her aunt serve the hungry crowds until 3 a.m. Menu items include tacos made with scratch tortillas filled with a choice of beef, chicken or pork and laced with produce from local farmers markets. Gutierrez, a single mother and a full-time nursing assistant, said the truck fulfills her dream of sharing her family’s love of food. The truck specializes in a Michoacán, Mexico cooking style.
Tacon’ Madre, 2100 Strand, Galveston
Tito’s Chow Down
Residents of fishing village San Leon love their seafood. But they’re also fierce fans of Tito’s Chow Down, a popular taco truck. Owner Victor Villicana is originally from Northern California, with family from Michoacán, Mexico. A cooking family and a butcher grandfather fed Villicana’s passion for food. Villicana recalls watching his grandfather prepare carnitas, or simmered pork, in large copper pots. In 2008, Hurricane Ike destroyed a bar Villicana managed, pushing him on to a new path. He bought an old truck, and Tito’s Chow Down was born. Favorites include fish tacos made with fried cod and homemade cilantro sauce.
Tito’s Chow Down, 150 Ninth St., San Leon