One of the only reasons I was excited to be in Texas over this last week we because I wanted to once again have REAL Mexican food. Not the tex-mex crap you find in most restaurants, or the Taco Bell kind of crap in most "mexican" fast food chains.
I made it one of my main goals to find a taco stand. What is a taco stand? It is not easy to explain, but I am sure there are many folks out there that can explain it better than I can. First of all, it is something that you will notice right away when you see it. They are usually small, stand-alone buildings that are not very aesthetic in design, or necessarily clean on the outside. These days, it may even be a trailer of some kind since they are very affordable, usually low maintenance, lower taxes, and easily mobile to another profitable location. They will boast about their tacos and tamales on their signs. Very often, they are also in lower-income neighborhoods. The tacos are not made of ground beef. They are made of shredded beef - and DELICIOUS! Finally, they are family-owned, or at least not owned by any corporation of any kind. Oftentimes, there can be a landlord type that will own a collection of taco stands, each run by different folks with completely different approaches at their business.
Now that you know what a taco stand is, here is my journey. I will try to keep it truncated for your reading pleasure...
I mentioned in a previous blog entry about finding Sauceda upon first arriving in Texas. It was delicious, and matched many, but not all of the criteria of what I call a taco stand, and love so much.
Whenever we were anywhere, we would ask people about a taco stand. For some reason, many people would just look at us funny. This was even the case with local people of Mexican descent. One of the rules of thumb when you visit an area is to find a police officer or a fireman, and ask them about the local food. I guarantee you that you will get some great advice on places to eat. Even they were not helpful in this area.
Well, while we were in Midland and Odessa, people would tell us to wait until we got to San Antonio, because they have great Mexican food there - and there is plenty of it. For the most part, that is what we did. While we didn't stop looking, we certainly didn't prepare ourselves to expect much until we arrived in San Antonio.
Once we checked in at our hotel in San Antonio, we refreshed ourselves after the 300+ mile drive, and went to a place that was recommended to us by people we know in Orlando. It is called Mi Tierra. The place was very good, but it was still tex-mex! Argh! That being said, the place was great. It just wasn't what I was looking for. It is mostly geared towards tourists.
Well, we had a GPS unit helping us along our way. I will blog more about this later. One of the things it did was take us the fastest route. Such routes usually involve staying on highways. I reset the settings to avoid highways. This way, it would force us to drive through the neighborhoods.
As it turns out, this was a GREAT idea! I found a taco stand! It was awesome!
The place was a hole-in-the-wall, and located in what appeared to be a lower-income neighborhood. We spoke about it later, and determined that if this was in a similar neighborhood back home, we may not have stopped there. However, my desperation and naivity of the area took over. We stopped. There wasn't a whole lot of room to sit and eat. While there, we noticed that most people just picked up the food as take out.
We stayed there. The tacos were excellent! And like most taco stands, their menu was extremely limited. While the tacos weren't made with shredded beef, they were chopped beef, instead of ground beef. There was fresh cilantro, lime, and onions served with them. They also had freshly made sauces, all of which were at least a little hot.
There was a bit of a communication problem there, so all we had were tacos. I also wanted to try their tostadas. I really need to learn more spanish.
Nearly everything in this place was imported from Mexico. As much of the food was, as well as the sodas. The sodas were delicious. Some of the flavors were pineapple, apple, and coke (imported from Mexico). Even though this place is not in the typical tourist areas of San Antonio, I would recommend this place to anyone.
I should elaborate on that. When you visit a new place, no matter if it is in your native country, or a new one, you should not eat in the tourist areas. You will not get a true sense of the place. You will only get the American-ized or homogenized version of everything. To get a true sense of the food and culture of that area, you need to go off of the beaten path and venture into the neighborhood eateries and road-side restaurants.
I was telling Kim about taco stands ever since we planned this trip, and she now knows what the difference is between a taco bell taco, and a TRUE Mexican taco. :)
Now for the news on the "green" aspects of this place... I am ashamed to say that there was not really anything green about this place. There was no recycling, no green packaging, and there was no resuse of any kind. For the average road-side vendor or eatery, there is very little incentive to observe green practices. They simply do not see the immediate impact. They just want to pay their bills. There has to be some way to change that...