Austinites gloated, but San Antonians exploded over the blasphemous claim made by John Edge on March 9 in The New York Times:
When it comes to breakfast tacos, however, Austin trumps all other American cities.
I have tried to refrain from jumping on the anti-Edge bandwagon, but….
Theoretically, Edge comes with impeccable foodie credentials, such as the upcoming Truck Food Nation (I confess. I love this website.) and the fact that he currently is a finalist for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation.
But Edge was way off base with that line. Reminiscent of the old Pace Picante advertisement blasting Cookie for serving “foreign” hot sauce (“This stuff is made in New York City.”), the headline itself is a dead giveaway: “Tacos in the Morning?” That is not a question; it is an assumption for a huge percentage of San Antonians and has been for their entire lives.
Personally, I am partial to Tito’s thick, freshly made-by-hand, white corn tortillas way-overstuffed with chilaquiles, but there are a multitude of choices in virtually every neighborhood. Veronica Flores-Paniagua of the Express-News writes that the paper’s food editor, Karen Haram, received nominations for more than 200 different breakfast taco destinations as the “best” in the city this past year. San Antonians probably were eating breakfast tacos before upstart Austin was founded.
Dan Saltzstein‘s article, “36 Hours in San Antonio” in today’s New York Times, makes the paper more palatable to pick up again. Saltzstein wandered far and wide off the beaten track to spotlight both upscale and quirky spots in San Antonio (although no breakfast tacos are mentioned). He recommends a platter of the “succulent, charred-on-the-outside brisket” at The Smokehouse on Roland Avenue and the Texas burger, a Texas Monthly cover girl, at our favorite car wash, The Cove.
He dined on shrimp enchiladas at Aldaco’s Stone Oak, and waited in line for wild mushroom lasagna at Andrew Weissman’s Il Sogno. He hit the Green Lantern on Stone Oak Parkway and wandered into Casbeers for a bit of “church music that goes way beyond hymns.” In this whirlwind trip, he squeezes in museums and shopping at The Twig Book Shop and Melissa Guerra’s at Pearl.
Phew! How could anyone do all that in 36 hours? Saltzstein must have been zipping around faster than a New York minute, a phrase Barry Popik claims actually originated in Texas. But, more importantly, why would anyone spend only 36 hours in San Antonio? Then I looked back; the vacation schedule, despite the headline (Who writes these headlines for the Times?), stretched out over a 48-hour period – actually even longer because it ended up precisely 48 hours later upon arrival at the San Antonio Zoo, which has way too many acres of animals to see in a New York nanosecond.
Hey, New York, thanks for extending us a Texas minute to explore some of our charms. Next time, try the breakfast tacos.
Some recent great meals around San Antonio, from a non-New York perspective:
- The Cool Cafe, 123 Auditorium Circle: A crepe filled with spinach, mushrooms and liberal amounts of olive oil served with sweet and crisp roasted potatoes; huge chunks of salmon cooked shish-kabob-style and served over basmati rice; half-price wine on Sunday. Better hurry, because the new owners of the Havana Hotel seem inclined to want the Mediterranean cafe out of the way. Liz Lambert has completed work on the hotel to instill it with the same coolness factor as the San Jose in Austin, and I am happy to learn the great basement Bar will no longer be filled with dense clouds of cigar smoke. If Lambert can make a former “motor court” hip, she certainly should be able to make a building with the architectural bones of the Havana inviting. Did I mention the Cool Cafe knocks 50 percent off all wine on Sundays? Call first to be sure it has not been evicted: 210.224.2665.
- Tre Trattoria, 4003 Broadway: Considering I have not been blogging long, it might arouse suspicion for me to mention this meal again. Sorry, but this is my vision of a perfect Saturday lunch for making a couple feel as though they are on vacation: grilled radicchio with lemon vinagrette; a pizza topped with goat cheese, pistachios and balsamic cippolini; and a bottle of A Mano Primitivo. One might think Jason and Crystal Dady were bribing me, but they would go broke if everyone who came in placed such a budget order. Price for two, including the bottle of wine: $41.30.
- Azuca Nuevo Latino, 713 South Alamo: For a while, the kitchen seemed to suffer from attention-deficit as management focused on a northside location, but everything appears back on track. Few restaurants present food with more artistry. Would highly recommend garlicky tostones, tender grilled squid and the tropical fruit garden for dessert, much more decadent than it sounds. The caipirinha is a nice change from margaritas or mojitos.
- The Filling Station Cafe, 701 South St. Mary’s Street: The place to grab a sandwich, such as the turkey habanero on rolls made in the teeninsiest kitchen. There might be all of three tables tucked inside, but there is additional seating outside. Have used Jon’s services several times to provide sandwiches for meetings, and everyone always raves.
- Zinc Champagne, Wine & Spirits, 207 North Presa: The name immediately lets you know the beverage side of the menu is well-stocked; yet the bartenders do not complain about making something off-menu – such as what I have christened a “tequito,” a mojito with tequila instead of rum. Zinc is open during the week for lunch, but seems to be trying to keep that secret. Pears, goat cheese and pecans perk up a small Zinc salad, and the portobello patty melt with spinach, nopalitos and cheese is hearty fare. The sweet potato fries arriving on the same plate keep me from exploring the menu much farther, despite the high praise friends lavish on the Texas salmon salad with pearl couscous.
- Easter lunch was bountiful, but my sister-in-law asked me not to give out her address.
- John Griffin: “A Misguided Guide to Breakfast Tacos”
- Taco Journalism in Austin
- Ron Bechtol reviews Aldaco’s Stone Oak in San Antonio Current.
- Texas Monthly ranks The Cove as having the 5th best burger in the state, and the Food Network visits The Cove.
- Mark Jones reviews The Filling Station in San Antonio Current.
- Patricia Sharpe reviews Il Sogno.
- Ron Bechtol reviews Tre Trattoria in San Antonio Current.
- Ben Olivo’s blog on the Havana Bar.