All week at City of Ate, we celebrate the magic of the taco. Check back for more interviews, essays and maybe a list or two. Or maybe four?
Street tacos are glorious in and of themselves, but there is something equally delicious being served out of carts in front of taquerias across the city: elotes. In Mexico, this side dish and popular street food is typically served on the cob, but most versions you'll find in Dallas are served in styrofoam cups for your eating convenience.
If you haven't eaten elotes, the concept can sound off-putting. Why in the world would anyone put mayonnaise and queso fresco on corn? A genius, it turns out. The combination of mayo, corn, queso fresco, lime juice, and hot sauce hits every flavor note you could dream of: salty, sweet, spicy, tart and, most of all, rich.
Most elotes look as if they could induce a heart attack at any moment, especially if you watch the elotes-maker squeeze in what looks like an entire cup of mayonnaise while layering in handfuls of queso fresco. But don't let your trainer's blathering on about "clean eating" deter you from experiencing this hearty, flavor-packed snack.
At El Si Hay in Oak Cliff, the elotes man shows up in the early afternoon and begins prepping all the ingredients necessary to create his masterpiece: corn cut fresh from the cob, slabs of butter the size of your head, an industrial-sized tub of sour cream. Before he even has all his ingredients arranged, the line for this heart-attack-in-a-cup-o'-corn has already snaked around the taqueria's tiny building.
There are upscale versions on menus across the city. Velvet Taco may do wacky interpretations of classic tacos, but their "rotisserie corn served elotes style" is as close as you're going to get to those traditional street cart elotes in a sit-down joint. Chino Chinatown's isn't authentic elotes, but it is inventive. Corn on the cob is quartered and drenched in a spicy sriracha-bone marrow aioli. Different, but spectacular.
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But nothing will ever rival the simple goodness of elotes from a street cart. Maybe it's late, you're drunk, and somehow you've ended up at Fuel City. Never fear, the elotes cart will be there. Sure you could just get tacos, but the combination of tacos and elotes will cure your righteous impending hangover, soaking up your alcohol and sending you into a deep, blissful sleep.
Some of the best elotes in town are served in front of Fiesta Mart on Ross Avenue in East Dallas. The corn is fresh and the woman who serves them is endlessly cheerful. She doesn't even shame me when my gringo ass asks her to take it easy on the hot sauce.
Almost anywhere in the Metroplex, though, you can find a great elote at a neighborhood taqueria. They're pretty difficult to screw up, but there can be some misses. Sometimes the corn isn't adequately drained, which results in a soggy elote. Sometimes, there just isn't enough mayo that makes it all the way to the bottom, meaning that you're just going to be eating plain old corn by the end of your cup.
But even a mediocre elote is worth the cost of that Lipitor you're going to need once you find yourself craving the fatty goodness of a cup of corn drenched in mayonnaise and cheese.