The first round of our weekly dish duel features a venerable Tex-Mex veteran and a pretty boy from Uptown...
You know, Texans brag almost constantly about brisket. Mention brisket tacos and you risk sending natives into a fugue state.
We've always wondered why because, frankly, Dallas produces very few worthwhile examples. Of course, appearance fascinates local residents more than substance--at least according to, well, pretty much everyone.
Not sure they're right about that...although this week's toque to toque face off does nothing to prove them wrong.
Taco Diner has glitz and location on its side. The precious folks of Uptown preen here, hoping to see and to be seen. They also rave about dusty, almost characterless brisket served in common tortillas. The meat, in fact, is so bland it sucks the life out of the diner's condiments, including nice, fresh cilantro and hot and jalapeno. A second bite actually subtracts from the first, meaning this brisket taco grows weaker and less interesting as the meal progresses.
But the presentation is attractive.
Mia's is a dirty old favorite in the Oak Lawn area. The children of Mama Mia have gone on to worse things, but the original setting remains a hard-core symbol of down home Tex-Mex prowess. And it pummeled Taco Diner in the brisket taco duel.
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Instead of the parched doldrums of Taco Diner's brisket, they place juicy, warm and husky-flavored slices in tortillas tipping between sweet malt and and a rustic silty character. Taco Diner scores points for arranging condiments in a pretty array around their tacos, but this just culinary prancing and hardly slows the beating. Mia's is straightforward, strident, craving nothing. You don't want to cover the basic, hearty taste with a lot of salsa, pico or jus.
And Mia's "house" margaritas are better, too--a knock out and a little kick while Taco Diner is down. The Uptown restaurant has created a mask of ooh and ahh over what feels like corporate tortillas and parched meat. Mia's built a taco.
An ugly one, true, but still a completely satisfying taco.
Call it a "no mas" fight.