First: What's a Not Taco? A taco is that glorious lime-showered thing you dangled cilantro over. You already know that a taco can be novelty, like Cheeseburger enigma at Velvet Taco or Torchy's Tacos' Trailer Park taco, which has fried chicken and queso. You also already know that tacos can also (obviously) go gringo, with sour cream, cheddar and bright red chunks of America.
For the purposes of this post, we're defining a Not Taco as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: a kick-ass mutation of the original, old staple, a taco that has adapted and changed in this hot, sour creamy North Texas environment. The Not Tacos range from sloppy joe to brisket (some require a little DIY), and I'd argue their some of the best things to eat in the city.
The Sloppy Joe Taco at Off Site Kitchen The best part about this taco is the smell. It comes like a tiny tugboat in their classic plastic baskets and elicits the spot-on aroma of the school cafeteria. One deep sniff and I promise you'll have that Ratatouille moment where you zoom into your childhood memories.
There's actual sloppy joe mix in there. It's got with a nice amount of spice and is piled high with lettuce, shredded cheese, a plump of sour cream and some magical Ranch. The shell crunches like a movie sound effect. Summon your strength not to eat the burger and get this Not Taco.
The Handmade Tortillas with Brisket at Slow Bone Jack Perkins' restaurants are like Dallas' cool uncle that drives a Harley. Neither gives a shit about anything except quality and a good time. Slow Bone, Perkins' BBQ joint, has brisket and sides that will make your heart grow three inches and break the scale. On this trip, I got the mustard greens and the creamy brussels and cauliflower gratin, and I made a taco out of the juicy brisket with pickled onions and pickles. The result was one of the best meals I've had in Dallas in a long time. Oh, the tortillas are handmade, pressed and just a touch crispy. Blackout good meal.
Actual Not Taco Taco photo:
The Pig Carnitas at CBD Provisions Let me tell you what happens when you order the Berkshire Pig Head Carnitas. You get a big half of a pig's head -- teeth, cheek, tongue and all -- with the skin-crunch so deep you feel it in your socks. It comes with radishes, kick-ass salsa, and tortillas. Unnecessary personal note: This meal was the way I treated myself for my 30th birthday. My family and I ordered two. (Side note: If you order two, one-half pig heads, is it halves of the same head? Just curious. Asking for a friend)
Even with two this thing doesn't sit for long. If you're feeling weird about the pig head, push past it. Just quickly open your hand, put a tortilla and a pile of pork-radish-salsa in it and you'll forget about it. You'll forget about every thing else. This is a death row meal.
Two Hundred Korean Tacos at SSahm BBQ This is one of Dallas' best Not Taco that's under 10 bucks. You probably don't need two hundred, but they're that good. Each is three dollars. If you get the spicy, but just-touched-with-sweet pork, you're in Not Taco but Taco wonderland. Comes with lettuce dressed with sesame and soy, cilantro and onion, "Korean Salsa" roja, and -- the best part -- spicy mayo. And cheese. Food sometimes tastes better when you're standing up.
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The Migas at Jonathon's in Oak Cliff There are few things that make the food center of the brain dance more than when you get a to-go meal from a great Dallas restaurant, in the styrofoam flap container, and it's got a heaviness that indicates you've got a meal. So, this one's a heavy pile, but it comes with tortillas folded delicately like dinner napkins, and they make for brilliant Not Tacos. You're looking at turkey chorizo, egg whites, cheddar and spicy-salty potatoes. The salsa is smoky and savory, and makes them sing. I got sour cream too, which makes them more Not Taco than taco.
The Brisket Tacos at Lockhart Smokehouse You already know Lockhart and their brisket, which means you should already be in the car, fish-tailing into the Bishop Arts district with a quivering hand full of money. I mean, look at those things? It's happy (they don't have them every day, so you might want to call ahead). It's chopped brisket -- you know, from Lockhart Smokehouse -- with cilantro and pico. If you add a pickle or two, that'd be OK too. Do it. You're already eating Not Taco Tacos. Note: best consumed with a Antarctic-cold beer.