The dearth of information on most taquerías and Mexican restaurants in the Dallas area means that often this weekly series relies heavily on leaps of faith (and stomach). Call it food cartography, because, baby, there is no map. It's what barbecue expert Daniel Vaughn does at Full Custom Gospel BBQ and what the taco bloggers at the Dallas Taco Bracket, TacOCliff and Taco Sense do. Between us, we hope to provide our readers and fellow food lovers with a compass to good eats. Doing so, we experience pitfalls and failures galore, so you don't have to.
On Monday, Nick Zukin, a food blogger/restaurateur from Portland, Oregon, and I took to a stretch of Maple Avenue beginning at the intersection of Inwood Road, working our way toward Uptown. After five stops and one failed attempt at breakfast tacos after 10:30 a.m., two favorites came to the fore, both barbacoa.
The first was the El Rio Grande supermarket, a large grocery where your piñata and key copying needs can be met alongside ample and cheap produce. The restaurant portion of the store was at the side and consisted of several tables across from the cash register and a long case of steam tables with all manner of animal parts for the gnawing. The barbacoa de res sat in a pan submersed in its juices, while islands of the beef rose above the liquid spotted with a fatty sheen. It was lovely.
The other taco was made at Hermanos Cruz Restaurant, a sparsely decorated one-room place that was empty during lunch. The barbacoa de borrego (lamb) left an impression that remained hours later. I could smell the grassy aroma and the rich sauce, which had a finish that somersaulted on my taste buds. It was downright excellent and left me wondering, "Ay, mami, todo eso es tuyo." The gaminess was minimal and the tortillas, a two-ply, 3-inch job, were smart enough to not get in the way.
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But, really, it was all like one's wedding -- a kick-ass, unforgettable experience with time periods that are blurred, yet happy. Oh, so, happy.
El Rio Grande Supermercado 5308 Maple Ave. 214-239-3500
Hermanos Cruz Restaurant 4525 Maple Ave. 214-586-6778