Restaurant Reviews

It's A Menudo Kind Of Morning At Taqueria y Carniceria Guanajuato

So you want to open a taco stand? Then you should talk to Philippe Martinez, whose Taqueria y Carniceria Guanajuato supplies many restaurants in Dallas with their animal parts. His new location on Walnut Hill Lane, just east of Harry Hines Boulevard, opened four months ago, but before that he spent five years in another spot just a few blocks north. The corner of Dennis Road and Royal Lane was a decent place for a taquería, and there are still several there, but Martinez has much more space now. The windows let in a little more light, and there are more coolers for his fresh meats and cheeses.

You'll find every sort of animal part you need for making exceptional tacos in his butcher case. There are hunks of pork for a perfect guisado verde, and smaller pre-seasoned bits of pig for makeshift pastor. There are giant tongues ready for boiling to make lengua tacos, and chorizo and marinated chicken ready for the grill. There are beef ribs and pork ribs, quail and chicken thighs and pre-marinated fajita beef — all of it neatly wrapped in plastic behind the well-lit glass. Think of the rich, braised taco fillings you could accomplish with beef shanks like those.

But you won't be opening a taqueria, even though you can get the tiny corn tortillas you'll need in Maritinez's shop, too. These things are best left to the professionals, and taqueria openings and other dream restaurants are best left just that — something to fantasize about while you pop the top off a fizzy Topo Chico and wait to eat someone else's tacos.

If you come during the week, you can order flautas filled with bland but tender chicken that are significantly less greasy that any other version you've encountered. They're good, and if you're passing the shop between Monday and Friday you should stop in and grab one of the crispy rolled and stuffed tortillas. But return on Saturday or Sunday and you'll immediately know you've stumbled upon something worth more attention. There are a few more cars in the parking lot now, and the air surrounding Taqueria y Carniceria Guanajuato is redolent with pork.

It's not just carnitas fashioned from ribs, shoulder and other difficult to identify pig parts, but the pig's skin is celebrated too. Two types of chicharron sit under the heat lamps at the front of the restaurant. One is studded with a crosshatch of small pork cubes, still attached to the rind and dry like jerky. The other is small curls of skin on its own, airy and crisp like truck-stop snacks.

Carnitas tacos are a perfectly acceptable way to become acquainted with Martinez's goods. Order three or so, making sure to ask for cilantro and onions and feel free to specify what cut of pork you'd like. The ribs are consistently moist and can be secured without too much trouble by gesturing to the appropriate location of your midsection. Be sure to get both the red and green salsas while you're at it, and then grab a soda from the wall of beverages. Have a seat and watch the game; there are worse distractions while waiting for tacos.

Perhaps Brazil is schooling Spain 2-0. Perhaps Fred is charging the net, about to make it 3. No matter what match is on the screen, when the noise in the stadium swells, the bandsaw that's making short work of chicken legs behind the butcher case falls silent. The deli slicer turning out beef Milanesa idles, too. More than half the globe revolves around a soccer ball and the employees at Guanajuato have their priorities. Fred connects, the stadium cheers, the bandsaw sings again, and your tacos have arrived.

Carnitas are the confit of Mexico. Like duck cooked in duck fat, marinated pork, fried in its own rendered succulence, is almost always destined for elevated eating. But the tender strands of pork tucked into your tortillas at Guanajuato taste a little more alive than its carneceria counterparts. The meat is soft and fresh, and it sings with one of the two salsas at your disposal. Grab the opaque green sauce if you're feeling mild. Grab the red version if you'd like something a little fruitier that packs a bigger punch.

If you were to figure a shop that sells beef tripe by the pound might offer some of the freshest-tasting menudo in Dallas, you would be correct. Don't drop in on a Saturday morning and skip the hearty stew — you'd be making a mistake, even if you've tried the famous hangover cure in the past and not enjoyed it. The menudo is clean, rich and restorative. It's one of the best reasons for coming here.

Not only is the tripe delicious, but the cow's hooves in the stew are cleaned up too. If an entire foot floating in your soup has ever turned you off, note the cooks at Guanajuato chop up the feet, liberating jiggling pieces of gelatin.

Menudo is always served with onions, cilantro and tortillas, and you should ask for more of all of them. Tuck a few pieces of tripe into the warmed masa and decorate it heavily. Give your makeshift taco a heavy hit from the squeeze bottle of that red salsa. Eat greedily while you sip from the rusty broth the color of chocolate. The haze from last evening's excess will peel away in layers, leaving you clear-headed and restored.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz