There is simply nothing simpler and more delicious than the utilitarian taco. And they seem to be everywhere days. You can't turn around in Dallas without seeing a taqueria, gringo stand or renegade gas station selling these tasty morsels. Another advantage: The taco is generally cheap, selling for about the amount of spare change you keep in your car ashtray or find under any seat cushion.
In the past year there has been a taco explosion here, and we just can't seem to get enough of them. Recently we've seen the second coming of Urban Taco with its newest location on McKinney Avenue in Uptown. There are a few other Urban locations scattered around the city--most notably at DFW airport and Parkland Hospital. Urban's tacos are ripe with quality ingredients--they're way of trying to make a dent in the ever-tightening taco market.
City of Ate has rallied around the taqueria craze. My compadre Jose Ralat Maldonado, the Taco Czar, enjoys El Tizoncito, La Paisanito and others that are hard for some of us to pronounce but good nonetheless.
We agreed to disagree recently when Ralat Maldonado tore into a few of the tacos at Taqueria Lupita, which happens to be one of our favorite extreme late-night spots for trompa tacos (made from the most savory part of cow lips). Our personal opinion might be influenced by its proximity to Neighborhood Services Tavern and the venerable Henderson Avenue wine bar Veritas. That, and it's open until 5a.m. on weekends, replete with mariachis.
All this notwithstanding, we started early one recent morning in search of a fresh breakfast taco. We got a hot tip that Jack Perkins was test driving breakfast tacos at his burger hotspot Maple & Motor. The gruff voiced caller whispered that the tacos would probably be just as awesome as his burgers and we should meet up at the crack of dawn to check them out.
This had the makings of a Toque to Toque challenge so we decided to pair up Maple & Motor with another gringo breakfast taco these days hitting many a radar screen--Torchy's Tacos on Forest Lane in North Dallas. Lets call this Toque Maple & Motor vs. Torchy Tacos:The Breakfast Taco Battle.
We met a friend at sunrise, or in CPA terms around 9a.m., at Maple & Motor. Our expectations were set fairly high as we know Perkins exacting burger standards are a bit on the insane side. We figured the tacos would be plenty good and fasted the night before in anticipation.
Currently the breakfast at Maple & Motor consists of breakfast-only tacos--various combinations of scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage (think Jimmy Deans), potato, and chorizo. Other components including sauteed fresh jalapeno may be added.
We ordered all of the above and sampled each tacos, which came whizzing off the grill in minutes--hot, steamy and (wow) on homemade flour tortillas.
The tortillas were thick but fluffy and easy on the bite. The egg mixture, also fluffy, oozed a fair amount of butter. The choice of sausages was pretty damned good, especially for breakfast. But our favorite was the simple potato and egg concoction with little droplets of hot sauce.
We threw our napkins down and polished off the last of the hot coffee and bolted toward North Dallas in anticipation of round two at Torchy's.
Often at lunch, the line at Torchy's slips out the door and around the corner of the building. In the past we have given up after waiting 20 minutes. Not as much with breakfast.
A few favorites include the Dirty Sanchez (scrambled eggs with guacamole and fried poblano) and the unusual fried avocado, which is served with vegetarian refried beans. Ordering the egg and potato seemed fair since these were our favorite back at Maple & Motor. So we ordered a handful, took our seat and waited for the baskets to arrive.
The breakfast tacos are a bit different at Torchy's as they come oozing with shredded jack and cheddar cheeses. Personally we are not a fan of these cheeses on any taco, and would prefer the salty milkiness of a queso fresco. We bit into the taco and tasted something very familiar. Refrigerator.
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Yes, some flavor invaded a portion of the taco and we could not quite point it out. Cheese is quickly able to absorb other flavors if not kept completely sealed, as are potatoes. Either way, we were not pleased. The tortillas were also guilty of a common sin:These were not the homemade variety as they were at Maple & Motor.
We truly felt that Torchy's would give the new tacos at Maple & Motor a good battle, and possibly on another day they might. But for their fresh ingredients and our love of fresh tortillas we are awarding Maple & Motor the Toque prize of the week.
Maple & Motor Burger 4810 Maple Avenue, Dallas 214-522-4400
Torchy's Tacos 5921 Forest Lane, Dallas 972-720-9200