There's been a lot of discussion lately about Dallas' often-overlooked status as an incubator for incredible tacos, both traditional and modern. While Austin and San Antonio argue over who owns the breakfast taco, Dallas has been quietly cooking up some of Texas' best tacos and evolving its modern Mexican cuisine.
A few years ago, "taco journalists" Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece criss-crossed Texas to explore the state's diverse taco scene. In 2016, the book "Tacos of Texas" was released. Now, a new seven-episode documentary series — directed by Dennis Burnett and produced with Indie Lens Storycast, a YouTube channel in partnership with PBS Digital Studios — is delving further into Texas tacos, and on Friday, Oct. 26, Tyler Station will hold a screening of the Dallas episode of the series.
"The series will feature one iconic taco and taco style per city, highlighting local issues such as: taco gentrification in East Austin, tradition in the Rio Grande Valley, Dreamers in Houston, the importance of the masa in San Antonio, cultural appropriation in Corpus Christi, modern Mexican in Dallas and border fluidity in El Paso," according to Tacos of Texas' website.
Starting at 6 p.m. Friday night, several subjects of the Dallas episode — chef Anastacia Quinones, Revolver Taco Lounge chef-owner Regino Rojas and Trompo's Luis Olvera — will cook food for a pop-up in conjunction with the screening. On the menu: chorizo tortillas with papas fritas, jalapeno crema and cotija cheese; a s'mores taco with Mexican vanilla marshmallow; and a fried shrimp taco on a carrot-habanero tortilla.
"We had already traveled to 10 cities across Texas for the book and naturally, the next phase took us to the documentary series," says Mando Rayo, one of the book's authors. "In this journey, we've met some great people and discovered some amazing tacos along the way and we really wanted to tell these stories through a documentary video or digital platform, and we had an opportunity to receive funding from ITVS for the pilot and was green-lit to do the season one series. Along (with) these stories, we wanted to connect people with the food and the issues surrounding the taco and go deeper into local communities issues. We also wanted to teach America the variety and diversity of Texas and the taco and that's why we focused on an iconic taco per city."
In Dallas, authors and producers focused on the city's growing modern Mexican food scene.
"In Dallas, we learned AQ, Regino Rojas and Luis Olvera are changing the taco game," Rayo says. "They're not waiting around to be asked to play with the 'big boys' or white chefs but are creating their own styles and their own scene in Dallas. I believe, because of these Mexican chefs, they're creating a demand for the style of Mexican cooking they grew up with and love and because of their attention to detail, using high-quality ingredients and honoring the food and cultural history, they're positioning the Dallas taco scene as a strong contender in Texas."
"I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s underrated," says Trompo's owner Olvera, who's cooking up elotes en vaso for the event. "I think writers are doing lots to promote most places that house new taco shops.
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"I was fortunate — I work my butt off, and even though I have this terrible location with so many restrictions, people still show me love," he says, noting that Trompo's second location is currently in the works. "Of course I get upset when someone takes my concept and appropriates it. But I’m sure many chefs-proprietors in every category feel the same way at times."
Tacos of Texas pop-up starts at 6 p.m. Friday at Tyler Station in Oak Cliff, with a screening of the documentary to follow at 7:30 p.m. After this stop, the Tacos of Texas doc tour has a final date in El Paso on Nov. 6.
Update: You can watch the Dallas episode of "Tacos of Texas" in its entirety below: