All week at City of Ate, we celebrate the magic of the taco. Check back for more interviews, essays and maybe a list or two. Or maybe four?
If you live in Dallas, you've likely shopped at a 7-Eleven, and if you've shopped at Dallas' official convenience store, then you've likely spent some time staring into the hot box staged near the cash register as you wait in line to pay for your Red Bull.
The dimly lit fortress of sodium displays all manner of food things: the pizza slices with desiccated pepperoni slices and hardening crusts; the chicken wings that look exactly like the partially chewed fried bird parts you find on the sidewalk in summer; the taquitos that look like cigars that someone lit, let float in a swimming pool for a day and then dried in the sun; and, of course, the miniature tacos that somehow manage to look cute when surrounded by so much salty sacrilege.
Of course you haven't eaten those tacos; you're far too smart for that, as I was until taco week came to City of Ate and I promised myself that I would eat every taco I encountered. The experience is one I wish I could unlearn, so I thought I'd offer some brief tasting notes. Perhaps they may help you during those brief moments you find yourself paying for your Big Gulp and temporarily become tempted by tiny tacos
Let's start with the shell, which is surely a feat of culinary engineering. The upper portion that is pinched together and seemingly held there by magic offers an awkward textural combination of slightly chewy and slightly crunchy, as if a single Doritos chip were stored under your car seat for the entirety of summer. The portion of the tortilla that actually came in contact with the filling, however, had a leathery texture -- not like supple suede, but like the Horween genuine shell cordovan found on the finest dress shoes.
And inside? Well, look at it in the picture below. I've never in my life encountered meat with a stringy appearance and a simultaneously pasty consistency. It was heavy with cumin flavor, the kind that gets in your nose and stays there for a day, and it was about as salty as you would expect. Some Cholula hot sauce I found in my fridge helped brighten things but not enough. These tacos tasted very, very sad.
7-Eleven released the mini taco almost two years ago, and somehow they're selling enough to make continuing to stock them a profitable venture. Don't fall into the trap though. Should you find yourself hungry in a 7-Eleven late at night, and tempted by tiny tacos, default to anything else in the store.