San Antonio – Whether it’s puffy, street-style, or breakfast, San Antonio knows tacos.
Cooking influenced murals and (otherwise) friendly discussions with other cities. Even within the city limits, San Antonio is discussing credibility and which spots have the best taste.
And you can choose from many spots. The city is full of taco stands and takeria, some of which have been here for decades.
They come in different styles and come in different stuffing and tortilla varieties. And when you think you know everything you need to know about the San Antonio taco scene, something new comes to mind.
This episode of KSAT Explains details the history, evolution, future of San Antonio tacos, and their importance to the identity and culture of our city.
(Watch the entire episode on demand with the video player above.)
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“It’s now part of our culture”: San Antonio classics
Some might argue that San Antonio is the best, but nowadays you can find tacos in almost every city. But what sets San Antonio apart is its unique taste and style.
“Undoubtedly, San Antonio is the culinary and cultural center of Texas,” said Hoserarat, Texas Monthly Taco Editor.
With so many taco options in San Antonio, it was very difficult to narrow down the survey. However, we decided to start with two taco stands that have become a staple in the last few decades.
Good morning in San Antonio begins with a taco for breakfast. Another popular breakfast dish is also served at one of San Antonio’s most notorious breakfast taco spots.
The original donut shop has served both breakfast tacos and donuts since the 1950s. And when you visit, you may be serviced by someone who has been in the restaurant for decades.
“There are a lot of employees here that have been around for over 30 years,” said Monica Gomez, general manager of the restaurant, who has worked at the original donut shop for over 20 years.
According to Gomez, part of the appeal of the restaurant is how traditional it is. They have been using the same recipe for carnegisada tacos since 1954. And alongside Papa Ranchera, Carne Gisada is one of the most popular. Also known as toasted beans and cheese.
“It’s now part of our culture,” Gomez said. “Beans and cheese.”
And of course, tortillas are homemade.
“To keep everything fresh by 6am, we’ll start here at 4am,” says Gómez.
Located on the inner west side of the city, about 8 km from the original donut shop, Tacoria is known for a completely different type of tortilla.
Ray’s Drive-In was founded in 1965 by Raymond Lopez. It is popular thanks to the specially made puffy tacos. There is also a puffy taco trademark.
“Crispy Heaven Clouds” is the way night manager Nathan Morales explains it.
“Everything is made to order,” Morales said. “Tacos have that soft texture, as the masa is dropped as soon as you order.”
Its soft crunch is partially achieved thanks to the tools used to make tacos. The design of these tools is under the key and the key.
“That’s the great thing about this place,” Morales said. “They understood the tips and tricks early on and didn’t change anything.”
Tacos can be filled with picadillo, chicken, carnegisada, or avocado. But here, tortillas are everything.
“Tacos are a reflection of that time and place”: New styles are emerging
Breakfast tacos and puffy tacos are just some of San Antonio’s favorites that the locals remember growing up with.
But tacos are before our childhood. In fact, the origin of tacos dates back thousands of years.
Watch the video below to learn about the brief history of tacos and how they have been a vessel for cultural cooperation for generations.
We all know tacos. But what defines tacos?
Loose definition? Tortillas, fillings, and maybe salsa. But Larat told us that was just the first definition.
“The second is that tacos reflect that time and place,” says Ralat. “Tacos are a region.”
For some time, several types of tacos have been offered in certain regions of Texas and Mexico. But thanks to migration and social media trends, the world is getting smaller and smaller. That is reflected in the expanded offering of our local taco scene.
One example of these new styles-Bilia.
The billia boom is still relatively new in San Antonio, but has been successful for years in California. Larat says Birria came to the United States from the birthplace of Jalisco, Mexico.
Traditionally, bilria was made of either goats or lambs.But beef billia is the most popular in the United States
“This is the beef billia that came out of Tijuana,” Larat said. “Especially plenty of cheese.”
Without consomme, a type of stew made with dried peppers and other spices, Bilia Tacos would not be complete.
Joshua Palacios and his wife Martha are originally from California. After moving to San Antonio, they saw the opportunity to bring Vilia here.
Martha’s family has a history of restaurant business, so they had recipes that date back decades. They added their own spins to some of those recipes and opened the food truck El Remedio in 2019.
Since then, the trend in Billia has exploded. El Remedio has expanded to two food trucks, and the Palacios family plans two more and a brick and mortar restaurant.
And they aren’t the only ones currently offering billia in San Antonio.
Another husband and wife duo, Martin Vargas and Sabrina Perez, opened Billia Barrio as a food truck in South Pressa in 2020.
Vargas follows his love for Vilia on a childhood trip to Mexico. His business is named after Billia’s Mexican roots.
“People come in groups and they eat,” Vargas said. “It’s like a neighborhood, in Spanish it’s a bario.”
Birria Barrio sells biria in tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches and ramen. Their formula is delicious and very suitable for Instagram.
Vargas has attributed some of Billia’s success in San Antonio to its epidemic. “When people try it, they say,’Hey, what do you know, I really like Billia,'” Vargas said. “If it wasn’t a trend, they might not have tried it.”
Birria Barrio quickly enlarged the truck and now has a restaurant in South Presa.
Birria is not the only traditional Mexican taco that has been introduced to South Texas. Takitos West Avenue offers Jalisco-style street tacos 24/7.
But from Thursday to Sunday, only their Al Pastor Tacos (one of the more traditional options) are available. The magic of this taco lies in the advo sauce, which uses the secret ingredients used in marinated pork.
It takes 4-5 hours to prepare the meat. The final step is to use the trombo to incorporate the meat into the vertical mound. The meat is sliced directly from the mound into tortillas and served with onions, coriander and pineapple.
A 10-minute drive east of Takitos West Avenue, the food truck offers tacos that bring the flavors of Mexico City and Laredo to San Antonio.
Wife and husband Lize Martinez and Francisco Estrada own Nacomexican Eataly. She is from Laredo. He is from Mexico City. They call their food style a family reunion-bringing flavors from both of their native regions to San Antonio through their food trucks.
“It’s like putting both our family’s recipes and traditions together on one truck,” Martinez said. “So you will find blue corn, but you will find flour tortillas, and you will find asada, but you will find huitlacoche.”
The couple lived in Mexico City before moving to San Antonio a few years ago in search of a safer life for their children. However, Francisco’s qualification as a Mexican lawyer was not taken over.
So they decided to enter the taco business. And like Vargas and Palacios, they are successful enough to expand. They will soon open a physical restaurant.
“I am very happy and proud that the people of San Antonio have accepted us,” Martinez said. “We are now part of the community.”
“Viathetaco”: Tacos as a vessel to introduce other dishes
It’s not just the style that has changed. The way people see tacos has also changed.
Today, tacos can be found in fine restaurants and fine tacos. They are recognized as a valuable cooking experience. But those who grew up in San Antonio, the children of the 1960s and 1970s, know that this is not always the case.
“When I was a kid, I brought tacos to school in the 1960s, but I ate tacos secretly,” said John Philippe Santos, a professor of research at Mestiso at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “It was still the subject of ridicule.
Santos says it began to change in the mid-1970s.
“Someone was likely to want to exchange something for my tacos,” he said.
With the widespread acceptance of this taco, food has changed.And today you can find tacos adopted by other cultures to introduce their Cooking to South Texas.
“The taco metaphor has begun to emerge as a kind of eating habit that embraces literally every cultural tradition between its covers,” Santos said.
Have you heard about Korean street tacos?
Bull Gogi Boys owner Stephen Scarantino has added this item to the menu as a way to introduce Korean bulgogi, a type of marinated sliced beef, to San Antonio.
Scarantino recognizes Street Tacos for supporting the sales of food trucks.
“Without Korean street tacos, it probably wouldn’t have lasted this long,” said Scallantino. “It’s how helpful it has been to get people to try our menu.”
According to Scarantino, trying food on the street tacos, a ship that customers are accustomed to, is a gateway to other menu items.
With this approach, it’s not just Scallantino. Jerk Shack, a local Jamaican restaurant, also participates in the fusion taco game.
Jerk is just a spice blend-it contains garlic, thyme and green onions and is spicy. And now, Jerk Shack owner and chef Nicola Black is using it to make tacos.
“We put the pineapple pico there,” Blaque said. “We have avocado cream, so our taste is Caribbean, but it’s influenced by Hispanics.”
For both Blaque and Scarantino, creating tacos that blend the two cultures and cuisine was born out of their childhood love for culture and cooking.
“What is the easiest way for Texas people to access food? Via tacos,” Larat said.
Scarantino said the food he cooks is based on his mother’s food. And Blaque from Jamaica said that Caribbean food has always been part of her.
“There are so many people migrating to San Antonio and there are some great things we can all share,” says Blaque. “I think that’s the best way to do it. Use food and obviously tacos.”
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