Tacos at Midnight Doritos

Tacos at Midnight Doritos

While in the ‘burbs yesterday I spotted a bag of the new Late Night “Tacos at Midnight” flavor Doritos. I love Doritos…I love tacos…these should be the best things ever, right?

Well, they’re not that good. They don’t taste anything like tacos. Elizabeth says they sort of taste like Old El Paso taco seasoning, but my tongue either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. It’s a sort of hybrid flavor, but it didn’t do anything for me. Gimme cool ranch or the classic flavor.

Would we buy another bag of “Tacos at Midnight” Doritos? No.

Pork gordita

Pork gordita

On a more pleasant note, we diversified our selections at the Inwood taco cart yesterday with a steak burrito (massive and awesome!), a lengua, aka beef tongue, taco (one of the finest tongue tacos I’ve ever had) and a pork gordita. I’ve never actually had an authentic Mexican gordita, just the Taco Bell kind. The taco cart gordita was delicious, a mix of pork, lettuce and tomato, spices and sauce inside a thick, deep-fried corn tortilla. Foodgasm.

Taqueria Corona

Dining area and grill

Elizabeth: The first time I went to Taqueria Corona in 1994, I hated it.  I had an enchilada with a side of rice and beans, and to me, it was wrong.  All wrong.  The enchilada was covered in cheese, which was burnt to a crisp like the top of a pizza.  The saffron rice and black beans didn’t taste at all Mexican to me, and I left thinking that my companions were unsophisticated ignoramuses with severe palate disorders.  Oh, the taco snobbery of a college freshman!

The grill and bar

The grill and bar

The next time I went, dragged there for some special event nearly two years later, I reluctantly decided to give it another chance (if just not to be a jerk to my dinner companions).  This time, I ordered chicken soft tacos and some rice and beans.  After the first mouthful of beans and rice, I made a pleasant discovery: they tasted almost (but not exactly) like the black beans and rice I’d had on our university orchestra’s trip to Costa Rica.  And then I bit into the soft taco, with delightfully smoky grilled chicken and a lime-infused pico de gallo on a lightly toasted flour tortilla.  The taco was not quite Mexican, either.  But it was bursting with flavor and remarkably satisfying.

Sometime after that, I discovered that my association of the beans and rice with Central America–rather than Mexico–wasn’t all that off: the restaurant’s owner hails from El Salvador, and that has definitely made it into the mix.  If you are looking for authentic Mexican food, Taqueria Corona is not the place to find it.  If you like good food, you will find it there.

Taqueria Corona

Taqueria Corona

Throughout college, I would eat at Taqueria Corona at least once every two weeks.  At the time, it was incredibly cheap ($7.95 for the Numero Uno, described below), convenient to Loyola, and, over time, became a place I associated with good food and good friends.  Thus, when Ryan and I visited New Orleans, it joined the list of potential taco consumption.

At this point, I’m going to hand the review over to Ryan, who can give you a better impression of the present-day Taqueria Corona, without the hazy filter of nostalgia.

Ryan: We were just about to leave New Orleans and deciding on what to have for luch. We almost went for po-boys (an excellent choice), but then Elizabeth threw out the idea of going to an El Salvadoran taqueria. Well, the choice was clear and we hit Taqueria Corona on Magazine Street just in time–the restaurant stops seating people at 2pm (until they open back up for dinner a few hours later).

I really liked the look of the place. It was a bit tacky and over the top, but sometimes that’s fun. The place was crowded and I knew it was going to be a three-taco meal for me. We ordered chips and pico de gallo, but they never actually brought that out. Oh well.

Tres Tacos

Tres Tacos

I ordered a rib-eye carne asada taco, a pork taco and a tongue taco. Tongue’s an acquired taste and generally I like it a LOT more on a sandwich from a good deli than in a taco, though I’ve had some good tongue tacos before. This one, well, it wasn’t all that. It was, somehow, softer than tongue usually is, too wet and not as flavorful as I’d expected. The pork taco was far better–the tortilla was packed with delicous chunks of slightly spicy pork. Good stuff! But truly, the steak taco stole the show for me. Thick strips of wonderfully marinated steak with some green onion, it was kind of like the steak you get with fajitas. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

My main issue with the tacos–all of them–was the tortilla. Flour tortillas just don’t taste right to me anymore. Kinda gummy and excessive, they took away from all the tacoey goodness. And the salsa was fine, but not really memorable.  Back to you in the studio, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth:  I can see what Ryan is saying about flour tortillas, but I still like them.   The challenge to consume the taco in time before it turns gummy is part of the fun for me; I also prefer burritos to tacos (Shhh!  Don’t tell!).

Numero Uno

Numero Uno

In terms of my order, I got the usual: The Numero Uno, a combination that comes with a small chicken burrito, chicken soft taco, beef flauta, and rice and beans.  It is–and always has been–more food than one should consume at one sitting, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done it before.  The chicken burrito is nothing like what you would find on the West Coast: only black beans, chicken, and a smooth, tomato salsa, it is not pick-up-able, nor is it filled with the extras, such as rice, sour cream, guacamole, or cheese, that you would find in Taqueria Corona’s giant, stand-alone burritos.  Having lived in San Francisco, I can say that the burritos at TC will not win any authenticity contests, but they are (in their smaller form) a flavorful addition to the combo.

Having discussed the chicken soft taco and rice and beans already (They’re still good!), I turn now to the highlight of the meal: the deep-fried, gooey beef and cheese flauta.  Topped with sour cream and guacamole, it’s the comfort food of all comfort foods, even amongst all the carbohydrates and fats already on the plate.  Hard on the outside, gooey on the inside: what could be better?

And on that note, back to you, Ryan!

Ryan: The flauta was the shit! Seriously, if we ever go back, I’m getting two steak tacos and a flauta. Overall, Taqueria Corona was good, but not great.

We posted more photos on Flickr!

Airport food is not real food, as we all know. And, rather than judging my airport food by the normal, exacting standards I would implement in real life, I tend to go with the following questions:

1. Does it have any flavor at all?
2. Is it under $15?
3. Does it give me heartburn?
4. Can I get some alcohol to accompany it?

Perhaps I should move #4 up, as I *hate* airplane travel. So, that’s pretty much why I always hit up Pappasito’s Cantina when I fly Continental on my way home to visit the parents.  When it opened along with the E terminal in the early 2000s, it was a place with reliably decent and fresh Mexican food, certainly better than the other Houston airport options, and–rather amazingly–strong, tart, relatively inexpensive margaritas. While I wouldn’t have named Pappasito’s as one of my top five choices in Mexican restaurants, it was a bright spot in terms of airport food.

Sadly, much has changed in the past decade.

The past few times I’ve been through the airport and had a chance to eat at Pappasito’s, I’ve been noticing a change in the quality.  Still, I would convince myself that it’s better than most options there, thinking, “At least it isn’t Famiglia pizza” and, “Yeah, it’s chain Mexican and I shouldn’t expect much” and, “It is an airport, after all.”

Pappasito's Cantina, Houston Airport

This time, I had a Cancun burrito–chicken, black beans, guacamole, and pico di gallo–along with a 12-ounce frozen margarita.  The burrito was filled with ultra-sticky, rather tasteless refried black beans that overwhelmed and surrounded the rest of the ingredients.  I could hardly see the chicken in my burrito, let alone taste it.  The guacamole–well, there was a small dab of it, somewhere in there.  In short, in order to have any taste at all, I had to add a lot of the still-fairly-adequate salsa.  Damning with faint praise, indeed, to call the salsa “adequate.”

On the other hand, there’s that margarita: At $6.95, it is a remarkably good deal.  Not too sweet, not too tart, it also contains a significant amount of tequila.  If you have a long layover, as I did, it definitely does the trick and takes the edge off.  In short, it’s actually worth your money and time if you want something stronger than a beer and cheaper than an airport bar cocktail.