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Taco-Truck Gourmet

The best sweetbreads in the city are served behind the Airline Drive farmers' market

City Council is debating taco-truck regulations again. Restaurants are complaining that they aren't supposed to be stationary. And they aren't supposed to be dumping their grease in city sewers. (Maybe they could get in touch with Willie Nelson and donate their grease for biofuel?)

I used to be a champion of taco trucks, but I find I am no longer so enamored of them. It's not the cleanliness or environmental issues that changed my mind. It's the sad fact that most of the food I've eaten from them has been lackluster. Sometimes I walk up to the window of one, get a whiff of rancid grease and walk away. I remember ordering tacos from a truck on Bissonnet where the woman behind the counter never stopped talking on her cell phone while she cooked. She relit the burners when I ordered, so the griddle wasn't hot. The tacos she gave me were so greasy the bag was dripping. I didn't dare put it in my car. I dropped the whole thing in the garbage can unopened.

But when I find a great taco truck, I can still get romantic about it. An exceptional meal at a taco truck is more satisfying to me than a great meal at a famous restaurant, because it's so unexpected. After my sweetbread taco breakfast, I was so eager to share my discovery, I immediately called my French friend Bernard Brunon and asked him what he was doing for lunch.

Taqueria Tacambaro's tacos de mollejas are a sublime way to start the day.
Robb Walsh
Taqueria Tacambaro's tacos de mollejas are a sublime way to start the day.

Location Info

Map

Taqueria Tacambaro

2520 Airline Drive
Houston, TX 77007

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Heights

Details

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Sweetbreads taco: $1.50
Tripe taco: $1.50
Quesadilla: $2
Gordita: $2
Drinks: $1

2520 Airline Drive (behind Canino Produce).

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Bernard is a Houston artist who grew up not far from Roanne, France, home of the famous restaurant Maison Troisgros. He once tutored one of the Troisgros children in exchange for a meal at the restaurant. He is, as they say in France, a gourmet.

"Do you like sweetbreads?" I asked him on the phone.

"Yes, if they are properly prepared," he said. "But I had some at a bistro in Montrose the other day and they were terrible -- tough and chewy. They didn't clean them right."

"And what about tripe?" I asked the picky Frenchman.

"Same thing. If they are cooked right, they are wonderful, but I have never had decent tripe in Houston."

"Bernard, have you ever eaten at a taco truck?" I asked him.

"No," he said. Then he corrected himself. "Well, once they hired one for an art opening, but otherwise I have always avoided them. Why do you ask?"

I talked Bernard into meeting me for lunch at Taqueria Tacambaro.

We met at 11:30 a.m., a mere two and a half hours after my breakfast. I ordered two sweetbread tacos and two tripe tacos. I am normally not much of a tripe fan myself, but I figured Narcisso Santos probably wouldn't be driving all the way down here from Conroe to eat tripe tacos unless they were spectacular.

Bernard took one bite of the tripe and expressed his amazement. "It tastes just like a good andouillette," he said, referring to the tripe sausage made in France. I've eaten some sketchy andouillette in France, so from my point of view, the tacos de tripita at Taqueria Tacambaro were far better than andouillette. The tubes of tripe were soft, with only the faintest offal flavor. A spritz of lime juice and a dollop of piquant green serrano sauce set off the tang of the intestines brilliantly.

Bernard was equally impressed with the sweetbreads, even though they weren't white and fluffy as they had been in the early morning. Now they were darker brown and denser, with a deeper flavor and a meatier texture. But they still tasted fantastic.

"These are the best sweetbreads I have had in Houston," Bernard said. "The chef from that bistro needs to come over here and take some lessons."

Bernard drank a mandarin Jarritos with his meal, and I had another Diet Coke. And we decided to do it again soon. But next time, we agreed, we would bring along a bottle of wine. I'm thinking a well-chilled Tavel Rosé would be just the wine to pair with tacos de mollejas.

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