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A brief history of tuna taco time

26 Mar

Canned Tuna fish: love or hate her she’s here to stay. Delicioso dinosaur: aqui ahora antes us y will be despues. And like the very air we share, tunafish has touched all of our tongues if not at least our nostrils – whether we asked for it or no – as this white and gray matter Del mar has shapeshifted to round out dishes as diverse as a dilettante Italian white bean bruschetta topper or a down and dirty truck stop tuna fish salad wedge.
Serving as many culinary roles as Mc Donald’s sells hamburgers; a veritable Zelig de la lengua – like the Happy Meals of our youths and the custom Starbux beverage of today’s contemporary our lifestyle – this grave y feo pescado, like any web browser worth its gigabytes in NSA spyware serves as a history menu listing of our life and times. 
And sooooooo heeeeeeereeeee’s mine:
A Brief Personal History of Tuna Time, if you will and I don’t mind if I do – replayed in the voice of Steven Hawking:
1970 – nature vs nurture vs nutrition
Hola first forkful of the family casserole: 

Tunanoodlepea, made by Mom.. A Miracle Whip based conglomerate, as essential a Az summer staple as air conditioning (with a side of salty plain potato chips, washed down con fruit punch), a source of comfort and controversy (See: Mayonnaise vs Miracle Whip epic rap battles) and anchor throughout the red ‘you are here’ dots mapping my peripatetic vida. 
Significant how? The binding genome for a family of four adopted kids.  
1980s- Soundeconomies

For those of us bypassed by the greed gene, this decade painted in hues of excess, pastel and acid wash – but for the saving graces of late punk rock and early Camper Van Beethoven – well it like totally kind of sucked. The currency plugged into my rebellious jukebox twernt coke nor junk bonds not sushi but canned tuna fish and cloves and nicked Buzzcocks tapes. A cupboard stocked with Bumble Bee meant an empty checking account and a menu rich in creative approaches to cooking with tuna tuna tuna: tuna helper, tuna Mac and cheese, tuna burgers, tuna melts, and gracias grande to you both Sassy Magazine and Sonic Youth for printing a glorious recipe I still punk rock today: tuna tacos.
Economics covered, onto the sonics…
How I survived the 80s has been noted and memorialized on or is it in this agui IFLAG by working getting fired then working again getting fired then rehired again and again by my dear, bittersweet late mother: sole proprietor of the award-winning Tempe,Az hoagie shop Bellyfillers. The lay-offs rained whenever Teen Anst got the better of me and I got snappy with either customers and/or the sole proprietor. 
And yeah, maybe I once got caught answering the phone ‘Bellykillers’ only because the caller just so happened to be the sole proprietor. Never, I repeat never I did I once taint – with or without my taint – even so much as a crumb served to our outstanding clientele. Making the best fucking food you ever tasted was a priori. Forcing you to listen to ‘Orgasm Addict’ (on cassette) at an ear-piercing pitch while you waited for TBFFYET, well, that may have accounted for one or two of the grievances passed on to the sole proprietor who passed on to me mi pink slips.
Diga me though, has not my 1981 pre-Pandora practice of playing pre-recorded music in a dining establishment so loud you couldn’t even hear yourself chew (and I could not hear your complaints about its volume) become the norm? Escuche: try whispering your order at any bourgeois burger joint or Starbucks. See what that gets ya.
One might have easily assayed Pete Townsed-sized hearing loss by stopping in Bellyfillers before the sole proprietor handed over the spatula to her 13 year old son or the award winning tuna fish salad supply needle neared ‘E’. 
Escuche: What the tuna salad recipe lacked in original ingredients – kind of like diction in IFLAG analogies – it made up with an invisible secret ingredient: sound. The tone deaf need not apply as my replacement. Each and every last employee (including my 10-year old sister who holds the silver medal in firings with 4) need pass tuna tuning training. A harmonious blended batch of canned tuna in water, chopped onions, relish and ahem – miracle whip, which we always referred to as mayo – had to achieve a certain pre-slosh splkurth but never so much as a slosh. Turning and folding and mixing each pungent batch with as delicate and deft a hand as that of a soufflé chef you’d think the greater concern be that it risked bruising the pescado all the while holding an ear tuned to each turn: Magic. Put a fork in as soon as it sounds as if recorded could easily pass for the foley effect of a zombies head being bashed in by a cricket wicket.
Nose Scientists press states that 87% of food & beverage taste comes not from brain IM from la lengua but invisibly via Smell. Escuche up ear scientists: what’s your cut? The ear scientists hypothesize music fires up more neurons at once than any other human activity. Then Check this hypothesis out for super size: If you mute the OST at say random sample say McChipolte, upon first bite into a burrito dragged through the jardin a brain freed from Adele’s undulations nourishment neurons will properly light up like a scoreboard, teeetimg to the rest of your gourd how aforeforaged burrito now sounds and tastes like a cilantro and lime perfumed Taco Bell special. (Hold the helping of hate on TB, my being both a fan and stockholder of their superior hot sauces)

The 90s: http://www.tuna.com
We’ll lets just leave what this might mean to your id.

The Aughts: the great recession-proof pescado.
Were it not for gratis elk and food stamps I’d have been reduced in both income and economic stature to have inhaled enough tuna To sport gills. More than Quite a few links down on the food chain did yo slip, noting a notable uptick in Starkist and Bumblebee stock, me. Notable new variations on this veritable steak of the starving masses: nada one.
2010 – present: a tuna melt Medicaid for the millennium.
Student loans and gainful employment were this blog’s roux, where lard is lord, carne king, queso Queen – is it obvious kids books influence? – pork prince, beans boss, eggs some superlative word starting with ‘e’, chile the caca, butter beatific along with all the other loyal servants of the Az-Mex empire gathered to feed mi estomago and fill mi Corazon. My Held Steady upright forages and ruminations ahora along with previously undocumented, at times messy yet never not ecstatic, weekly assignation with double Chicago cheeseburgers of every stripe have been a source of binary joy I made an ass out of u and med twert accessible sin Googling la palabra porn. Tambien, according to my previously private until aqui medical records this la Comida Del Santos spiked my previously held steady cholesterol content. Because I’ve yet to concoct an AzMex plata con oatmeal (oatmeal as to cholesterol as Sherrif Joe Arrapaio is to ‘Mexicans’) brings me back to Tuna
Lo-Cho Nuevo-Mexi-Talian Tuna Tacos
Listo?
Chop ½ cup onion

InaBowl

Open and drain can-o-tuna

InaBowl

Dollop-o-mayo

InaBowl

Soy sauce splash

InaBowl

Salt & Pepper & pinch-o-Mexican oregano

Stir & set aside

InaBowl
Seed, stem & chop defrosted fresh roasted NM green chile approx 4 Big Jims (a small can of hatch will pass)
Pre-heat Oven: 425
Open pack small corn torts (El Milagro en Chicago)

Open Trader Joes tub-o-parmasean/Regiano/or any other dry/sharp Italian queso

Open/drain canned sliced black olives from California.

Layer on tort: tuna chile cheese – heat till bubbly and/or kitchen smells like Chinatown in July.
Cue up ‘Orgasm Addict”
Comer

La Babysitter Chow: New Flavor!

18 Jul

Chef Dinty Moore

dinty-moore

Chef Boy-ar-dee

Chef-Boyardee

Chef Franco American

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Chef Campbells

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If this roll call of classic American seventies canned cooking kings jars loose more than one memory of the dozens wherein mom and dad, mom and mom, dad and dad, mom, dad, mom and the milkman, or dad and the piano teacher closed down the family cocineria for a night and/or days off to ‘play bridge’ or “talk to a man about a horse” and left dinner in the mildly capable hands of a daft teenager, then you too have beheld upon your lengua the sublime glory that be babysitter chow.

Usually pre home economics – therefore befuddled by any kitchen utensil more sophisticated than a can opener time was babysitter chow filled the tummies, hearts and arteries of my gring@ generation (Sandwich) though doubtfully that of Gens X, Y and Z. Always canned, often zesty, made with meat of an unknown origin, ever a treat big time, and offering roughly less than or equal to nutritional value of Alpo: Bow Wow!

Yum si, and yet as El Papa Grande of dos los ninos, speaking for my own family and on behalf of our babysitters, not a single product by these great chefs of yore shall ever pass through the lips and onto the palates of mi children. Not por que yo o mi esposa could ever be accused of not banning such delights from our home, no. We are neither food puritans nor paranoias. Tis por que the kids simply don’t care for it. (Okay, that and for now at least, my love for cooking for and feeding our lot simply won’t allow me to let anyone outside of the family or our local donut shop to make food for the table (and floor).) This of no duh doesn’t mean I won’t continue to feast on the Great Chefs of North America’s finest fixings.

 

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I felt somewhat restricted to exposing my babysitter food fetish on a blog bound to comida Mexicana tipica with so few being of the Mexican persuasion, limiting myself ot a mere espousing  at some length on the glories of Chef Dinty Moore’s tamales, even then within the context of tamales rather than babysitters. (Scroll back if yer so inclined.)  So if you care to, imagine el jig I improvised in aisle 7B at the local Jewel when abracadabra these Beefy TacOs reached out and grabbed mi los ojos:

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Quicker than you can say “Honey, have you been using more glue and brown paper bags than usual? I’ve noticed since babysitter XXXX started we’ve been running out of that and Scotch Guard a lot lately?” I beelined to the cocineria to heat up a saucepan, rock a can opener, grab a tort and sink mi dentes into a spoonful of Chef Campbells appeal to the latin@ vote.

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Esta Good, you betcha. As great as the myriad memories of running wild and free in the house with the parents at the dog track and the babysitter huffed out on Testors and is that Beefaroni I smell burning on the stove top? Hellifiknow, check back with me in about 30 years.

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Holy Weekend! Worshipful Pastrami Tacos got made (thank you J.Dilla act 5)

4 Apr

 


Rarely do yo concoct a dish whose brilliance transcends the words I typically choke up these blog posts with. In the case of these here pastrami tacos, only the brilliance of J. Dilla’s ‘donuts’ (the LP and 33 1/3 book, not some recipe) which just so happens to also be the source de inspiration, the late, great J. Dilla (Detroit Pastrami/comida y beats pastiche/delicious round foods resembling 45s) who moved to SoCal, home to a pastrami taco (@Astro Burger) even before meat hit hot slillet though this one comes from the Middle Coast. Recipe couldn’t be simpler/flava holier than shit. 

 

(Some assembly required)

1. Skillet fry super-fat thick-sliced pastrami (Detroit-smoked/scored in Skokie) 

  

Tong onto skillet warmed corn taco torts

  

Top what you like:

– Sangre del Kojak salsa caliente

– Trad. chopped onions y cilantro 

– Vinegary cole slaw

– Frijoles negros

– Sin queso y always, but always guacamole y squeeze o lime

 Edit   

Serve, chill.

Mexi-Kim Dog Tacos

1 Nov

Fact: the taco truck spawned with the Intuhnet twin sons of different mothers, not the seminal Dan Fogelberg/Tim Weinberg yacth rock LP but both a ‘food truck nation‘ and this here IFLAG blog. Por que all that is true for our survival as a species anymore – until the Intenet rises up and wipes its butt with the last Will Smith standing – lives long and prospers here….wait for it: for eternity. Think Heaven without the streets paved with bling, and in place of gold:  porn.

Okay, how the hell did I end up there?

Intuhnet, sexy succubus of soul & spirit, you marvelously vast wasteland of sin and greed, endless source of ennui and LMAO animated gif, Al Gore’s evil devil child: I rebuke thee!

Back to the mere mortal vituals iPhotoed and inhaled ahora. And so it is with the beaming pride of a rival sibling – as in ‘take this and shove it in your pie hole taco trucks – you may be all way more mister popular and shit but those Korean tacos you sling aren’t fit for dogs as food or with dog filing.’ I’ve sampled Korean tacos far and wide (DC, Az, Chicago) and remained somewhat miffed and gyped. Reminds me of that failed metal/rap wreck: ‘Judgment Night‘. Tacos in the Mexican style and Koren BBQ pretty much make for eating perfection. Mira:

Confession junction: I know full well Korean tacos – which for the sake of hybridization and cultural insensitivity I shall refer to as MexiKim food from here on out – my lesser twin, fell from the womb into the Twitterverse o’ Southern California. Having never eaten MexiKim in the land of its origin, I ‘spose the jury is still hanging out. And hung it shall remain para me. My feelings about visiting Southern California aren’t far from those expressed by acrid poet Philip Larkin when asked ‘Would you ever visit the Orient?’ PL: ‘Only if I can leave the same day.’

So let us leave California to the guy from The X-files,, the poetry to Jon Wayne & my usual rootless blog piffle to the rest of the Intenet until Kingdom Come for the only MexiKim taco that matters, the reason I called y’all to gather aqui ahora:

 

El Mexi-Kim Dog Taco

  photo 1

While I you may begin to wonder – because of the perponderance of Trader Joe’s products featured here – if I am not indeed Trader Joe himself. Alas, no estoy. (Y si, the irony that TJ’s has it’s origins in SoCal is not lost on mi.)

 photo 2

 

  1. Grilled beyond recognition at high heat TJ’s Korean-style Street Sausages
  2. Homemade jalenpeno/brocholili/mayo slaw – mix & add ingredients until slightly sloshy.
  3. Canned cooked hominy, drained
  4. Storemade guacamole and/or avacado slices
  5. Corn tortillas

You could do a lot worse than cueing up this pearl as the grill pre-heats:

Top Chicago Taco #6: El Piojo Pollo asado con faux-mole y sweat

3 Jul

Q 1: wouldn’t it be something if in our charts and stats mad mad mad mad World Cup world some mad mad mad mad statistician concocted a formula for measuring the statistical significance of match sweat?

A 1: No, you are right, that would be gross and has no place on a food blog.

Q 2: What can I blog but deranged contemplations under the influence of binge Fifa viewing and/or the sleep deprivation dementia which accompanies the arrival of a new son? (Hola El Niño dos, welcome to week two on el mundo and El Cupo Del Mundo 2014.)

A 2: Mas mad mad mad mad pensars, at once deeply profound and slightly culturally insensitive, por ejemplo:

1. It is not against Fifa rules to field a rhinoceros aka the The Belgian Lukaku

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2. Now that the White House has made it a personal GOOOAAAALLLL to kick out some 100K Mexican/South/Central American immigrant children, come World Cup 2018 when faced with any opponent south of The Border Wall Team USA's fans will take to chanting 'Give us back our Latinos'

Get it? No? Then bone up on yer NED bike history with this here good book before reading any further:

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3. NED Team Oranje’s Arjen Robben’s pre-match playlist:

Q 3: Doesn’t all this pensando make you hungry? Sweaty?

A 3: No, but eating this brilliant taco honoring the madness of El Tri’s El Rey El Piojo did/will/do:

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Marinade boneless chicken breast overnight in this faux-mole:
1/4 cup olive oil
Tsp/tbsp chipotle powder
Tsp garlic powder
Tequila shot
Lime squeeze
Pinches of cocoa powder y cinnamon y Mexican oregano y allspice
Salt and pepper enough to taste

Grill @ 450 5 minutes per side
Cover w/foil, set aside for 5 minutes

Warm up corn torts on dry, hot skillet.

Top chopped pollo con finely diced raw onions y fresh porch garden to mesa cilantro and tu favorito queso blanco.

Photograph, eat, sweat, scream, repeat.

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Online Top 40 Taco List Dumbfoundedly Overlooks Arizona (and mi concina)

31 May

Top 40 lists are like opinions. Everyone has several. The same cannot be said of assholes, so I wonder, maybe that adage is from The Naked Lunch? Perhaps it was directed at congress.
lyon-griswold-brawl_webEs verdad?

Ascent_of_the_A-Word_by_Geoffrey_Nunberg

Enough with etymology 101. This arsehole needs to put forth his belated; mira, most days I have only one free hand for about an hour max – the other mano diaper/tortilla model/despot of cute bound –  and usually covered in grease..hence I gallo peck, peck, peck my tardy opinion on a top 40 list landing in my inbox, crimeny, has it already been two weeks?

Next slide: The top 40 tacos according to some email/blog featured several Chicago and New York variations  y nunca from the Grand Canyon state.

We will return to the arsehole after this commercial interruption redux:

Sure I know better than to believe everything I see on TV and especially commercials made in the 1980s, in NYC. But cover me in whipped cream and feed me to the Tijuana Brass if there ain’t at least a chunk of truth in what the good people brewing Pace were pushing (a relatively sound salsa in a pinch or on a budget + Costco gallon jugs make brilliant repurposed spicy sun tea breweries – Mexi-Chai anyone?).

fvUG-v8A

We will return to the whip cream covered arsehole after this brassy musical interlude, hit it Herb:

Gracias for that timeless jam El Jefe. And now I will attempt to get out of my own way, avoid getting dragged asunder into the riptide of my mind (take that Jim Morrison) and taking you dear readers along with me to a geology lecture and instead get right down to it….

 

Mi favorite Three North American Mexican tacos in no particular orden:

large_TwoTacos

2  Tacos for .99 cents @ Jack-in-the-Box (several locations)

For several reasons as to “Por Que?” link to a previously, equally confounding posting para mi here:

https://ifeltlikeagringo.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/jack-in-the-box-tacos-human-behavior/

Additional support points:

1. Viva La Raza: The lovely Mexi-chefs who make them can actually afford to feed their family several dozen for dinner and still have some cash left over for dulce, heck JITB may even provide benefits.

2. Authentically Mexican American: vs. a snarky remark in the top 40 article about “deep fried tacos”: all the Mexican families I know make their tacos at home by deep/pan frying them, usually with ground beef, iceberg lettuce, cheese, hot sauce and beer (served separately).

3. Authentically Aztec: I did once detect hummingbird notes and blood.

4. Location, location, location: This one goes out to all those paises left out of the top 40 List, including, oh yeah, Arizona? Seriously?

5. Taco Sauce – trust me, you’ll make a second pass through the drive-thru for extra envelopes – and “two more tacos for .99 cents por favor”

 

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El Zaragosa – Avenue A/14th St – NYC

This now hip (LOL) taqueria opened one block south of my apartment the year I moved into an illegal sublet I probably should stop blogging about ahora, the apt that is. If I close my eyes I can still see their shiny red/green/white vinyl awning from my window. But I am blogging in a public space where you get kicked in the shin by a security guard for so much as yawning, so scratch that daydreaming bullshit.

I do need to blog this though, I perfected several of the recipes I’ve blathered on about, most notably enchilada sauce, living la vida illegal. El kitchen mucho grande – seriously, for NYC #%@&ing yuge – allowed for several dozen culinary excursions “South of the Border”, though really I only got as far as the Four Corners (ye olde Mexico) with occasional forays through the American South (ye olde Dixie) i.e. chipotle/roasted garlic/smoked cheddar grits loaf, green chile corn bread, chorizo gumbo, bourbon.

Due to the tangential nature of both my living quarters and income, El Zaragosa moslty became a hub for essential AzMex ingredients (Mexican oregano, canned posole, El Pato, caguamas, etc.). They hadn’t yet branched out into serving comida tipica Pueba and I wasn’t making enough money to eat it anyway. The Zaragosas (alias so as not to implicate them in my clandestine rental arrangement) also hooked me up with help in conversational Espanol over cold Tecate caguamas in the back, where we also swapped cooking tips and shared a love of their pais de origen, Puebla.

The Zaragosas y yo grew together as neighbors and friends. I got more and more in touch with my inner-abuela en mi cocineria gigante. The Zaragosas embraced their outter-capitalists and acquired the permits to serve hot comida in a makeshift kitchen about the size of a gas station counter.  They must have illegally pre-prepared some foods at home or had some Garbriel Garcia Marquez magical realistic method for cooking in their crotches and armpits, for the Zaragosas were as round as they were tall and yet offered a complete menu. Stuffed in there among the Narcorrido CDs and cigarettes, there wasn’t enough room to safely sneeze, let alone smoke a goat. I blog still baffled, but who am I to talk shit, everything I did in my apt was illegal.

This was the Fall of 2001 when the whole world was trying to put itself back together again.

Enter: Summer 2002, I am gainfully employed for the first time in several years and the Zargosas might as well have been taking reservations, business bustled so. As a reward for my patience and deftness at dodging bill collectors I’d treat myself to tamales fresh from Mrs. Zaragosa’s armpit and/or microwave – green and red and sabrosa and 2 for $3 – with me newfound liquid capital.

The absurd sacrifices Mahattanites make for apartment porn bragging rights borders on a pathology worthy of a DSM entry or at the very least a Sex In The City app. Escuche: Most often heard response to the size of my illicit lodgings: “Oh. My. Gawd.” Sure, 13C was huge but it was also – running the sexual subtext into the ground – incredibly hot. As temperatures rose so did my kitchen slowly shut down. In addition to having faulty appliances I could not call in a supe to repair without risking incarceration or eviction, one other “without” I went with was absolutely no A/C.

By July I have no doubt I was paying the note on the Zaragosa’s new pick-up truck. It’s also possible I was making a goat farmers in Queens quite rich. Over the course 6 weeks I must have eaten at least 100 tacos chivos, while also introducing several friends to one of Mexico’s most divine – and underappreciated – comidas. Each bite was like soaring through smokey clouds over a Puebla zocalo while exotic odors arose from below. Unbelievably, not until the Gods hooked me up with cheap rent and Satan took away my icy summertime BTUs did I ever put voca to chivo. Incredibly, I was a virgin. By the end of Summer I was a serial killer.

The Queens goat smokers struggled to keep up with the demand en mi El Barrio. Weekends, when the chivo and menudo were at their freshest, in orden to beat the crowds, I had to start taking my lunch earlier and earlier until at last I was eating tacos chivos for breakfast (and lunch) (and sometimes dinner). I’d draw a bead on the line of mostly Mexican families from my bathroom window through a paper towel tube periscope rigged up….JK…about the periscope. Until one slightly excruciatingly hungover Sabado I missed the last of the chivo by un pello.

Gods look after drunks and poets and so a handmade sign advertised a weekend special: my beloved ceso. I blathered to Mrs. Zaragosa in broken Spanish my astonishment that of all the taco stands in NYC I should have walked into one serving this sacred Sonoroan dried beef dish I mistakenly believed was unavailable outside the confines of my beloved Southwest. Mrs. Zaragaso, as was her custom, nodded enthusiastically through a smile that would melt Pluto while ladelling full an aluminum para llavar tin. The thickness of the crowd and mild late-morning temperature sent me back to my casa grande to inhale my mana in peace.

We interrupt this blog to present a phone call from blogger to amigo respectfully renamed anonymous from said date with ceso…

 

 

Me: “Hola anonymous. What’s up?”

Anonymous: “Nada. You up early for a Saturday?”

Me: “Yeah, I grabbed almuerza at the Avenue A goat taco palace but they were out of chivo and you won’t believe it but they had or at least I thought they had carne seso but it doesn’t look anything like the carne seca I know or even machaca for that matter.”

Anonymous: “Did you say ‘seca’ or seso”?

Me: “Seso. It’s all the same, right?”

Anonymous: “Seso is brain.”

CLICK

So I ate my seso, every last drop. And if you’ve ever eaten hot rubber band bits stir fried in potting soil, then you too have enjoyed this rare – and by the looks of the line still leading around the block – extremely plata populare. I even went so far as wiped the tin clean with one of Mrs. Zaragosa’s microwaved corn tortilas. A few hours later I called anonymous back for bragging rights:

Me: “Yeah, the whole thing. And then I shit my brains out.”

 

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I labored over that last bit about the brains – it kind shows through in both the syntax and diction I am sure – to make a point about how to best measure not “the best” of anything. Soapbox please: There are more varieties and variation of Mexican food – and let’s be honest here, it’s really Mexican American food – available it hardly seems fair, let alone accurate to judge one taco stand or restaurant against another. Rather I rather like what I concocted here which is to measure a stand’s tacos against one another. They’re cheap and small enough for anyone to do this. And really, you owe it to yourself to at least try the lengua once or even the seso because – ready for a really onslaught  – really, a bad taco is better than no taco any day.

And because I once again have a cocineria grande en Chicago, I’ve yet to eat any tacos outside of my own casa which is why number tres is:

 

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Tacos en Dulce Casa: Chicago

My home is where my favorite tacos are served nearly daily. It’s why I blog and if you are still with me, need to check out some of my taco styings and hustle up a batch on yer own.

IMG_3005Chi-mex taco

If you want ’em to keep coming back for more, always, but always toss in a little Spanish Fly, I mean Flea dammit, flea (though I bet Herb meant fly – or maybe go-go dancers):