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Post from jack | around
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My daily commute takes me from 290 almost to 249 along Bingle/N. Houston Rosslyn, or what I’ve come to think of as la Calle Taquera - Taco Road. There are a plethora of taco trucks like El Grand Taco and El Taco Norteño, but there are also a few “brick and mortar” places like Julia’s Texas Taco, a small shop churning out traditional Mexican fare in a little strip center off Bingle at the corner of Tidwell. They close by 5:00 pm, but they’re open bright and early, so this place makes a great stop for breakfast or lunch. In the morning there is often a line, but it moves briskly as patrons file through for their morning fix, from the common bacon or potato and egg, to the savory Mexican egg or chorizo combinations. But I think lunch is where Julia’s really shines – that’s when you’ll get the time-intensive, slow cooked and marinated dishes, tender and dripping with juices, like the deshebrada or barbacoa.

The simple menu changes with daily specials, and you can either get a lunch plate with two meats, rice, and beans, or your choice of tacos for only $1.50 each. The aforementioned deshebrada, or shredded beef, is a favorite, similar to the ropa vieja you would find at a Cuban restaurant: cooked low and slow with ancho chiles and spices like Mexican oregano, then pulled apart and loaded onto a tortilla. They make their own flour and corn tortillas in house, and they stand up to the slow cooked juices without breaking apart. Along with the barbacoa - perhaps a bit more familiar to taco truck veterans, traditionally made from the cow’s head, especially the cheek, after it has been smoked – these are the rich, hearty dishes that will keep you going the rest of the afternoon.

On Fridays, the specials include carne con nopales, or beef with cactus, and al pastor, the delicious slow-roasted pork. Many might find the prospect of cactus pads imposing, especially when seen on the shelves at more ecumenical grocery stores or industrious farmer’s markets. But spines removed of course, and slow cooked or even grilled along with the cuts of meat, the cactus becomes soft and tender, and compliments the beef in this dish at Julia’s impeccably. The al pastor is traditionally made on a vertical spit called a trompo, and is cousin to Greek gyro and Lebanese shawarma. Yes, there is a strong Lebanese population in Mexico [insert gratuitous pic of Salma Hayek in "From Dusk till Dawn" here]. Anyway, in Houston, the pesky Health Dept. won’t allow these spits since the innermost meat isn’t cooked until the outermost is shaved off for serving. So many times the al pastor on menus ends up looking closer to cochinita pibil or slow-braised pork. The trompo used for al pastor would normally have a slice of pineapple at the top, and the dripping juices help tenderize and caramelize the meat. In much the same way, cochinita pibil employs a highly acidic, citrus infused marinade to break down the pork, and render soft, flavorful chunks in an almost stew-like sauce.

The reason so many of these dishes are slow-cooked is because they so often have impoverished origins. The lower classes often had to make do with poorer cuts of meat, which needed to be broken down and tenderized, and imbued with rich flavors. Indeed, this is true of many well-known international cuisines. One can, of course, and as often happens, appropriate these cooking styles, use finer cuts of meat, and sell them at higher-end restaurants. Julia’s, however, uses some of the fattier, gristly bits, sticking to tradition, or, more likely, just keeping prices down. The guacamole, beans and rice, even the slightly dry fajita beef that comes with these lunch plates are unremarkable, but if you want to try some rich, traditional homestyle Mexican dishes, Julia’s Texas Taco has got you covered if you stick to the homemade tortillas and the tender, slow-cooked daily lunch specials.


Post from jack | around
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