Taco Sanity

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The first wave of Houston food trucks has long since come ashore, and some might say the movement has largely jumped the shark already. The earliest ventures have gone brick and mortar, some long enough ago to have already closed again. The trend was probably a victim of its own success, with proliferation meaning they were no longer hip and niche. But not to put too fine a point on it, I’d say the death knell was aioli.

taqueria barbaJust like a hipster listening to some band you’ve probably never heard of, chefs have to stay ahead of the curve, and their hit trends gradually catch on with a wider audience until even Olive Garden is using arugula or making avocado toasts or dousing everything with aioli. If Houston knows anything, it’s tacos (Austin notwithstanding), and it got to a point with the food truck segment I’ve called the Aioli Brigade that you could easily pay $10 for a couple of tacos. Tacos aren’t fussy, and the best street versions whether in Mexico or at the less refined taco trucks around town should cost a couple of bucks. After business trips from Cancún to Guadalajara and points in between, I’d grow accustomed to grabbing a taco by the office or heading out from a bar, and miss it on my return to Houston. Either the inner loop trucks weren’t working that early or they wanted $8 for pork belly. Only Tacos Tierra Caliente and a couple others filled the rôle.

taqueria barbaEnter Taquería Barba, parked in the lot on Hemphill behind the art gallery at Washington, next to FrameTek (you know, the one with the big gorilla painted on the side). They’ve got some hipster pedigree (barba = beard), but they’re making legit street-style tacos for just a few pesos. A straightforward menu features some of the best carne asada, grilled chicken, and smoked pork tacos I’ve come across, with add-ons like grilled onions or jalapeños plus cheese and avocado for just a few cents more. Delicious elotes, quesadillas, and tamales round out the menu along with Topo Chico, Mexican Coke, and Squirt to wash it all down. In the morning, fill up on breakfast tacos with bacon, potatoes, or chorizo, then walk across the street to Catalina Coffee for your caffeine fix. Hell, at 9 am you could walk next door to Cutthroat Barbers for your shave as well.

Maybe it’s Texan blood coursing through my veins, but I often find myself craving a quick taco, and don’t always want to spend more than a Hamilton. I’ll easily go out of my way to swing by Taquería Barba for comida callejera. Actually, I’m starting to think it’s specifially a Barba craving. Buen provecho.

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