El Tizoncito: From D.F. to Big D and Back Again
When I walk into a Latino-operated or staffed establishment, I am inevitably greeted in Spanish. It must be something about my skin color, my black hair and black Vandyke. They must be indicators of my ability to speak the language. My sisters can pass as white. Not I. Mrs. Ralat, of Mexican stock, is about as white as the star in the Texas flag. She can scrape by in Spanish, possessing fantastic comprehension and pronunciation. I can never get away with faking it. The same thing happened at El Tizoncito, Mexican transplant Leo Spencer's year-and-half old Mexico City-style taquería, which has been so often recommended, most notably by City of Ate commenter Twinwillow, that I relented. So pleased was I, I let the chip fall off my shoulder.
Photos by Jose Ralat Maldanado
El Tizoncito (little charcoal in Spanish) is around the corner from the regrettable Los Altos de Jalisco #2, which I recently reviewed. My meal at the subject of this post was an hour spent enjoying the house specialty and biggest seller, the pastor alambres, the choriqueso appetizer as well as the screw-the-de-rigueur-chips-and-salsa amuse bouche of black bean soup with epazote and bacon presented in a Styrofoam bowl. Its freshness and earthiness was a pep talk to my palate.
The choriqueso is the best example of how chorizo and cheese under three flour tortillas go together like Tony Orlando and Dawn. I wanted to tie a yellow ribbon around the plate and bronze it for generations to come. "This is what the perfect salty combination of pork sausage and gooey cheese looks like when immortalized." Roll up the tortillas and allow the vermilion grease to coat fingers, knuckles, mouth. Then, lose count of the number of napkins needed to wipe you clean.
With a color scheme to match the choriqueso, but clean and contemporary, El Tizoncito screams "run from such manicured ground, lest you fall victim to the coyotes at its borders. It looked too good to be good."
As it turns out, it's a safe house in a semi-industrial landscape where the food options range from fast-food franchises to crumbling restaurants with tar-paper floors and chipping paint slinging fare from kitchens of dubious hygiene. El Tizoncito is also a counterpoint to another Mexico City-style taquería in Dallas. Urban Taco is flashy in its sorry attempt at authenticity through the importation of fine décor, while El Tizoncito succeeds in authenticity, shifting the diner back and forth in south and north, thanks to its lack of pretense and attentiveness. Napkins will be replaced when depleted, plastic utensils accompany dishes. (It's straight-up street food served to a mostly Spanish-speaking clientele representing all points in the socioeconomic spectrum.) Both of which came in handy with the toothsome pastor alambres.
The chewy bits of the pastor, shaved to order from the slowly spinning trompo, the traditional vertical spit used to make pastor at the front of the store, had crunchy edges. The pork, mixed with diced poblano chiles and sautéed onions then topped with diced pineapples, surprised with each bite. Would the next bite be a variation of sweet, mildly spicy, crusty? Would be it all in one? Would it be fantastic? Yes. De todo un poco. A little of everything -- with the exception of the bacon allegedly in the tacos. There was no trace of it. It wasn't missed.
The only flaw of the food at El Tizoncito are the corn tortillas, which aren't freshly made in-house. Rather, they are provided by a nearby tortilleria and dipped in oil to be heated on circular flattop griddle to order. During my initial visit, the tortillas were bland, being little more than greasy wrappers. On my second visit, they were still greasy but at least there was the sweetness expected of corn tortillas. I chalked up the inconsistency to a cook's bad day, because what the taqueros at El Tizoncito do best more than compensates for a minor blunder. It's worthy of memorializing, worthy of a trip to the now-opened second location on Forest Lane.
3404 W. Illinois Ave., Ste. 100