What's in Store for the Taco in 2011?
Having looked back at how the taco has fared in Dallas and across the country in 2010, Taco Trail now is looking toward the horizon and to what's next for our favorite food. What is clear from the beginning is that regionalism, whether Mexican state, foreign state or Lone Star State, will be the driving force behind the taco experience in 2011. The variety of place is where it's at. Where it leads ought to be applauded, even if along the way there are pitfalls and pratfalls. The stalwart restaurants and shacks of Oak Cliff and East Dallas have nothing to fear from this. On the contrary, previously hidden gems will boom. Tacos El Güero will nix the fantastic first-suadero-free deal. Fuel City will continue doling out the Jonestown poison. Pioneers of traditional (and regional) tacos in Dallas will continue to move away from their roots as they expand and glitz it up, pockets lined with pesos. Others will plant themselves in risky neighborhoods, gambling everything and making good on their bets. It will all be begin with the sound of bleating.
Comederia El Padrino No. 2 offers a veal taco on its menu, but it stands alone. This year, accessible game meats, like goat, will move from the entrée platter with a side of tortillas to being presented within the tortilla. It's too optimistic to think that offal will join game in any seriousness. Diners have shown that even de rigueur innards like tripe and stomach are acquired tastes best left to the adventurous and the curious. As such, goat and lamb will be the major players. The emphasis on locavorism should lead to the use of Texas game, such as elk and antelope as well.
The States of Eating
D Magazine is correct. Regional Mexican food will gain popularity in Dallas. Abraham Salum's restaurant, Komali will help propel the trend, which has been slow going, into prime time. Tacos will go along for the ride. This isn't about the generic offerings of the prevalent Jalisco (carnitas) and D.F. (al pastor) styles. It's about Tlaxcala and Hidalgo goat or lamb barbacoa, although traditional Tlaxcalan larvae tacos, meocuiles and chinicuiles, probably won't catch on. Achiote-embraced cochinita pibil will become a popular filling. Seafood will also become prominent. George Salvans, Alcapulco native and owner of the year-old Taco Taxi, a busy DFW taco-cart caterer, has found that his coastal tacos, filled with flat-grilled conch, shrimp, octopus or scallops, are hits. Their ascension will be at the cost of Baja-style fish tacos, which are as dead as immigration reform.
The Koreans Will Continue the Invasion
Korean tacos, takos or K-tacos, whatever you'd like to call them, have been a success nationwide. In the Dallas area, not so much. The area's lone true Korean taco joint, KorBQ, has sputtered out of the starting gate. However, KorBQ co-owner Erik Park and company's tiny Plano space will soon be joined by another Korean taco joint, Goghee To Go. It will open in the former Burguesa location on Inwood, as reported by Teresa Gubbins. More could follow (see below).
Gourmet Taco Truck/Trailers Will Roll Out and Roll Up
Torchy's Tacos, which began slinging gourmet tacos from a trailer in south Austin, set up a brick-and-mortar shop in Dallas last summer. Chi'Lantro BBQ, an Austin-based Korean taco truck operation, served its goods at the Arts District's "Arts in October" closing event. As the folks at Chi'Lantro said about the October shindig, "We've been interested in expanding to the Dallas market, and it was a good opportunity for us." Before any of this, Good 2 Go Taco was interested in rolling out a truck of its own. Then they decamped from Green Spot to open a proper storefront business. The gourmet taco truck has set Los Angeles' and New York City's food scenes ablaze. Chefs there have tried their hands at specialty tacos. So, chef Matt McCallister asks, "Why not have a seared foie taco with duck confit, red cabbage kimchi and caramelized apple?" We're betting someone will have a take on the aforementioned tony treat at the food trailer park projected for Lower Greenville.
New Tortillas Have It Wrapped Up
The wheat tortilla will cross the border from northern Mexican applications, like quesadillas, as well as jump the wrap ship, allowing diners to choose a third option. It's already done so in Austin, and as has been repeatedly shown: What happens in Austin happens next in Dallas. Blue tortillas are often used in huaraches. They're common in New Mexican cooking. Salvans' Taco Taxi has them listed as alternatives to corn or flour tortillas. "People want something different, but they don't want something too different. Blue corn tortillas offer them that," said Salvans. If blue corn tortillas are the gateway needed to kick-start the aforementioned trends, then, huzzah! Let the floodgates open. Let the taco evolve.