Food and Drink: Every day is for tacos at Tacos & Tequila

Food and Drink: Every day is for tacos at Tacos & Tequila
The tacos al pastor at Tacos & Tequila in Mexico are a treat on Tuesday and any day. [Dave Faries]
By: 
Dave Faries
Editor

No one who has lived in Mexico – we’re referring to the country here – or traveled through Mexico understands why there’s such a fuss over “Taco Tuesday.” Tortillas folded over a few simple ingredients is considered every day fare south of the border.

“You can find them on every corner,” explained Juan Carlos Morales, manager at Tacos & Tequila in Mexico.

Yes, the one in Audrain County.

Tacos & Tequila prides itself on authentic tacos with their own modern twist. In practice, that means pork, pineapple and onion for an al pastor – all traditional ingredients – but with their own mix of chiles and spices.

And there’s no slowly spinning trompo. The meat is instead cut into small chunks and tossed on the grill.

This treatment gives the pork a more rustic hue. There’s a waft of smoke from the charred edges, that earthy achiote heat that carries with it notions of bare mesa under sullen skies and the rugged tone of toasted spice.

Chunks of pineapple are scored on the flattop. Bursts of sweetness fend with embers of chile steeped into the pork. But its time over heat also gives the fruit an acrid note that eases into the earthiness. A toss of cilantro lends a pungent, citrus bite.

The taco sways between the dusty wilds of the southwest and fresh tropical breezes. No wonder tacos al pastor are so popular.

At Taco & Tequila al pastor is just one of Morales’ favorites. And he notes that while people order the dressed up and regional tacos – pescado, cochinita pibil, barbacoa and the like – the especiales are the most popular order at the restaurant.

“These are street style tacos,” Morales said. “People really like them.”

People really like tacos. There’s no doubt about that. They began creeping into American tastes in the early 1900s. And once they caught on … well, there are fast food tacos, Korean tacos, Irish tacos and other fusion styles. But street tacos are also trending.

That doesn’t account for Taco Tuesday promotions, which are also a national craze. How did that come about?

Likely it has to do with alliteration and nothing more. Taco John’s trademarked the phrase in 1989 and regularly sends out cease and desist orders to other restaurants. They even claim on their website to have created the phrase.

But Gustavo Arellano says Taco Tuesday existed long before Taco John’s took legal notice. And as author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, he’s in a good position to know.

He found an ad for a Tuesday taco special – not yet tagged Taco Tuesday – at the White Star Cafeteria in a 1933 edition of the El Paso Herald-Post. The first deliberate use of the phrase he located was another ad, this one for a place in Rapid City South Dakota that called for people to “Stop in on Taco Tuesday.

That was in 1973. But Arellano traced the Tuesday taco special tradition as it grew around the country through the decades following its in print debut in 1933.

So why Taco Tuesday? It’s an American thing, combining an alliterative jingle, a good deal and a dish Americans adopted as their own.

But at Tacos & Tequila – and at Mexican restaurants authentic or not so much around the country – every day is a reason to celebrate tacos.

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