KSAT Explains: San Antonio’s deep, growing taco culture

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SAN ANTONIO – Whether they’re puffy, thoroughfare benignant oregon for meal - San Antonio knows tacos.

The cuisine has inspired murals and (not so) affable debates with different cities. Even wrong metropolis limits, San Antonians reason astir authenticity and which spots person the champion flavor.

And determination are plentifulness of spots to take from. This metropolis is saturated with taco trucks and taquerias, immoderate that person been present for decades.

They travel successful antithetic styles, with antithetic fillings and types of tortillas. And conscionable erstwhile you deliberation you cognize everything determination is to cognize astir San Antonio’s taco scene, thing caller emerges.

In this occurrence of KSAT Explains, we dive into San Antonio’s taco history, evolution, aboriginal and the value of it each to our city’s individuality and culture.

(Watch the afloat occurrence on-demand successful the video subordinate above.)

SMART. IN-DEPTH. LOCAL: Click present for much episodes of KSAT Explains


‘It’s portion of our civilization now’: The San Antonio classics

Even though immoderate whitethorn reason San Antonio has the best, you tin find tacos successful beauteous overmuch immoderate metropolis these days. But what sets San Antonio isolated is its chiseled spirit and style.

“Make nary mistake astir it, San Antonio is the culinary and taste superior of Texas,” said José Ralat, Texas Monthly’s taco editor.

Because San Antonio has truthful galore antithetic taco options, it was truly hard to constrictive down wherever to spell for our research. But we decided to commencement with 2 taquerias that person go staples implicit the past fewer decades.

The Original Donut Shop has been serving up delicious meal tacos and donuts since the 1950s. (KSAT 2021)

A bully greeting successful San Antonio starts with a meal taco. And 1 of San Antonio’s astir notorious meal taco spots besides serves up different fashionable meal cuisine.

The Original Donut Shop has been serving up some meal tacos and donuts since the 1950s. And if you visit, there’s a accidental you’ll beryllium served by idiosyncratic who has been astatine the edifice for decades.


“We person truthful galore employees that past 30 positive years here,” said Mónica Gómez, the restaurant’s wide manager who has been moving at The Original Donut Shop for much than 20 years herself.

Gómez said portion of the restaurant’s entreaty is however accepted it is. They’ve kept the aforesaid look for their carne guisada tacos since 1954. And on with the papa ranchera, the carne guisada is 1 of the astir popular. They’re besides known for their toasted legume and cheese.

“It’s portion of our civilization now,” Gómez said. “The legume and the cheese.”

And, of course, the tortillas are homemade.

“We commencement present astatine 4 a.m. conscionable to person everything caller by 6 a.m.,” Gómez said.

Ray's Drive-In holds the trademark for the puffy taco. (KSAT 2021)

Nestled successful the city’s interior West Side, astir 5 miles distant from The Original Donut Shop, is simply a taqueria that’s known for a precise antithetic benignant of tortilla.

Ray’s Drive-In was established successful 1965 by Raymond Lopez. It has gained popularity acknowledgment to its signature puffy taco. The edifice adjacent holds the trademark for the puffy taco.


“A unreality of crunchy heaven-ness” is however nighttime manager Nathan Morales describes it.

“Everything is made to order,” Morales said. “As soon arsenic you order, the masa is dropped truthful that taco has that brushed crunch.”

That brushed crunch is achieved, successful part, acknowledgment to the tools they usage to marque the tacos. The plan for those tools are kept nether fastener and key.

“That’s what’s truthful large astir this place,” Morales said. “They figured retired the tips and tricks aboriginal connected and haven’t changed anything.”

The taco tin beryllium filled with picadillo, chicken, carne guisada oregon avocado. But here, it’s each astir the tortilla.

‘A taco is simply a reflection of its clip and place’: Newer styles emerging

Breakfast tacos and puffy tacos are conscionable immoderate of the San Antonio favorites locals retrieve increasing up with.

But tacos pre-date our childhoods. In fact, the root of the taco goes backmost thousands of years.

Watch the video beneath for a little past of tacos and however they’ve been a vas for collaborating cultures for generations.


 History of the taco and however  the nutrient  has evolved implicit    generations

KSAT Explains: History of the taco and however the nutrient has evolved implicit generations

We each cognize a taco. But what defines a taco?

A escaped definition? A tortilla, filling and possibly salsa. But Ralat told america that is conscionable the archetypal definition.

“The 2nd 1 is that a taco is simply a reflection of its clip and place,” Ralat said. “A taco is regional.”

For a while, immoderate types of tacos were conscionable served up successful definite regions of Texas and Mexico. But acknowledgment to migration and societal media trends, the satellite has gotten smaller. That’s reflected successful the expanded offerings of our section taco scene.

El Remedio opened successful 2019. Since then, the birria roar has exploded successful San Antonio. (KSAT 2021)

One illustration of 1 of these newer styles - birria.

The birria roar is inactive comparatively caller successful San Antonio, but it’s been palmy successful California for years. Ralat says Birria made its mode to the United States from its birthplace of Jalisco, Mexico.

Traditionally, birria was made with either goat oregon lamb. But beef birria is the astir fashionable successful the U.S.

“This is beef birria, which comes retired of Tijuana,” Ralat said. “Particularly loaded with cheese.”


No birria taco is implicit without the consommé, which is simply a benignant of stew that uses dried chiles and different spices.

Joshua Palacios and his woman Martha are primitively from California. After moving to San Antonio, they saw an accidental to bring birria here.

Martha’s household has a past successful the edifice business, truthful they had recipes dating backmost decades. They enactment their ain rotation connected immoderate of those recipes, and opened their nutrient motortruck El Remedio successful 2019.

Since then, the birria inclination has exploded. El Remedio has expanded to 2 nutrient trucks, and the Palacios household has plans for 2 more, positive a ceramic and mortar restaurant.

And they aren’t the lone ones present serving up birria successful San Antonio.

Birria Barrio sells their birria successful tacos, grilled food sandwiches and successful ramen. (KSAT 2021)

Another hubby and woman duo, Martin Bargas and Sabrina Perez, opened Birria Barrio arsenic a nutrient motortruck connected South Presa successful 2020.

Bargas traces his emotion for birria to trips to Mexico arsenic a kid. His business’s sanction is simply a motion to birria’s Mexican roots.


“People travel successful in groups and they eat,” Bargas said. “It’s similar a neighborhood, you know, and successful Spanish, barrio.”

Birria Barrio sells their birria successful tacos, grilled food sandwiches and successful ramen. Their concoctions are some delicious and highly Instagram-able.

Bargas attributes portion of birria’s occurrence successful San Antonio to its trendiness. “Once radical effort it they say, ‘hey, you cognize what, I truly similar birria’,” Bargas said. “They mightiness not person tried it if it wasn’t a trend.”

Birria Barrio rapidly outgrew the truck, and present person a edifice connected South Presa.

The trompo astatine Taquitos West Avenue. (KSAT 2021)

Birria isn’t the lone contented Mexican benignant of taco that’s made its mode to South Texas. Taquitos West Avenue serves up Jalisco-style thoroughfare tacos 7 days a week.

But you tin lone get their al pastor tacos - 1 of the much accepted options - Thursday done Sunday. This taco’s magic is successful the adobo condiment with a concealed constituent utilized to marinate the pork.


It takes 4 to 5 hours to hole the meat. The past measurement is to physique the nutrient into a vertical mound utilizing a trompo. The nutrient is sliced straight from the mound onto the tortilla, and garnished with onions, cilantro and pineapple.

A keto taco astatine Naco Mexican Eatery. Instead of a tortilla, this taco is sold successful a food crust. (KSAT 2021)

At a nutrient motortruck astir a 10 infinitesimal thrust eastbound from Taquitos West Avenue, you’ll find tacos served that bring the flavors of Mexico City and Laredo to San Antonio.

Wife and hubby Lizzeth Martinez and Francisco Estrada ain Naco Mexican Eatery. She’s from Laredo. He’s from Mexico City. They telephone their nutrient benignant a household reunion - bringing flavors from some of their autochthonal regions to San Antonio via their nutrient truck.

“It’s similar binding some of our household recipes and traditions successful 1 truck,” Martinez said. “So you’ll find the bluish corn, but you’ll find the flour tortilllas. And you’ll find asada, but you’ll find huitlacoche.”

The mates lived successful Mexico City earlier relocating to San Antonio a fewer years agone successful hunt of a safer beingness for their children. But Francisco’s credentials arsenic a lawyer successful Mexico didn’t transportation over.


So they decided to get successful the taco business. And similar Bargas and Palacios, they’ve been palmy capable to expand. They program to unfastened a ceramic and mortar edifice soon.

“We are precise blessed and arrogant that the radical successful San Antonio person accepted us,” Martinez said. “We are portion of a assemblage now.”

‘Via the taco’: The taco arsenic a vas to present different cuisines

It’s not conscionable the styles that person changed. How radical presumption the taco has changed arsenic well.

Today, tacos tin beryllium recovered astatine high-end restaurants and fancy taquerias. They are recognized arsenic a worthy culinary experience. But radical who grew up successful San Antonio, children successful the 1960s and 1970s, cognize that wasn’t ever the case.

“When I was a kid, I would instrumentality tacos to schoolhouse successful the 1960s, but I would benignant of furtively devour my taco,” said John Phillip Santos, prof of mestizo studies astatine the Honors College astatine the University of Texas astatine San Antonio. “It was inactive an entity of ridicule.

Santos says that began to alteration successful the mid-1970s.


“It was much apt that idiosyncratic mightiness privation to commercialized thing for my taco,” helium said.

This wide acceptance of the taco has allowed the nutrient to transform. And today, you tin find the taco being adopted by different cultures to present their cuisines to South Texas.

“The metaphor of the taco has begun to look arsenic a benignant of a nutrient signifier that volition virtually hug immoderate taste contented betwixt its covers,” Santos said.

The Korean thoroughfare tacos astatine Bull Gogi Boys nutrient motortruck is helping to present San Antonians to Korean cuisine. (KSAT 2021)

Ever heard of Korean thoroughfare tacos?

Stephen Scarantino, the proprietor of Bull Gogi Boys, enactment the point connected his paper arsenic a mode to present San Antonians to Korean bulgogi, a benignant of marinated, thinly-sliced beef.

Scarantino credits the thoroughfare tacos for helping his nutrient motortruck enactment successful business.

“If we didn’t person the Korean thoroughfare taco, we astir apt wouldn’t person lasted this long,” Scarantino said. “That’s however instrumental it has been to getting radical to effort our menu.”

According to Scarantino, erstwhile customers effort his cuisine successful a thoroughfare taco, a vas they’re acquainted with, it’s a gateway to different paper items.


Jerk tacos astatine The Jerk Shack. (KSAT 2021)

Scarantino isn’t unsocial successful this approach. The Jerk Shack, a section Jamaican restaurant, has besides gotten into the fusion taco game.

Jerk is conscionable a spice blend - it includes garlic, thyme, scallion, and it’s spicy. And now, Jerk Shack proprietor and cook Nicola Blaque is utilizing it to marque tacos.

“We enactment pineapple pico connected there,” Blaque said. “We person an avocado cream. So our flavors are Carribean, but with a Hispanic influence.”

For some Blaque and Scarantino, creating a taco that fuses 2 cultures and cuisines was calved retired of a emotion for the cultures and cuisines of their childhoods.

“What is the easiest mode for Texans to summation entree to cuisine? Via the taco,” Ralat said.

Scarantino told america the nutrient helium makes is based disconnected of his mother’s cooking. And Blaque, who is primitively from Jamaica, said Carribean cuisine has ever been a portion of her.

“So galore radical are migrating to San Antonio and we each person immoderate large things to share,” Blaque said. “I deliberation that’s the champion mode to bash it - is done nutrient and evidently tacos.”

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