What is a taco? According to both Lesley Téllez, author of Eat Mexico; and Whitney Filloon, editor of Eater Dallas, it's a tortilla containing ... anything. While our panel on 'Think' last week agreed authenticity is a moving target, their expertise informed a comparison of the North Texas taco experience with the one in Mexico City. Some differences - and similarities - might surprise you.
You won't fill up on chips and salsa in Mexico City.
Téllez, who lived in Mexico City for four years, says the only taqueria she found there that served chips and salsa was El Tezoncito - a chain that has a Dallas location on Lemmon Ave. (Those chips were homemade.)
"What a lot of people will do at different restaurants is serve bread with salsa," Téllez explains.
"All the salsas have a spoon, by the way. Nothing is dipped in the salsa. It’s a little more hygienic - you take your spoon and you drizzle it on everything that you’re eating. When I moved back to the states I really missed the bread and the salsa, actually."
For those who won't slow down on chips anytime soon, Filloon offers a tip she says friends won't be happy she told: Tipicos on W. Northwest Highway. They make their own own tortillas and have some of "the best chips and salsa in town," she says.
Tacos al pastor: invented for the moment, and not for 10 a.m. breakfast.
Mexico City is the apparent birthplace of tacos al pastor, a descendent of Lebanese immigrants' schwarma dish. The taquero (always a man for reasons unclear to Téllez) attends thinly-sliced pork while it roasts on a vertical spit and puts of a show of slicing off the crispy bits.
"It's a visual spectacle and it's always delicious," she muses.
It's also a late-night taco, Téllez says, and only really works when the meat's just come off the spit. As far as al pastor in these parts, Taco Trail-recommended Doña Lencha and Taqueria #1 has a vertical spit to get things done right.
In Mexico City, you eat first, and pay later.
One of Filloon's favorite DFW spots is La Banqueta, which has a pay system that seems curious to the uninitiated. You order, then eat, then pay. Téllez exlplains the honor system is a standard in Mexico City, where establishments feel unhurried and rushing any transaction would feel rude.
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