Blogger Spotlight: Taco Trail
January 31st, 2012
02:30 PM ET
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We're highlighting local and regional bloggers we think you ought to know about. We can’t be everywhere at once, so we look to these passionate eaters, cooks and writers to keep us tapped into every facet of the food world. Consider this a way to get to know a blog’s taste buds, because, well, you should.

Who: José Ralat-Maldonado, of Taco Trail
Where: Dallas, Texas
Twitter: @TacoTrail

Funny things happen when you marry a Texan, much less one of Mexican heritage. It was love at first sight for me when I saw my future wife enter my Brooklyn apartment during a party. We were engaged a little more than a month later and wed a little more than a year after that. My experience with tacos is similar. All it took was someone putting a plate in front of me and I was smitten. My wife deserves much of the blame. She encouraged my curiosity. “Try this. It’s lengua.” Tongue! “This is barbacoa, head meat, but not like the barbacoa back home. This is made from goat. In Texas, it’s usually made from beef.” It was a whole new world for me, a Puerto Rican.

Luckily, the missus and I lived in Sunset Park, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Mexican population and, subsequently, a plethora of regional Mexican restaurants to enjoy. Enjoy we did. Walks to the grocery store included a stop at a sidewalk taco stall for two-dollar goat barbacoa or some cabeza at Matamoros, the rivulets of fat keeping the filling moist and well seasoned. I began to write about these culinary exploits for the alt-weekly newspaper New York Press while the editor of a neuroscience journal.

Then, our son, D, was born. It was time to leave my home for the urban sprawl of Dallas-Fort Worth where the in-laws would a generous provide support network and we’d be able to give D the things he deserved.

I was no stranger to Texas. The missus and I had crisscrossed the state (yes, the whole state) on a couple of pre-offspring visits and the Lone Star State has a lot going for it. Chief among them: breakfast tacos, the glorious egg-and-whatever-else stuffed flour tortillas.

After moving to Dallas, I began writing for the Dallas Observer, the local Village Voice-owned alt-weekly. It’s there that Taco Trail was born as a weekly blog featuring taquerias and covering taco-related news items. It afforded me the opportunity to speak with chefs and restaurateurs native to Mexico and other Mexican food experts, eat at restaurants I hope to never return to and at places I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about (La Nueva Fresh & Hot Tortilleria).

Taco Trail is now independent of any publication and a source of great joy. I go wherever the road takes me: gourmet joints like the unfortunately named Velvet Taco; knockouts like Good 2 Go Taco and Taco Republic; and the grungiest taquerias, including the extraordinary Tacos La Banqueta and the aforementioned La Nueva Tortilleria. If there are restaurant openings, closings or general news, that too gets space on Taco Trail.

Throughout my taco journey, I’ve learned some of the traditions and intricacies of the taco. Most important, though, I’ve learned that specialty establishments pique diners’ curiosity, leading them to explore conventional renditions. That’s as beautiful as a fiery guisado verde. Hopefully, I’ve persuaded others to see what else is out there. Food is as much about eating as it is discovery. And it should be shared.

Do you read a local blog that you'd like to see featured? Send 'em our way for a chance in the spotlight.

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Filed under: Blog Spotlight • Blogs • Tacos • Think


soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Jose Ralat-Maldonado

    Thanks for the input and opinions, ya'll!

    February 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  2. Bryan

    Denver has a place called Margs taco Bistro. World flavors that are out of this world. The tortilla is the vessel to great flavors.

    February 1, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  3. hamsta

    Tacos the only thing mexico got right on the first time around.they even have to refry their beans.

    February 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply
  4. jamesslumpkin

    Will be coming home (Dallas area) Feb 18th thry the 25th why don't you show me where the really good stuff is.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • Nothing Better

      It's in the same place you left the rest of your punctuation.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:55 am | Reply
      • grammarn*zi

        now that's funny!

        February 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Reply
      • jamesslumpkin

        Hope you have fun on my typing .,'.,.?

        February 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
      • Chris Morris

        So you're saying the "really good stuff" (i.e. – presumably a good taquería) is in his grammar book, possibly in a school. Genius! I applaud your quip-hurling aptitude.

        February 2, 2012 at 3:50 am | Reply
    • Jose Ralat-Maldonado

      The fam & I are in the middle of a big move across town. However, if I can get away from domestic responsibilities, I'd love to get tacos. Just hit me via the blog.

      February 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  5. KeithTexas

    We are all glad you are here in Texas. My family has been here for 300 years so I guess I am a Texican, good luck in Dallas. Come on down to San Antonio and write about tacos here.

    January 31, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Reply
  6. Steam-O-Globin

    SunsetParker, why do you insist on being a total downer in a thread about something people like? And to worry about the author claiming that there's a large Mexican population in Sunset Park- how the hell can you take issue with something like that? Oh, I see- they're not the BIGGEST population, so the author must be mistaken. Do you know anything at all about expressing relative quantities? Just shut your dopey mallrat maw and let everyone else talk tacos.

    January 31, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Reply
    • SunsetParkerNY

      Mall Rat? Seriously?? Man you a killin' me.... that is too darn funny.

      January 31, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Reply
    • SunsetParkerNY

      Ok Steamy... since it is after 12am here in the East cost, it is time to let the cat out of the bag.... Since you were the most reasonable.....

      when I originally went to post I re-read it and said to myself "this seems like I am just nit picking over a few facts" so I went to delete it. But I said to a friend let me post it (as it was factual) and we'll see how long it takes for other posters to attack me (instead of just ignoring me and contiuing to talk about the article). We made food based wager on how long it would take for someone to wheel out "racist". My point was that sadly blogs mostly seem to be a waste because if you dont agree with the poster (whatever the topic) you are lambasted (not by the author but by the "mass". If you present an argument or debate facts or even have an oposite opinion..... you get mauled (or is it "Malled" LOL)

      My friend actually thought It would be ignored as a "troll". I said it is just the oposite.... actual trolls get igored.... but if you present a somwaht reasonable argument or opposing point that is not in lockstep with the gneral consensus of the posters you get bashed.

      Thank you all...you just earned me a dinner... and yes it will be tacos at one of the local restaurants and a few cold cervezas too. Peace and good night to all (honestly)

      February 1, 2012 at 12:32 am | Reply
      • Debra

        So you willfully left something in the article to bait racist remarks? This is why the infected racist wound will never heal. People have to keep picking and picking at it without giving a even the smallest shot of healing.

        February 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
    • TBA Resident

      Oh let him be, Debra. If he get's really good at it, he'll become what he really aspires to be: a master baiter.

      February 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  7. Leucadia Bob

    http://www.theleucadiablog.com/2011/06/haggos-tacos.html

    January 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  8. El Taquero

    You can line up your own Taco Crawl in a few of the bigger California cities on this site... http://www.tacocrawl.com

    January 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  9. Tom

    Local Food Blogger does good! Congrats my fellow food blogger on making it to CNN.com from Tom at http://www.tomsfoodieblog.com @tomsfoodieblog

    January 31, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  10. Tom Williams So. California

    I was born and raised on the California and mexico border (Imperial Valley, CA/ Mexicali, BC) and have lived in Las Cruces New Mexico, Nogales, Az, Yuma, AZ and many other places along the US Border as well as many international cities around the world and my comment is Tacos are like Sex "The worst I ever have is still wonderful" they are the greatest dish on earth any way they are fixed or served.

    TW

    January 31, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Reply
  11. Paul Shinkman

    "I began to write about these culinary exploits for the alt-weekly newspaper New York Press while the editor of a neuroscience journal."

    Great story – I'm looking forward to indulging in some of those mouth-watering tacos. But I can't figure out about the "neuroscience journal"; what journal would that be?

    January 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
    • Jose Ralat-Maldonado

      Thanks, Paul. The journal is the former CNS Spectrums.

      February 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  12. Kacey

    Loves me some tacos the go great with tequila. :)
    speaking of which try snootful.blogspot.com for some great tequila, Whisky, Whiskey, Bourbon and wine reviews.

    January 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Reply
  13. charliegirl

    @SunsetParkerNY, who cares about the legalities? I don't. And yes, I am Mexican.
    Could you not just enjoy the article for what it is? No, instead you dwelled into things that have nothing to do with the art of making tacos. As if you have never eaten one from a stand.
    Then to top it off, you so nicely ask him how long he lived in SP? Nice try...

    January 31, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Reply
    • SunsetParkerNY

      Hi CharlieGirl,

      Interesting that you say who cares about legalities? You actually admit you don't.... But if anyone ever wronged you you would probably be the first to use the legal system to get retribution LOL. BTW why did you mention you were Mexican? I dont recall asking.... the illegality I mentioned was the food stands....not the people.

      To answer your snide remark...No, I have never eaten a taco from one if the illegal street stands. However, I have had them from almost all of the actual restaurants in the area. One of our favorites, Tapatio, just closed. The point I was making is to support the Mexican restaurants (and their owners) not those beating the system selling food out of a van or the front of their house.

      Oh yeah, and about asking how long he lived here..There is a reason..... This areas was mostly people of Nordic origin in the seventies.... In the eighties and nineties it was mostly Hispanic (from PR and the DR as I mentioned earlier). In the early 2000s there was an increase in the Mexican population, but since then the area has become almost all Chinese now.

      The author called Sunset Park a "Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Mexican population" and it is not a never was. East LA might be, Las Cruces, New Mexico or Tuscon, Arizon might be..... but not Sunset Park. Let me give you an equivalent... that would be like saying Bensonhurst is s neighbohood with a large Italian population. In the 80's there were many IROC-Z camaros under the EL (elevated train) but now.....yep almost all Chinese.

      The point is the statment about SP was incorrect... exagerrated at best.

      So...nice try.....

      January 31, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Reply
      • KeithTexas

        Every one is right you are a pain

        January 31, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Reply
    • VladT

      I don't necessarily agree this was the right forum for SunsetParker's post, but he provides an opinion rooted in some fact, and some hyperbole. I am now supporting him because s/he is correct; everyone is jumping on the race card and offended and name calling.
      As someone who likes to upset overly emotional people for fun, to SunsetParker....keep up the good work

      February 1, 2012 at 3:43 am | Reply
  14. dd in seattle

    You need to visit Seattle and try Korean Hawaiian tacos at Marination, they are the sauciest food truck in the US. Yum!

    January 31, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Reply
  15. Sunset ParkerNY

    "Walks to the grocery store included a stop at a sidewalk taco stall for two-dollar goat barbacoa"

    You said you were a former Sunset Parker but you are forgtting to mention that almost all those sidewalk stand cluttering every corner are not legal. But the those selling food out of their parke vans definitely are not.

    No licenses to sell food, no health inspection, not a dime paid in taxes...... oh yeah and you see the perveyors of "some" these stands purchasing their ingredients at the local supermarket (i.e tomatoes, lettuce, the drinks they sell) using a "benefit" card....... nice to know our taxes are paying for the ingedients in the food you just bought....

    As for the restaurants I agree... some of the food is amazing.....enjoy them...but stay away from the "curbside" stands.

    And dont forget there used to be large PuertoRican and Domincan population here..... there are other terrific Spanish restaurants here besides just the Mexican ones.

    BTW how long ago did you live in SP? because Sunset Park because almost everyone here is Chinese now.

    January 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Reply
    • KeithTexas

      Not only are you a pain, you are a bigot and a racist

      January 31, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply
      • SunsetParkerNY

        Nice try there....if you want to call me a pain thats fine....but nothing stated was racist...at all.... It goes to show how 99.9% of people have no reading comprehension. I said "illegal food vendors"..... not food vendors that were illegal.. IF you read the time stamp.... the top post is actually after the one on the bottom....... silly CharlieGirl already tried to play the race card... I explained I was only supporting the "actual" restaurants and debating the "demographic" facts of the nabe..... Re-read them in the "proper order" by time stamp.

        I complimented the Mexican restaurant owners and all of the other Spanish eating establishments in this area.... My only point was that illegal food vendors should not be praised (they could sell hot dogs, pizza or perogies for all I care) because the break the law. If the reason you try to make it an issue of race is because the food topic is Tacos... that is your personal issue not mine...

        Notice none of the comments were deleted because they are factual (perhaps you may take the as argumentative, but they are factual none the less) and not insulting...... but you call names and hurls insults...... which is actually against the rules :-)

        January 31, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Reply
    • TBA Resident

      "... almost all those sidewalk stand cluttering every corner are not legal. But the those selling food out of their parke vans definitely are not."

      Mobile food vending permits are required by law. How do you know these aren't legal?

      February 1, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
      • KeithTexas

        He doesn't know, he is a racist and a bigot.

        No, I am not a lawyer and I don't investigate time stamps before I comment Sunset. You are still an anal retentive pain.

        February 2, 2012 at 1:01 am | Reply
      • SunsetParkerNY

        Correct food vendors are required to have a license. But that does not stop people from braking the law. These are not "food trucks" like we see on the food network. It is someone selling food off a folding table out of the back of their personal van and no clearly displayed (as required) license. Other sell food out of old hot dog carts (again displaying no license). They get ticketed and go right back to selling the next day (I mention that because they would not be getting ticketed if they were lawful).

        February 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Reply
      • SunsetParkerNY

        Correct food vendors are required to have a license. But that does not stop people from braking the law. These are not "food trucks" like we see on the food network. It is someone selling food off a folding table out of the back of their personal van and no clearly displayed (as required) license. Other sell food out of old hot dog carts (again displaying no license) or on foldout tables. They get ticketed and go right back to selling the next day (I mention that because they would not be getting ticketed if they were lawful....that is how I know KT).

        And to KeithTex.......again with the race card drivel??? where???

        February 3, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  16. jim

    Is it Taco Trail or Taco Tail? Nice job on the link CNN...

    January 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • jim

      Quick on the fix – good job.

      January 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  17. Samuel Bogale Kathy Stumm-Bogale Calgary Alberta

    Love Mexican food! thanks for sharing your article!

    January 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply

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