29 June 2010
Today's Tuesday Taqueria takes us to El Tapatio. This is another restaurant/taco stand combo. The building is adjacent to an auto body shop, and the taqueria trailer sits in front of the restaurant with a smoker/grill along Nolensville Road. As with some of the other taquerias, as you pull up a car hop quickly approaches your car. On this day, the parking lot was pretty full and there were 2-3 car hops making the rounds taking orders.
I ordered tres tacos. uno pastor, uno lengua, and uno carnitas. The tacos were garnished with radish slices, a lime, and some red sauce.
The pastor taco was pretty average. The pork was good, but it didn't have a wow factor. Pastor tacos are known for their citrus style marinade, and this one missed the mark with the lack of acidic character. 2.5/5
The lengua (tongue) taco was tender with a great texture. I know that some people may be turned off by the thought of eating beef tongue, but the taste is beefy and there is no strange flavor at all. 3/5
The carnitas was the best of the three tacos. The pork was plentiful and it real went well with the onions, cilantro, and red sauce. 4/5
When the car hop gave me the total, I could not understand what she said. So I gave her a $5 and told her to keep the change. As with the other tacos I am sure they were somewhere between 99 cents and $1.50.
The car hop was very friendly even though it was very obvious that she spoke very little English. The biggest problem with this place is the lack of parking. 3.5/5
All I have to go on here is the Tennessee Health Score for the actual restaurant. The 78 score is not really strong, but I didn't get sick. 3.9/5
Overall El Tapatio is pretty good. I am a little turned off by the amount of lighter fluid that adorns the grill, but I guess it works for Myron Mixon, and it didn't seem to come across in the flavor of the meat.
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26 June 2010
Over the last 19 months, in this series of reports, we've visited over 50 barbecue joints in Nashville and the surrounding counties. Over the course of that time, it's occurred to us that we've missed some that should have been included in one place or another. Some of these have opened (or reopened) since we started reporting, and some have been there all along, but have just been overlooked. We'll get half of them in this report, and half of them in the next one.
We begin in West Nashville, in a neighborhood called "The Nations". Boss Hogg's BBQ is on Morrow Road, across from West Park. This used to be the West Park Dairy Dip.
They are cooking on an old smoker right in the parking lot.
No ribs at Boss Hogg's, at least on the day I was there. But of course they have a pork sandwich. The meat was nice and tender, but didn't have much flavor - smoke or otherwise. It's a workman-like barbecue sandwich that would be aided by a squirt of barbecue sauce.
Next we head to Antioch for two barbecue joints that I have heard good things about from local blogger Joltin' Django on his blog, A Man's Gotta Eat.
Fat Boy's BBQ is on Murfreesboro Pike near the intersection of Bell Road.
Like Boss Hogg's, Fat Boy's is cooking on a big offset smoker right out in front of the store. I like it. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and a rib sandwich.
The pulled pork has very good flavor. It's well-seasoned, with a hint of smoke. The meat was not as successful on tenderness. On this day, at least, the pulled pork was more than a little dry.
The ribs were country-style ribs. I don't know if this was just because I ordered a rib sandwich, or if all of their ribs are country-style. But I have never seen this at barbecue restaurant before. Anyway, they were very tasty - super tender and juicy with a great bark, and a nice smoky flavor.
Over in Hickory Hollow, Ron's BBQ & Fish is tucked away in a corner of the Kroger shopping center at the corner of Bell Road and Mt. View Road. They are cooking in a smoker out behind the shopping center (see photo at top).
The friendly folks at Ron's had already sold out of pork shoulder by the time I got there, but they gave me a heaping to-go box full of pork ribs. These ribs were absolutely cooked to oblivion - impossible to even pick one up - but they were delicious nonetheless. They had wonderful simplicity of flavor - well seasoned pork and plenty of hickory smoke, no sauce. A tasty treat.
Over in Brentwood, vagabond Texas 'cue proprietor Aubrey Bean has found a home on Church Street (this is Judge Bean's fourth location if you're scoring at home). You'll recall that we tried to visit the Greer Stadium location last Spring as part of our "Texas Barbecue" report, but had no luck. Anyway, Lannae said it last week, and it's true - Judge Bean's has finally found a proper home. This location delivers an atmosphere that matches the funky, feisty character of the food - the ceilings are low, the decorations are tacky, the country music is loud, and the help is good lookin'. Now what about the food?
As we did with the other Texas-style barbecue joints in this area, I will judge on brisket and sausage. This brisket looked okay, with a nice smoke ring, and it tasted okay, with a nicely formed bark, but it was dry as could be. Maybe brisket was just having a bad day? The sausage I liked very much. Again, let me stress that I am no expert on sausage, but I found this to be very juicy, and with a nice snap in the casing. It had a nice smoky, garlicky flavor.
I know we're just judging meat here, but I can't talk about Judge Bean's without mentioning the brisket tacos. These have been a favorite of mine since Judge Bean's was on Wedgewood Avenue. Even if the brisket is a little dry, if you team it up with fresh guacamole and a little homemade salsa, and serve it on a grilled corn tortilla...that is good eatin'!
The folks at Bacon & Caviar have opened a second location of their B&C Barbecue in Melrose. We reviewed their farmer's market location back in 2008, but wanted to see how things were going at this new location.
Two years later, I still think B&C's pulled pork is great. It's cooked to a nice tenderness, it's seasoned perfectly, and it's got plenty of tasty bark pieces.
The baby back ribs (only offered on weekends) were not as successful. They lacked any real smoke flavor, and the sauce/rub had an odd overly peppery flavor. Also, they could have been cooked a few more degrees, as they were still kind of tough.
One other note about B&C is that their side dishes are still head and shoulders above what you'll find at most barbecue places. I know the meat is what counts, but I'm just sayin'.
Disclaimer: Please note that these reports are based on particular servings of barbecue at a particular day and time. Barbecue can be prone to fluctuation. Your experiences may vary.
More reports in this series:
Part 1 - The Legends
Part 2 - The Chain Gang
Part 3 - Local Chains
Part 4 - Jefferson Street
Part 5 - Clarksville Highway
Part 6 - East Nashville
Part 7 - The West Side
Part 8 - Memphis Imports
Part 9 - T for Texas
Part 10 - Williamson County
Part 11 - Murfreesboro
Part 12 - La Vergne & Smyrna
Part 13 - Wilson County
Part 14 - Catching Up in Nashville
Part 15 - Hendersonville & White House
Part 16 - Portland & Gallatin
Part 17 - Robertson County
Part 18 - Dickson County
Part 19 - "Barbecue by any other name..."
Part 20 - Places We Missed
Part 21 - More Places We Missed
24 June 2010
Now this is a benefit that I can really get behind. Several Southern chefs are bringing their talents to the Cannery Row Ballroom on July 13th to raise money for the Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Inc. and The Community Resource Center. Unfortunately, I will be out of town, but this looks like an event that should not be missed.
23 June 2010
I had never heard of Open Pit until I saw it at my local Publix. But after poking around a little bit online, I learned that apparently it's mostly found in the Midwest, specifically cities like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh. And it's no new kid on the block - it was introduced in 1953. One other interesting thing is that the website repeatedly encourages users to add their own ingredients to the sauce, even mentioning that using the sauce "right out of the bottle" is the exception. I have not ever seen this kind of thing emphasized before.
As for the sauce itself, it is a brighter color red than most commercially available barbecue sauces. It's fairly thin, pouring readily, and has a completely smooth texture. The aroma of the sauce is interesting. Of course there is a tanginess, but there are also notes of cinnamon. Upon tasting, the first reaction is that this tastes like very tangy ketchup. The tomato flavor is bold and bright, and the vinegar is tangy. At first, you sense that the sauce is sweet, but the sweetness soon fades, leaving a stronger impression of tanginess. Then come the more interesting flavors, a rich savoriness, plus notes of onion, garlic, and once again the faint flavor of cinnamon. Finally, a hearty heat sets in, providing a bit of mild burn.
If nothing else, this sauce is different than any other you'll encounter in the supermarket aisle. I rather enjoyed it.
19 June 2010
17 June 2010
This is a strong early frontrunner for best barbecue-related news story of the year.
In Clarksville this morning, police responded to a 911 call reporting a suspicious package in a parking lot just off of the city square. A threatening message was scrawled on the side of it: "Anyone who touches this will lose their hands." Police assumed the worst and used the bomb squad robot to open the package. Imagine their surprise when it turned out to be...a "messy box of ribs." You can't make this stuff up.
Link: "Messy box of ribs left in Clarksville parking lot creates bomb scare" (Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle)
16 June 2010
Tasting as many barbecue sauces as I do, I have to admit that if something is a little bit different or out of the ordinary, it does tend to get my attention. I'm becoming a sucker for strange or unique ingredients or flavors. So when I saw this Tribal Moose Cranberry BBQ Sauce, my interest was piqued.
As it turns out, cranberries are Tribal Moose's thing. In addition to barbecue sauce, they also sell a steak sauce and a ketchup (!) that are augmented with cranberry flavor. And being located in the agricultural breadbasket of Oregon, they have plentiful access to fresh cranberries. Tribal Moose is the brainchild of Ron Broughton, and his passion for the business is evident, as is his commitment to environmental responsibility and giving back to the community.
As we all know, sometimes fruit "works" as a flavor curveball, and sometimes it doesn't. In this case, the cranberry flavor definitely works. The cranberry flavor doesn't jump right out at you, but rather arrives in concert with several other flavors to make a nice blend. There's the bright flavor of tomato, the sweetness of onion, the twang of apple cider vinegar, and the cranberry gives the sweetness of the sauce a kind of fruity twist. Overall, it's sweet, but not too sweet. And though the sauce is thick and has a roughly pureed kind of texture, there is a lightness to it that is very refreshing.
14 June 2010
As I continue heading north on Nolensville Road, I begin to have other food options. Right past Mexico Lindo sits a Chinese Super Buffet (you know the ones with the glowing chicken). If you can resist that temptation, you are then faced with the challenge of passing up the best restaurant in town.
I tell my self I need to stay focused, and I begin to look to the east and west for my next taqueria. I thank my lucky stars that no one has taken up shop in the parking lot of the 21+ Video, but a little further north I found Taqueria Sarita in the parking lot of the Phillips 66. Sarita is most likely someone's name, but I failed to ask the woman working the taqueria if she was Sarita. So one can only assume.
This taqueria is an old delivery truck that has been converted into a concession type rig by what appears to be the work of the A-Team. When you pull up a menu is prominently displayed with several different classic Mexican snack dishes. Some of the choices include clayudas which is similar to a Mexican style pizza, an oblong masa dish known as huaraches, and a few of the classics like a burrito or a quesadilla. Of course what drew me in was the 99¢ tacos sign.
This weeks order was uno pastor, uno chorizo, and uno carnitas. These tacos were topped with a finer dice onion and a lighter amount of cilantro. A lime and a spicy thin green avocado sauce also accompanied the overflowing tacos on the plate. One thing that was very noticeable when I was waiting on my order was the smell of the meat warming on the griddle. The smells were very appetizing and they had me really looking forward to chowing down on some tacos.
The pastor taco is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. In this case the pork had a good flavor and was served a little crispy. I enjoyed the crispiness, but it did not stack up to some of the other pastor tacos that I have had on this journey. 3.5/5
The chorizo was roughly chopped and piled high on the corn tortilla. The spice on this taco was perfect and the onion along with the cilantro complemented this taco giving it a true authentic flavor. I give this taco a perfect score. 5/5
The carnitas err... asada tacos. While I ordered a carnitas taco the lady taking my order repeated my order and said "uno asada". I replied "no carnitas". Well wouldn't you know I ended up with an asada taco. In the previous reports I noted that the asada tacos are not my favorite, but this asada stood out from the rest. As with the other tacos on my plate, they did not skimp on the meat. I think that this is the first time that I actually had left over meat on my plate after I had finished my tacos. 4/5
The sign visible from the road reads 99¢ tacos, but I saw a smaller sign when I pulled up that said asada & pollo tacos 99¢. The other tacos are $1.50. So my three tacos were $4. While the $1.50 is more than some of the competition, I would definitely say that you get your money's worth with the extra meat that is piled on your tacos.
Well no one is going to win points for messing up an order, and it seemed that they would rather have had pesos as opposed to American dollars. 3/5
I could not find this establishment on the Tennessee Health Ratings, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt. 4/5
Overall I would say that Taqueria Sarita is a great taco truck. While they may not speak much English, they sure do know how to make some tacos. So if your friends insist on going to Bar-B-Cutie, try to steer them up the road to Taqueria Sarita.
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08 June 2010
This Tuesday we head just slightly past the Tusculum Lanes bowling ally to the parking lot of a small convenience store. This is where we find the small taqueria Mexico Lindo. As with most of the taquerias, their version of a car hop makes her way to your vehicle as you pull in. However, I like to get out of the car and look at the menu while taking in the sights and sounds of the taqueria. The menu here is in both English and Spanish making it easy to order. Since we are ordering just tacos it is pretty easy anyway, but it makes it easier to get more adventurous and learn a little Spanish at the same time.
Here I ordered three tacos. Uno al pastor, uno barbocoa, uno asada. They came simply garnished with a lime and their version of a creamy guacamole sauce (not pictured).
The asada taco was pretty bland and again the guacamole sauce saved the day. I have begun to realize that you are not going to get great beef on a 99 cent taco, and without a flavorful marinade the asada tacos are a little lackluster. 2.5/5
The barbocoa taco was the worst of the three. It was small pieces pork swimming in a dark thick sauce that became over powering. This was my first barbocoa taco and I was very underwhelmed. I will have to try another taquerias version to see if they can sway my opinion. 2/5
The al pastor again was the shining star amongst these tacos. The marinated pork was flavorful and worth going back for. 4/5
My three tacos were $3 total and a $1 tip for the car hop.
The car hop/waitress that took my order was extremely friendly. 5/5
I did not experience any issues with cleanliness and the TN Health Dept. gave them a 90.
Overall I have had better experiences at Mexico Lindo in the past, and if you ever need a quick snack before you start throwing rocks, the al pastor tacos are a good bet.
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04 June 2010
03 June 2010
Check out some of these articles from around the web regarding the oil spill in the Gulf.
The BP Oil Spill: Destroying a Food Tradition via The Atlantic
Restaurants sue BP for damages from oil spill via Nation's Restaurant News
Colbert's Oil Spill Fix: Plug It With Tom Colicchio's Bald Head via Eater
BP oil spill threatens a Lafourche oysterman's way of life via NOLA.com
01 June 2010
Special of the Week Tacos .99¢
This is the first installment of Tuesday Taqueria on the Ulika Food Blog. I had this idea sometime last year to review and map the all of taquerias along Nolensville Road in Nashville. If you have ever driven down Nolensville Road, you have undoubtedly seen the taco stands that dot the landscape. With so many choices it can be difficult to know where to get the best taco. That's where Tuesday Taqueria comes in. Starting at the intersection of OHB and Nolensville, I will trek North in search of the greatest Taqueria the south side has to offer.
For the purpose of these reviews we will only be focusing on the tacos. Most of these places offer a full menu, but we are just concerned with what they all have in common and that is tacos.
I will using the following criteria to review the taqueria:
- Taste - Isn't that what it is all about? I generally get three tacos and I will rank the taste of all three on a scale of 1-5. With 5 being the highest possible score.
- Price - Who has the best deal? Are those tacos really just .99¢?
- Friendliness - Let's face it, I am the minority here and I no speaka the Spanish. So if I have a negative experience I will be sure to let you know.
- Cleanliness - When it comes to mobile food carts, I realize that some people have a concern about the cleanliness. So I will let you know which ones have a perfect health score and those that could use some work. Keep in mind that there is competition all up and down the road, so if a business is not putting out a good product, they wont be in business long.
As you may have gathered from the name, there is more than one Tacos Y Mariscos Lopez in town. I was able to determine that there are at least six locations making this a little local chain. While for the purposes of these reviews I am just eating tacos, it is pretty clear that I need to go explore the menu at Tacos Y Mariscos Lopez. While I was there they were pulling off very nicely grilled whole chickens and other online reviews speak highly of things other than the tacos.
On this trip, I ordered uno asada (beef), uno chorizo (Spanish sausage), and uno al pastor (marinated pork) taco. I always order my tacos with everything. This almost always constitutes raw onions and cilantro, and then other garnishes vary from place to place. In this case I received some grilled onions, cucumber, lime and a red hot sauce.
The asada taco was pretty run of the mill. In this case the grilled onions and the hot sauce really kicked this taco up a notch. 3/5
The chorizo taco had great texture and a really great flavor. 4/5
The al pastor taco was good as well. You could really taste the citrus component in the marinade and it worked really nicely with the cilantro. 4/5
As you can see from the picture on the top, the tacos were on special this week for .99¢. The menu price is $1.25 and they do charge tax. I also generally tip $1 to the car hop / waitress. My total with tip was $4.30. So in reality, the tacos are $1 plus sales tax.
I had a great experience at Tacos Y Mariscos Lopez no. 1 and I did not feel unwelcomed. 5/5
One thing that stood out was that the pit that the meat was coming off of seemed very clean. I also had a direct view inside of the trailer and everything seemed in tip top shape. The Tennessee Health Inspection score: 98 and I give it a 5/5.
Overall I would recommend the tacos at Tacos Y Mariscos Lopez no. 1 and I really look forward to getting back there to try one of those whole chickens.
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