Saturday, December 19, 2015

Eva's Cafe, W. Mitchell Street

Well, this blog, which only had about six posts to begin with, decided to take a six-month hiatus as its author fell off the eating and writing wagon and chose to do other things. By Jove, it takes dedication to consume many a flour tortilla and barbacoa plate, then scribble about it before you fall into a Mexican food coma, and this guy's ready to take on the job once again.

I guess one reason why I got back to it today of all days is just 'cause it's so damn nice outside. Now, some may designate 67 degrees and partly cloudy as unseasonably warm, and they may not be too far off the mark, but I'm not going to argue with crisp, fall-like weather when we really should be diving into winter. I mean, it's South Texas. What do you want?

So, as I got home at about 12:45 after a brief run on the river, I looked at the map to quickly figure out where I'd undo all that exercise before the customary two o'clock closing time. It had to be someplace close, and I was wanting to check out a joint in my neighborhood anyway. I scanned along Mitchell Street and came across a little coffee cup icon for a restaurant called Eva's Cafe. It had been reviewed positively by a few people, and, needing to get out the door, I decided to go for it.

I was glad to visit this location for two reasons. First, it's a quick drive (or a slightly less-quick walk) from my house, and, secondly, it's right where Mitchell Street hits the San Antonio River, real close to Mission Road, making it an ideal breakfast/lunch break during a stroll along the south side of the river, or a visit to Mission Concepción. 

It feels kind of tucked away by itself, characteristic of the South Side, which doesn't always feel terribly urban. Surrounded by nicely spaced-out houses on Mitchell Street, you feel, in a way, like you're in a small town, as opposed to a city of 1.4 million. 

The parking lot in front was full, a good sign. I grabbed a space beside the restaurant and walked in to discover green walls, white Christmas lights, and Mexican artwork. There was a painting of a Día de los Muertos skeleton saying "Mi casa es mi casa", and a photo of the restaurant being watched over by a translucent Jesus and Virgin Mary.

I was pretty hungry when I walked in, so I quickly ordered coffee and a barbacoa plate. For some reason, I was craving that greasy cheek, so I went for that and was happy with what I got, a big plate with refried beans, potatoes, pico de gallo, and a large portion of barbacoa, with flour tortillas and guacamole to the side. Now, I'm not an expert on barbacoa, but I found this rather delicious, moist, meaty, and fatty, which as far as I can tell are the quintessential qualities of barbacoa. It was especially nice with the homemade tortillas, guac, and pico de gallo (The jalapeño chopped up in there added the perfect amount of heat.). My barriga was llena and corazón contento once it was all eaten. No complaints at all. 

Well, almost. The cafe could stand to be a bit cleaner. There was a fair amount of trash on the floor, and the bathrooms needed a little work. Other than that, though, I enjoyed it and would go again.


Price Breakdown: 

Pico de gallo
Two tortillas


217 W. Mitchell Street, 78204
(210) 534-0951

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Taquería Nuevo Vallarta, Roosevelt Avenue

It's heating up in San Antonio, although not too hot for the time of year, to be fair. June, July, and August (and, let's be realistic, May and September) leave many Texans with the understanding that from late morning to early evening, a walk down the street or around the block is gonna leave you sweating and throwing down a glass of water (or, whatever we drink). Egad. No wonder we drive everywhere. Add that lifestyle choice to our barbecue, tortillas, and those things you see above, and our obesity rate starts to make more sense.

But let's not get all preachy here. I have no right to do such things because it's SATURDAY, and I was revved up to indulge in a little Tex-Mex.

My drive to work has me rolling for a decent amount of time down a city street called Roosevelt Avenue. It's a continuation of St. Mary's Street, a mostly wide, comfortable road that cuts through the south side of the city. Being the voracious eater that I am, I always notice the Mexican places, which are reasonably abundant, along this thoroughfare, and I'd been to a couple of them already. Considering its location just across the street from the Planet Fitness where I try to work off the tacos in this blog (often in vain), I decided to visit Taquería Nuevo Vallarta, right at Roosevelt and SE Military, by the Exxon and the...Golden Corral.

One thing that caught my eye when I approached the place today was the Dos Equis neon sign in the window, which, of course, means that the place serves beer. That isn't terribly common for restaurants in this category, but I suppose such a perk can draw a perhaps different, and larger, crowd at certain times of the day. Hopefully not at breakfast time, though. Hopefully.

I know. Doesn't help too much.

Upon walking in, I saw the two relatively large dining areas and decided to post up in the second one, sketchily at the back corner by the window (When you're the only white person in a place, you indulge in this notion to be as inconspicuous as possible, often making it worse.). 

It's a lively joint, with family get-togethers you'd think happen every week. The long tables allow for big groups like the soccer team you see above. The artwork on the walls gives it a nice feel, but it's not the cleanest establishment. It wasn't uncommon to find napkins and straw wrappers on the floor. Nothing's perfect in Tacoland.

The service was a bit unhurried, as well, either due to a sparse wait staff, or they forgot I was back there. Whatever. Redemption was granted when I got this up front.

I didn't order the queso, but I gladly ate it, along with the tasty variety of chips. Many of them were so thick you thought you were eating pita chips. Hummus isn't on the menu, though, shockingly.

I did get my food pretty quickly, though. A carne asada torta, which is at the top. Let's take another look:

There's nothing like a good torta. I find the toasted bread, lettuce, tomato, meat, avocado, and crema combination very satisfying, and this one was pretty good. It was flattened, with tasty bread, nice chunks of meat, and decent salsas. The green provided an unexpected afterburn. I ate it efficiently and was happy. 

I liked the food, but I don't see myself visiting this place again. The patchy service and trash were a bit of a turnoff, but the ambiance is a jolly one. If you have any aversion to noisy groups of kids, maybe just grab a breakfast sandwich at 7-Eleven. However, if you don't mind and wanna try pita chips with melted cheese, give it a go.

Oh, and they also got three breakfast tacos for $2.99.


$ Bite For Your Buck $ 

Price Breakdown:

Carne asada torta



3451 Roosevelt Avenue, 78214
(210) 923-3058

Saturday, May 23, 2015

La Sorpresa Cafe, Pleasanton Road

Though the weather reports may state otherwise, I was merry with the warm glow of the sun as I pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant I didn't expect to see. Some of the best decisions are made at the last second, and as I rolled down Pleasanton Road in south San Antonio, I had a feeling I would eye a humble eatery and pull over suddenly to the chagrin of the drivers behind me.

Earlier this week, I drove north on this road to pick up a cake at Lucy's (another great place with locations on SW Military and SW Loop 410) and noticed several Mexican establishments to my left and right. That's not a surprise at all, but I basically made the decision then to revisit the area this morning and see what it had to offer.

Oddly enough, though, last night, when I slowly scrolled down the road on Google Maps, I didn't spot a single place with great reviews, or at least none that really sparked my interest. That, of course, is fine, and so, after a trip to the gym, I got back in my Accord and just drove down Pleasanton, determined to simply turn one way or another and have breakfast. Sometimes, you need it. Yelp is not infallible.

And as I headed southbound the road seemed to lack the abundance of restaurants that I at least imagined was there. One place closer to Military, Rocky's, caught my eye for a second, but I decided to keep going. When it appeared my options were fewer than previously thought (two theories: the cafes are more toward Moursund Boulevard and 410, or I was just hungry and/or hallucinating), I pulled my first u-turn and headed back toward Rocky's.

However, as luck would have it, my peripheral vision spotted a place to my left as I was driving in the other direction. It was called La Sorpresa, and there was really nothing flashy to tell you it was there. Just a plain sign and a few cars out front. So I said, "Screw it," and busted a second u-ey (rather unsafely) at Drury Lane (right by the muffin man) to check it out.

Again, nothing about the place sticks out, and I'd say that's what I was looking for. Cars were parked there, and I had a good feeling, which got even better when I walked in.

It felt like home. I love these places where the kitchen and dining area are kind of meshed into one, and it certainly had this familial aspect to it, with plenty of hugs and besitos

I was still slightly jazzed from working out, so I sat at my small table by the window, drank my coffee, and was pretty content by the time the pangs of hunger came. 

Let's take a look at the menu:

Pretty standard, I'd say, and I went for the Machacado & Egg plate. Last week's first taste had me craving more, and this is what I got:

Holy crap, was this good. I know very little about Machacado, but it was juicy (though I don't know if dried beef is supposed to be juicy), delicious, and went well with the eggs, onions, tomatoes and peppers, wrapped in some of the best tortillas I've had in San Antonio. The corn and flour were equally good, and the red salsa burned wonderfully and brought it all together. 

The joint is aptly named. It was a pleasant surprise and a great way to start the weekend. Couple it with friendly, fast service, and it's one of the best places I've visited.

I took a menu home just in case.


Price Breakdown:

Machacado & Egg
Four tortillas


3215 Pleasanton Road, 78221
(210) 977-8775

Taquería Aguascalientes, North Loop 1604

My taco interests typically lie within the first loop, but that's not to say there aren't good Mexican eats on the outskirts of town. I learned this some time ago when I tried a place on Babcock Road near 1604 with a friend. It was good, certainly up to my (not so high) standards. However, I did not take notes on the place (I don't even remember what it was called.), which only means I'll have to choke down their Al pastor and salsa one more time. Woe is me.

And since this same friend and I were in her neighborhood near UT San Antonio last Saturday morning, it was proposed we hit up a place we both hadn't visited, Taqueria Aguascalientes, a busting Mexican eatery at the northwest corner of the outer loop, right next to Hills and Dales Ice House.

Like always, the full lot was a good sign right off the bat. I had to park my car across the street, and we walked into the place to see a family of four waiting to be seated. I don’t typically run into such problems at these places. Full dining area, sure. Waiting to sit down, not so much. We were, however, shown to the end of a table after just a few minutes. We shared the mesa with another group, which didn't bother us. Kinna made us feel like we were at a more trendy, communal establishment (although it’s not exactly one of those).

We were pretty hungry, so we scanned the menu right away. Unfortunately, I only got a picture of one page, but it gives you an idea of what they have. Nothing out of the ordinary, I don’t think.

I was in the mood for tacos (shock), so I went with three: Machacado (shredded dry beef, eggs, and peppers), potatoes with chorizo, and “country and egg” (also known as sausage and egg). I noticed off the bat that, perhaps due to how busy they were, the service was quite terse, the hurried coffee pouring that nearly leaves a few drops on the table. I wouldn’t say I mind that much, but I’m not sure how necessary such curtness is. Breathe. Tranquila. Make it easier on yourself.

And I was pretty tranquilamente in a food coma after throwing these down:

The tacos were good. I quite liked the Machacado, but that’s likely because I hadn’t had it before. It was like a breakfast taco made tastier with beef jerky. Whether it was high quality Machacado or not, I don’t know, but I was full and pretty happy. The chorizo was dark with a strong flavor, and the country and egg was…well…sausage and egg with nothing that particularly stuck out, at least not at this point a week later.

All in all, good food. Certainly a popular spot, but not exceptionally rico. Muy rico, though? Yes, I’ll give it that. A good option for UTSA students or anyone else looking for an affordable breakfast or lunch.


Price breakdown:

Don't remember. However, it will not wipe out your weekend.


15409 White Fawn Drive, 78255

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Los Angeles Tortilleria Y Panadería, N. Zarzamora Street

Last night as my head hit the pillow, I was already excited for the next day, a free Saturday morning when I could head one way or another and probar a Mexican eatery of my choosing. I think it was especially exciting because I hadn't done it in so long. This is what happens when #1: You start a new job. #2: Your classes take up more time. And #3: You get lazy. But for Pete's sake, what kind of tool bag is too lazy for tacos? Step up to the plate, John, and eat tortilla chips and chorizo like you should.

I was wanting to try a place on Zarzamora Street. I had heard this or that about one joint or another on this road, and they're prevalent in this particular stretch of town. I just didn't know which one to choose, and after such a long absence, I wasn't keen on going with a dud.

I decided on a decent-sized, popular place called Los Angeles. There are a couple of them, one here at North Zarzamora and West Commerce, and "#2", on Commercial Avenue. So, with great enthusiasm and an empty stomach, I cruised over to the West Side, passing a few other, elaborately decorated joints before approaching the full parking lot of LA.

I had never seen a parking attendant at a place like this, but for some reason, they have one, which you can attribute to their popularity, or for keeping out patrons of the Garden Inn across the street. 

Upon entering, the first thing you notice is the gentleman walking around, playing the 9:30 in the morning. I liked it already. 

Walk past the bakery and tortilleria at the front to a spacious, festive dining area, replete with decorations hanging from the ceiling and inspirational posters about cuddling, caring, and laughing. Upon ordering my coffee and taking a look at the breakfast plates, I couldn't fight the urge to have chilaquiles. The decision was kinna made before I got there. Menu looks pretty standard and good. Come Monday through Friday, and you can have two breakfast tacos and café for $2.99.

It was simply enjoyable to sit in my booth, relax, sip my coffee, and take in the Saturday. The dude was playing, people were clapping, kids were running around. It all put a smile on my face, and this plato cranked the good vibes up to 11:

What's better than eggs, fried tortillas, and melted cheese? Eggs, fried tortillas, and queso fresco. Man, this was good, accentuated by more-than-adequate tortillas (flour was a little better than corn) and tasty salsas. The red was delightfully picosa and went well with everything. Good refried beans, good potatoes, no complaints. Tack on a nice conversation with Yulisa, my waitress from El Salvador, and my morning was complete. 

So there you go. Another quality choice for chips, cheese, eggs, beans, taters, salsa, tortillas, and probably everything else on the menu. Or just go listen to the guy. His voice ain't bad.

$ Bite For Your Buck $


Price Breakdown:

Four tortillas



300 North Zarzamora Street, 78207

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

El Jarrito Cafe, Blanco Road

On Monday morning, I set out just north of San Antonio's downtown in search of a place I spotted while riding the #2 bus, winding up North Flores, Fredericksburg Road, and Blanco Road. It was just to my right, a little shack proclaiming food from Mexico and some Central American country. I wanna say Honduras, but I don't remember. I was intrigued, so intrigued that I felt obligated roll into that neighborhood again and try the place.

So I hopped into my green Honda and cruised what I recalled to be the same streets the bus headed down, driving well below the speed limit and likely pissing off anyone behind me, looking for this tiny eatery. I scoped out North Flores, then Fredericksburg Road, then Blanco Road to Hildebrand, where my previous bus trip ended, but I couldn't find it. "What the heck?" I thought. This place was beckoning me, and now it's vanished, and we're well into breakfast time, and I don't feel like combing this route again. 

And I wasn't about to go home, either. You don't just sink into taco mode and snap out of it. So, as I was pulling a u-turn back down Blanco Road, the saving grace was just to my left: El Jarrito Cafe, a rustic hash house with a full parking lot. Promising.

So I parked and walked through the double door, delighted to see two bustling dining rooms, forming an L-shape with the cash register in the corner. I'm reassured in busy places like this, where they have to clear the napkins and rogue potatoes off your window-side table before you sit down, and I noticed right off the bat that at El Jarrito you can nom on a budget.

The priciest thing I ordered was a country sausage and egg taco for $1.50, and, to boot, coffee, at least for this customer, was a large Styrofoam cup filled to the top. Scoring major points here, amigos.

And I saw another thing that made me smile. Take a look at this table:

Remember the last post when I mentioned General Tso? Well, it looks like this joint replaced him with chicharrónes. Way to use what you already got and bring in the business regardless. Edible proof that hungry patrons often don't give a damn. In fact, it's kind of an added bonus.

I was served pretty quickly. I went for chorizo and egg and country sausage and egg tacos, with potatoes and refried beans on the side. The best thing I had was the chorizo and egg, flavorful pork sausage with a really good red salsa from the squeeze bottle. The tortillas weren't exquisite but clearly homemade and good, and the country sausage, taters, and beans were good but nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, my years living in Western Maryland taught me that you can add enough hot sauce to make anything good.

Friendly service and a homey, family atmosphere. If you dislike crying babies, you may want to avoid, but if you don't care and want taco plates served on Chinese characters, with enough dough left over to buy your girlfriend a beer later, give it a try. I approve, and I'll come back.

$ Bite For Your Buck $

✓Coffee (Warning: The coffee has to be really crappy for me to disapprove.)

Price breakdown:

Chorizo and egg taco
Country sausage and egg taco
Refried beans
$5.38 (I think)


2014 Blanco Road, 78212