Review: Tacoholics

I celebrated Record Store Day 2013 with records & tacos!

I celebrated Record Store Day 2013 with records & tacos!

This review was originally published in What’s Up Weekly on August 29, 2012, and can be found here.

Two years ago, Jessie Pena pioneered the gourmet food truck craze that has hit El Paso. The Tacoholics team found success serving their signature brand of tacos and sandwiches late at night. That success has brought them to an unlikely brick and mortar location inside an Eastside gas station.

The new location also has a new ordering format. Options are endless when you can choose combinations of proteins, tortillas, styles and salsas. Tacos can be purchased individually or in groups of four corn or two flour. Choose between chicken, pork, sirloin or tofu in four styles topped with a choice of four salsas that are made fresh daily.

Plain style, which isn’t plain at all, is seared and seasoned with southwest flavors. A South Texan contains grilled onions and queso fresco, while Campechanos style is topped with homemade chorizo. The most popular style is influenced by a taco that has taken the country by storm thanks to L.A.’s popular Kogi Korean BBQ food truck. Tacoholics is the only place in El Paso where you can enjoy this style of taco. Meat is glazed with a Korean BBQ sauce and topped with cabbage, sriracha and sesame seeds.
If you’re in the mood for something heartier, order the Mexican Philly or La Torta 915 – creatively constructed sandwiches inspired by our region.

All ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, including the tortillas and bread. Anyone fortunate to be within 3 miles of the gas station can have their meal delivered for a minimal fee. On occasion, the food truck can still be found during the late hours of the night.

Food truck: various locations and times, static location inside the Exxon gas station at 7450 Gateway East.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (or until sold out) Price range: $1.50-$6.
Vegetarian friendly (corn tortilla tacos and tortas; flour tortilla contains lard). For info visit www.tacoholics.comfacebook.com/tacoholics or twitter.com/tacoholics.

Additional Veg Snob notes:
This is the only place in town you can get tofu tacos, and they are amazing! When I first tried them over a year ago (you can read about it here), I thought the tofu was too soft, but they have since changed this and the texture is perfect now. All of the salsas are very good, so I’m not sure which is my favorite. You might want to get plain tacos so that you can try them all, but be sure to get at least one Korean BBQ.

Tacoholics on Urbanspoon

Taco Tuesday: Korean BBQ Tofu

Even though I’m a bit under the weather today, I’m gonna share an extra special Taco Tuesday post with you. All the meds, hot tea, hot water, steams, and bad television have given me the strength to blog! This post is special in that I haven’t shared a Taco Tuesday post since Vegan Mofo, and this recipe is really delicious and fancy-looking.

The Korean BBQ taco craze has of course not hit El Paso, but we do have the Tacoholics food truck, which serves up both beef and tofu. I’m happy to report that the tofu is so popular, they usually run out. The only problem is that the truck isn’t very consistent on its excursions, but if they are out, they can usually be found at Black Market from about 10:30 pm until they run out. The planets aligned and I was able to try the tofu tacos several months ago.  They were really tasty, but I thought the tofu’s texture was too soft.

Korean BBQ Tofu tacos from Tacoholics (cellphone pic)

I had been craving these tacos, so I thought I would try making my own since I’m not sure when I’ll be hitting up the taco truck again. I wanted the tofu to have more texture, so I froze it. Freezing and thawing tofu draws out moisture, giving it a chewier texture. If you’ve never frozen tofu before, you’ll just need to drain the tofu first, place it in a freezer bag or other container, and freeze it solid. Eliza (commenter below) says you don’t have to drain it. She just puts the whole package in the freezer. She also reminded me that this works best with extra firm tofu. When you’re ready to use it, just thaw it and squeeze out the excess water. Don’t freak out when the tofu turns a yellowish color, it’s normal. The tofu will keep in the freezer for up to 5 months.

I hate pressing tofu and I’ll probably never buy one of those TofuXpress presses. I was happy to find an easy, lazy method that’s Korean approved. I found this method while browsing through Debbie Lee’s new cookbook, Seoultown Kitchen. She recommends setting the tofu on top of a few paper towels and draining for about 10 minutes, then repeating on the other side. The book is fun and colorful, featuring a Korean take on pub food, including several vegetarian recipes. El Pasoans can request the book at the library here.

1st attempt (dredged in corn starch)

2nd attempt (without cornstarch. I forgot to add it.)

Bulgogi Marinade from Gourmet

(I got this recipe from here. Read the article & check out the other recipes for kimchi fried rice & slaw)

1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained & sliced or cubed to your shape/size preference
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (my addition)
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons mirin
2 teaspoons water

Combine all of the marinade ingredients. You can optionally sprinkle cornstarch over the tofu. Pour the marinade over the tofu and toss until coated. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat corn tortillas on a skillet or over an open flame. Serve with avocado, shredded red cabbage or Napa cabbage, cilantro, sesame seeds, and Sriracha sour cream.

Sriracha Sour Cream

¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons (or more) Sriracha
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon soy sauce

Combine until well blended.

Foodie Forecast

I hadn’t even considered posting a best of 2010/2011 forecast piece until I read an article in the El Paso Times. I was surprised to find that they actually wrote an article rather than publish a syndicated one. It was good to hear what EP restaurant owners are thinking and doing about the food scene here. I was inspired and thought it might be fun to try my hand at covering and forecasting EP’s food trends.

My 2010 Food Trend Year in Review:

Craft Beer, especially on draft.

  • 2010 was the year of beer in El Paso. The Side Door Liquor Store/State Line held its first annual beer tasting event in April, and I was blown away. There were unlimited tastings of over 100 beers. About eight of the beers were on tap, while the rest were in the bottle. Representatives from the breweries were present as well. It was like a mini version of Denver BrewFest. Their tasting was so successful, they decided not to wait a full year, and held another one in August. Other places such as Billy Crews held their own beer tastings as well.
  • Several beer dinners at local restaurants were also held throughout the year.
  • Commonwealth, a so-called gastropub (a pub that concentrates on quality food) opened. I haven’t been there because it does not look like there’s any veg items on the menu. I’m not sure if they were trying to emulate the Commonwealth bar in D.C., but I wish they actually had, because their menu looks amazing.
  • The Hoppy Monk, a bar that serves over 100 craft beers opened in December. No Budweiser or MillerCoors products are served there.

Farmers’ Markets

  • A couple of local farmers’ markets have been around for years, but they seemed especially trendy this past year.
  • New farmers’ markets popped up, such as the one at the Outlet Shoppes.

Food Trucks

Juarez Restaurants

  • This year we saw a lot of Juarez based restaurants open up locations in El Paso. Off the top of my head, they were: Carousel, Los Cunados, Garufa, and Tortas Nico. El Pasoans had mixed emotions about the establishments. Many were excited to have them come to El Paso, while the rest felt that these restaurants should not be supported because they are supposedly drug funded.

Social Media

  • A lot of local restaurants made the leap to Facebook and Twitter, some successful and some…well they just abandoned their sites. “I’m Doing El Paso” did a great job of letting El Pasoans know about drinking and eating news, as well as the best deals in town.
  • Some restaurants made their presence known on Foursquare by offering rewards.
  • Food trucks let everyone know of their location through Facebook and Twitter.

My 2011 Food Trend Forecast:
My list is probably going to look lazy to you because I feel that most of 2010’s trends are going to continue on in 2011. My hope is that they become bigger, better, and more affordable as the demand grows.

Beer

  • More bars, more craft on tap, & a focus on food pairings. Everyone has become or is trying to become a beer snob these days. El Pasoans are still true to their domestics, but they also want to splurge and sample craft and import beers. I think we’re going to see a couple more bars open that are going to try to capitalize off of the craft beer craze. A lot of current bars and restaurants are going to rethink their taps, and possibly add more out of the ordinary draught choices.
  • In 2010, we saw a first attempt at a gastropub via Commonwealth and an influx of beer dinners. I think more local restaurants are going to include beer pairing suggestions on their menus. I also think that beers will play a key ingredient in new menu offerings. Hopefully they will go beyond beer battered foods, chili, and beer floats. I heard that the Hoppy Monk is going to eventually open their kitchen and offer a small menu.
  • The Greenery, World Market, The Side Door Liquor Store, and some grocery stores sell single bottles of beer to create your own six pack. I think more people are going to want to host their own beer tastings at home.

Social Media

  • We’re definitely going to see more restaurants, both chain and local utilizing social media. Carl’s Jr. has bypassed Foursquare and other location based sites by creating their own mobile app rewards program. I don’t think local restaurants will invest in creating their own apps, so most will probably utilize Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, etc. Restaurants need to realize how important social media is to their businesses these days. Customers want to know what’s going on at their local restaurants, and interact with them both positively and negatively. This feedback is going to help restaurants succeed and better themselves, as well as create a strong loyalty to their brand. Chefs in larger cities are on Twitter and tweeting about what they’re cooking at both their restaurants and at home.

Seasonal Eating

  • The popularity of farmers’ markets has made us more aware of what’s in season.  I think El Pasosans are going to try to cook more with foods that are in season. It’s tastier, healthier, cheaper, and helps narrow down what to cook for dinner. Sustainability has been a hot topic for the past couple of years.

Vegetarianism

  • Meatless Monday was created back in 2003, but it picked up even more popularity in 2010. Many publications are including a weekly feature that focuses on Meatless Monday recipes, including the NY Times and Cooking Light. The Stanton Magazine also wrote an article about this trend. Unfortunately, someone posted a negative and ignorant comment about vegetarianism. I posted a comment, but it was never approved (?!), so you won’t see it there.
  • Last May, Mario Batali joined the Meatless Monday campaign by offering vegetarian options at all 14 of his restaurants on Mondays. They even came up with a cool, minimalistic MM logo. It would be great if El Paso restaurants had at least one veg option on their menus. Even chains like Applebee’s don’t have a substantial veg option.
  • Las Cruces opened SB’s Late-night Lunch Box, a mainly vegetarian/vegan restaurant. While I don’t foresee a veg restaurant opening this year in El Paso, I do think that more El Pasoans will order vegetarian at restaurants and dabble in cooking more meatless meals at home.

What trends did I miss? Do you have any forecasts for 2011?

Best of 2010: Beer Tasting @ State Line