Arte Es

Taqueria Guadalajara #1
2702 Roosevelt
6am-11pm daily Mon-Thu, 6am-3am Fri-Sat,
7am-11pm Sun
Credit cards above $5
Plates: $4.49-$6.49
Bathrooms not accessible

Compared to many of the city's other mature streets - Fredricksburg and Flores come to mind - not a lot seems to happen on Roosevelt. True, it does pass by Mission San José, and if you persevere, you'll end up at Stinson Field, but the good grit of git-down San Antonio is largely missing - until you come to a landmark such as Taqueria Guadalajara. It's said to be the sometime hangout of local artists - though that assertion couldn't be verified during my visits - but the real art may be of another sort. You have to be willing to define the term very broadly, however.

Breakfast at TG#1 (there are five others around town) may put you more regularly in the company of law-enforcement figures, but it will certainly land you squarely in the realm of huevos rancheros and tacos stuffed with chicharron en salsa and papas con chorizo. Having once been seriously scared by a plate of machacado con huevo, I continue to get back in the saddle by ordering it almost every chance I get, and TG's rendition rated fairly high on the redemptive scale. Yes, there was a little grease, but there was also plenty of shredded, dried beef, and the flavor was rich and primal. The same can be said for the lardy-tasting refrieds and the tender, though machine-made, corn tortillas. Beware the lethal green sauce served in a squeeze bottle, but do take comfort in surroundings that are puro San Antonio: a presiding portrait of Selena, lots of babes-'n'-beer advertising, and a juke box competing with a couple of TV sets.

Barbacoa, migas, pork chops, and pancakes are other breakfast options - as are margaritas, piña coladas, and the rice drink known as horchata. For the caffeine-challenged, there is no brewed decaf, so be prepared to have hot chocolate or Big Red instead (not that the caffeine content is much less in the latter). A Bud Light or Bohemia will seem more appropriate in the evening, when the dueling TVs are right at home in the clangorously colorful décor. Diversity is also represented by seafood selections such as a coctel de camaron and mojarra frita that aren't staples on every Tex-Mex menu. But nachos with bean, cheese, and fajitas seem to lead more naturally into plates from the interior than from the coast, so carne carried the day.

I can't say that I loved these nachos, and faithful readers (of which there have to be at least a few) will immediately know why: they're of the pile-it-all-on-in-a-jumble variety. If you get all three tastes on a single chip, it's your lucky day. (Yes, I prefer the labor-intensive, individually composed kind. Might know.) The chopped fajita wasn't sufficiently interesting in its own right to save the situation, though liberal lashings of the house's impressively tangy (there's no better word) red sauce did go far in sexing up the molten mound.

Carne al pastor, on the other hand, was a blend that rocked. Pork, beef, and onions are combined in this homage to the herder (who would be more likely to be shepherding sheep or goats than pigs and cows, but never mind). The tastes are artlessly artful - which is to say three good basics are combined in perfect proportions, and the result is a modest masterpiece by anyone's standards. The lusty carne also combined perfectly with shamelessly bacony beans Jalisco-, or a-la-charra-, style. The house guacamole is too blended and basic for my taste, but it was fresh, and with the addition of a little pico de gallo, it mellowed out the meat when stuffed into a tender flour tortilla.

I won't elegize the chile relleno to quite the same extent - for starters, it's stuffed with cheese, not the beef with potato, raisins, and almonds that is a personal favorite. But at least TG is upfront about it; the eggy batter coating is classic, if a little oily, and the ranchero sauce topping the whole is also studded with jalapeños, adding up to a chile-squared combination. (You never know about poblanos, but this one packed a punch.) More lardy beans and impressive "Spanish" rice with unusually aggressive chunks of carrot rounded out the plate. Steak a la Mexicana, daily menudo, Pollo Fantastico topped with cheese, a Tejas plate with carne guisada, and a Plato Jalisciense with beef fajitas and beans sprinkled with jack cheese are among other offerings, all more or less typical of the dozens of taquerias around town with Guadalajara and Jalisco prominent in their names. TG #1 may not beat all of them in every category, but it does remind us of an honest, Tex-Mex tradition that can stake a certain claim to art - beer babes, Selena, eagle images (I forgot to mention the eagle images), and all.


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