Taqueria Latino

Taqueria Latino

My Friday’s start early as I want to be at Taqueria Latino at 5:00am when the doors open. This Friday morning is especially cold for Houston, Texas. It is 32 degrees with a slight wind blowing. For me, I know to leave at about 4:35 to make the trip from Sugar Land into Houston to the location at Fondren and Harwin. As I get set to leave I go outside and start the car and return in to get my things and make sure I have taken my medicines. As I look into the medicine cabinet I contemplate the culinary expedition I am about to partake in and decide that an extra tab of Lipitor is in order for today’s breakfast.

I gather my things and head out into the early morning air. It is an easy drive this early even to cover the twenty or so miles to the restaurant. I’ll set the cruise control to 45 or 50 on Hwy 90A and breeze on through Sugar Land to Hwy 59 and turn north and bump the speed up to fifty. The light traffic has plenty of room to pass either side of me and I know this easy pace will set me down in the parking lot of Taquerio Latino at just a few minutes before 5:00am. The trip up Fondren is the slowest stretch as the lights seem timed to catch you at every intersection, but I hit the parking lot as I intended.

I pull up to the small restaurant and park just to the right of the entrance. The front of the restaurant is still dimly lit, but just behind the steam table the lights are bright and I can see they are busy preparing the mornings feast. A sign on the convenience store wall next door announces that they accept the “Lone Star” card. Thirty‐five years ago this was a more upscale neighborhood, but urban flight has sent most of the people that were here then to the suburbs of Katy, Sugar Land and Missouri City. For this kind of made from scratch, traditional Hispanic fare, this is the place to be.

Inside Lupita has seen my headlights swing into the parking light and she has readied for me a large cup of their fine coffee. This is no fancy coffee with European names, just good, high quality Colombian coffee and it will be just right for waking me up and getting my appetite running. The third employee has now entered the parking lot, being delivered here by her husband and as she exits his truck I greet her and she me as she unlocks the door.

She is short, so I reach up as we enter the door and flip the switch on the sign that says “OPEN”. Now I turn and head to the counter where Lupita has already begun preparing my order. I have been coming here for almost five years, so she knows the drill and is anxious to get it started, before the early morning crowds arrive. I do my part and label the bags for the order, which is as follows:

10 of the Potato, Onion, Jalapeno with cheese; 10 of the Bacon and Egg; 5 of the Chorizo and Egg; and 10 of the Potato, Egg and Sausage.

Now I could spend the time to detail for you all the flavorful and fine ingredients for these, but I am here today to lift up and praise their delicious Barbacoa taco, so I will try to remain on point.

While Lupita prepares the order I turn and watch the flat screen TV hanging on the wall in the small dining area. It is tuned to the local Spanish language channel as at the bottom it reads “Noticias 45”. Here is my chance to brush up on Spanish. “Noticias 45”: News channel 45. Another banner on the bottom of the screen reads “Actualidad”. This means actually, which I take to indicate that the scene I am watching is live.

The act playing out on the television is not unusual here in Houston and it shows a phalanx of police cars in pursuit of a perp down a narrow street that looks an awful lot like Harwin. As I try to figure out what is going on this caravan appears in the corner of my vision heading this way. The knucklehead in the lead car trying to outrun the HPD then bounces up into the gas station across the street, exits his vehicle and throws down on the officers with his handgun. As his gun spits fire at the cops I register the sound as a small caliber, maybe a .32. Clearly he hasn’t thought this out as the officers return fire with their service revolvers, which are probably .38’s.It ends badly for him as he is hit a number of times before falling still on the cold concrete of the gas station.

This much excitement has really spun up my hunger and now Lupita is finishing my order with the Barbacoa taco. If you haven’t ever had Barbacoa and don’t know what it is, then you must try it sometime. As with sausage, you don’t really want to know how it is made, but I can assure you that Taqueria Latino makes theirs from only the finest Coa. It looks a bit like Carne Asada, which is a thinly sliced grilled beef, but with more fat, but it is not (thus the extra tab of Lipitor this morning). And thus Lupita chooses wisely to wrap it in 2 flour tortillas.

It is served plainly like this and she offers me individual sides of sliced limes, chopped onion and cilantro. This is how I prefer mine: I will take 1 slice of lime and drizzle the juice over the Barbacoa. One or two slices, depending on how juicy the lime is, then I will garnish liberally with cilantro and a modicum of chopped onion. With coffee this makes a delicious breakfast and I won’t be hungry again until lunchtime. For any fan of the breakfast taco, you must try this.

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