In times of crisis, personal and pandemic, it’s only natural that people would seek some kind of comfort in familiar foods — the ones we grew up with or have come to love over the years.
For many in San Antonio, that means tacos.While there may always be carne guisada or papa con chorizo tacos, the broader category hasn’t stood still, especially in the past decade. Street-style tacos have made the move north from Mexico, enterprising chefs have adapted Korean and other ethnic flavors to the familiar format, and, as a recent trip revealed, gourmet tacos can even be found in such unlikely outposts as Copenhagen. Yes, Denmark, the home of New Nordic forager cuisine.
I say all this because, given its name, Say Town Tacos, newly opened at the Pearl Bottling Plant, sounds like the essence of local culture. But in fact, chef Luis Morales — who along with his wife Marsha owns Say Town — is pushing the corn and flour envelope. Some of our most outspoken critics, says Morales, have been locals who arrive expecting mom’s tacos and are confronted instead with something altogether different.
May I be blunt? Get over it!
As of press time, Say Town’s tacos were to be part of curbside pickup rolled out by the Bottling Plant, and delivery is in the works. Fortunately, I was able to sample on-site when that was still an option.
Let’s start with Say Town’s almost-too-clever Bean & Chisme, the one that’s likely to be the closest to something tried and true, despite the substitution of black beans for the perennial pinto. It’s served in a toasty, almost flaky flour tortilla custom made by La Adelita, and its anchor is a marvelously flavorful bean purée. Refrieds, if you prefer. A melty queso Oaxaca further lubricates the beans, and there’s pico and guacamole on the side. What’s not to like?
But it only gets better from there — and, yes, I tried them all. (Don’t worry, there are only four on the abbreviated menu.) The River Walk-o Taco comes cradled in two delicate corn tortillas from Sanitary Tortilla — “We don’t have room in this kitchen to make our own,” says Morales — and builds on a pulled chicken base. Think prudently spicy tinga de pollo, if you know that Pueblan dish. There’s some pico and crema on the side, a little guac and guajillo sauce from Morales’s other operation, Humble House Foods. It’s all beautifully seasoned and well balanced, and it shouldn’t scare even the most tradition-bound consumer.
Say Town’s beef entry, the Alamoo — sorry, that name is a little scary — is presented in a blue corn tortilla made from Oaxacan corn, and the savory, shredded carne shares space with cubed potato and crumbled queso fresco. The advertised veg slaw wasn’t much in evidence on my taco, but it hardly seemed to matter. Add more of one of the three available salsas if you like. That step didn’t seem necessary to me.
And lastest with the mostest is my personal favorite, the Fiesta Fuego. Feel free to consume several as you lament the postponing of the city’s biggest annual bash. In addition to pork, there’s rosy pickled onion as an accent here, more crumbled queso, and, though not mentioned on the posted menu, tiny clouds of crisp chicharron to add crunch. Poblano sauce adds spice. I loved it.
These last two I had as the only posted ordering option, the Pearl Platter ($10) with two-tone chips and fabulous, soupy black beans. When asked about the lack of individual pricing, Morales recounted an odd instance of resistance to a la carte ordering.
“I started out that way, but got push-back,” he said.
That’s a mystery to me. However, know the restaurant will gladly put together whatever plate you like. Know, too, that the order of nachos is humongous.
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