It’s the end of the month and therefore time for another installment of Travels with Frenchie, the monthly food series in which a trio of culturally mismatched San Antonians explores the city in search of dining adventure. As always, the culinary vice squad consisted of: Frenchie (aka Fabien Jacob, local sommelier), Carlos the Bike Mechanic (aka Carlos Montoya, a man who eats only tropical fruit and grilled meats), and me (a Physician Assistant student and known taco-truck stalker). This month, our special guest was Carlos the Other Bike Mechanic (aka Carlos Matutes, a former Montoya coworker who is now a popular massage therapist often found at Whole Foods and Central Market.)
We found our way to Taqueria Datapoint, an intriguing late-night spot hidden in the medical-center complex. Though initially drawn in by a strong word of mouth, we were even more excited to learn Taqueria Datapoint began as a noble taco truck before building a permanent home on Medical Drive. Though many local restaurants try to stand out from the herd by claiming “authentic Mexican food,” this taqueria goes its own direction with an esoteric connection to, of all things, Data Point Drive. Though Taqueria Datapoint is easily the most interesting taqueria name of all time, the enigmatic appeal deepens when one considers it’s not even located on Data Point, but one block over on Medical.
We arrived around 1 a.m. and sat down in the back corner. Matutes appreciated the simple strip-mall appeal. “Nothing like tons of unused sconces and faux-finished walls to stir up an appetite,” he commented wryly. “The menu included a lot more Tex-Mex standards than I would have thought, but there was still a solid representation of taco truck fare — taquitos, tortas and the like.”
After ordering, we had to resist the innate urge to hang out in the parking lot and eat our food in true taco-truck fashion.
Frenchie boldly went first with an array of tripas and lengua taquitos, served on the li’l corn tortillas. “I wasn’t expecting the tripas to be fried, but it was well done: crispy outside and tender inside,” Frenchie said. “The lengua was moist and tasty. Some places don’t wash the tongue very well and that can give it a very unpleasant flavor.”
We all assumed Carlos Montoya would order beef and more beef, but he unexpectedly went with several chicken tortas, which for him is like eating a salad. “The torta was excellent,” Montoya raved. “Very flavorful, and it was obvious that someone took the time to let the chicken simmer.”
Matutes had a positive experience as well. “I had to go for a baseline, and like any good Cuban, mine is pig,” he said. “Carnitas and al-pastor tacos are a necessity. The pastor was nicely flavorful, with lots of fruit in the marinade and tender meat.”
For me, the arbitrary gold standard is an al-pastor torta, and I had a few minor quibbles with Datapoint’s version: too much cheese and the bread wasn’t toasted. But I agreed with Matutes’s overall al-pastor assessment.
As Montoya ordered plate after plate, an overall opinion of Taqueria Datapoint began to take shape. Was the food the best we’d ever had? No, but no one was asking for that. Was this some of the better food in town at 2 in the morning? That’s the way to look at it. I’d compare the atmosphere at Taqueria Datapoint to the famous Edward Hopper painting “Nighthawks,” in which solitary diners are lost in their own worlds. It’s not a perfect representation, but mainly because Hopper probably never tried al-pastor or lengua taquitos.
Frenchie: The lengua was better than most places I’ve tried in town.
Carlos the Bike Mechanic: That chicken was really moist and nicely stewed. I normally prefer a good cut of beef, but that torta is something I would try again if I’m in the neighborhood.
Carlos the Other Bike Mechanic: Being a good Cuban, I stayed with the pork and was not disappointed.
Mark Jones: The spirit of the taco truck lives on at Taqueria Datapoint. You know they’re always going to be there, which is reassuring. •