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McALLEN — Taquerias Tlaquepaque Hnos is an unassuming restaurant sandwiched in between a slew of other businesses at a small plaza on North 10th Street in McAllen.
For years, I’d driven through that particular stretch and had never noticed the taqueria there until my girlfriend pointed it out. She is better at noticing things than I am, she says.
Walking inside, we were greeted by the sounds of Mana playing from the speakers and one worker on staff who walked us to our table and tossed some menus at us before running off to another table, and then to the back, and then back to us for our drink order.
He never seemed to stop.
I ordered the agua de jamaica, which was a bit more tart than sweet for my liking, but still not too bad. My girlfriend ordered the agua de melon, which was sweet and refreshing.
After studying our menus, the exhausted looking waiter returned to take our orders. My girlfriend ordered the dorados, five corn tortillas filled with deshebrada, or shredded and seasoned beef, and refried beans. The tortillas were rolled, fried, and served with shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes, avocado, and a dusting of queso fresco.
I ordered the tacos Matamoros, which were five tacos de bistec served on corn tortillas with queso fresco, avocado and grilled onions.
After taking our orders, the server delivered some cups of beans served in what can only be described as styrofoam dixie cups. I considered tossing it back like a shot of Jäger, but I didn’t want to embarrass my girlfriend who is always pleasant and perfect in every way.
Our food arrived with a red salsa that packed more spice than flavor compared to its companion salsa verde that seemed to pair better with our order.
The dorados were as promised, a golden-fried tortilla that crunched with every bite, but unlike a Taco Bell shell, didn’t shatter. It contrasted nicely with the well-seasoned and tender beef inside. My girlfriend drizzled some crema and salsa verde on top while attempting to balance the small mountain of cabbage, tomatoes and avocados with each bite.
Those dorados would’ve stolen the show if not for my order, which arrived in a small circle with the grilled onions in the middle, like the most delicious flower.
I know there are taquerias on every corner of every street in the Rio Grande Valley, and every one of them is better than the next, but hear me out.
Remember the pivotal scene in “Ratatouille” toward the end when the food reviewer, Anton Ego, takes a bite of the namesake dish, and he’s immediately transported back in time to his childhood in the French countryside? C’mon. You ‘member.
Well, I had a similar experience, but instead, I was taken back to my 18-year-old self, slightly intoxicated on the streets of Matamoros, buying tacos from a man with a disco attached to a food cart outside a club filled with other raucous teenagers, before my friends and I feigned sobriety and made our way back home through customs.
The tacos were served with two corn tortillas for extra durability. They laid flat, as though welcoming with open arms the juicy, succulent bits of bistec dressed with queso fresco and avocado slices.
Needless to say, these were some of the best and most authentic tacos I’ve had in years.
Taquerias Tlaquepaque Hnos is located at 4705 N. 10th St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.