What a scandal: List of top fast food takes Texas favorite for granted

We Texans can get pretty defensive about our state’s homegrown fast food treasure, Whataburger. So it’s clear as day that the staff at The Ringer made a few errors in regards to its list of the “Top 50 fast food items in America.

The Corpus Christi-born chain landed in the No. 37 spot with one of the “All-Time Favorites” menu items, the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich. The Ringer left off the “strip” in its name, which is the first of many mistakes (in my opinion) made in this ranking, which include:

  1. Ranking the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich way too low at No. 37
  2. Only placing one Whataburger item on the list to begin with
  3. Placing three burgers from California’s In-N-Out ahead of Whataburger

The Ringer is based in Los Angeles, so perhaps there is a slight regional bias. Whataburger has a Texas-sized online personality and is deeply embedded into our state’s food culture. How could a list of the greatest fast food not mention the expansive menu of items like chicken strips, burgers the size of your head, milkshakes and the holy grail of breakfast food, the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit?

Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries landed in the top spot of the list. A truly eclectic ranking, somehow enough people are convinced Arby’s is worth visiting that the curly fries and roast beef sandwich ranked higher than Whataburger. Other items ranking higher than the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich:  Taco Bell’s chicken quesadilla, McDonald’s baked apple pie and Chipotle’s soft tacos. Auntie Anne’s pretzel landed in the top 20!

Since the list was decided by The Ringer’s staff, I asked my colleagues what they thought of the whole ranking. Here are some choice comments from our newsroom:

  • “HBCB in the middle of the night or bust.” – assistant online editor Gabrielle Munoz
  • “I won’t be reading any list that starts with Chick-fil-A fries. Gross. That being said, the Whataburger honey butter chicken biscuit is fast food nirvana.” – assistant features editor Emily Quigley
  • “Honey BBQ chicken is to die for.” – sports columnist Kirk Bohls
  • “I used to work at Raising Cane’s, and I’m very proud of that, so I take it very personally that their sauce didn’t get its own list item on this list. And – biggest mistake of all – they didn’t even mention the Whataburger Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit. THEY DIDN’T EVEN MENTION IT. I’m pretty sure it’s scientifically proven to be the best thing to eat at 3 a.m. ever.” – Rachel Rice, reporter for the Westlake Picayune and Lake Travis View
  • “I’m disappointed that Taco Bell’s Cinnamon Twists aren’t on this list. Crunchy pieces of fried dough dusted with cinnamon sugar… what’s not to love?! These treats kept my sister and I happy on plenty of family road trips during our childhood.” – multimedia producer Tina Phan
  • “Wendy’s chili is getting so screwed over here.” – online content producer Joe Harrington
  • “It is absurd to rank a Shake Shack burger under a McDonald’s burger. This is not a slight on the Big Mac: I believe that every fast food item has its relative merits. There is room for, say, a Taco Cabana taco and Taco Bell taco in all our lives, on their own terms. But when one considers the objective values assigned to each component part of the hamburger – freshness of bun, flavor and texture of meat, melt of cheese – ranking a Big Mac over a Shack Burger is a farce of the highest order and an attack on the very concept of fact-based evidence. And why even bother placing Popeyes menu items in contention if you are going to exclude red beans and rice, which are the perfect side dish? Also: Blizzards are Beyonce, McFlurrys are Rita Ora. Correct placement.” – social media and engagement editor Eric Webb
  • Another one of our multimedia producers, Alyssa Vidales, just sent me this video of someone trying to burn a Big Mac using molten copper.

If fast food is your thing, go ahead and try out everything on the list. Austin is home to every chain ranked (yes, even a Culver’s!).  And if you go a little overboard, head on over to our Fit City blog for fitness tips or Relish Austin for fresh cooking ideas.

Wall Street Journal praises Austin breakfast tacos, limits list to five taco places

Photo by Matthew Odam
From Rosita’s Al Pastor. Photo by Matthew Odam

It’s always interesting to get an outsider perspective on Austin classics.

The Wall Street Journal gave Austin a shout-out in a piece titled “Breakfast Tacos: The 5 Best Places to Find Them in Austin, Texas.” The five places? Veracruz All Natural, Tamale House East, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, Delicious and Rosita Al Pastor.

Because we take tacos very seriously in Austin, none of these discoveries are new to us. This is the city that birthed Torchy’s Tacos (which did not make the Wall Street Journal’s list, unfortunately). This is a place where newspaper staff eats Tacodeli instead of pizza on Election Night.

From Austin’s perspective:

  • Veracruz All Natural has made our critics’ picks list two years in a row, and even was named the nation’s No. 11 best taco spot. The Statesman’s food critic Matthew Odam praised the tacos for their delicious tortillas and perfect blend of salt and pepper, writing, “If there’s a better trailer taco in Austin than the migas taco ($2.50) from Veracruz All Natural, I’ve yet to come across it.”
  • Tamale House East is an extended legacy; the owners’ grandparents owned the original Tamale House that fed Austinites in 1958. The restaurant recently added 16 beer taps, and even offer advice on which beer to pair with which tamale. Tamale House East is the only remaining Tamale House branch still operating; Bobby Vasquez opened another branch of Tamale House on Airport Boulevard in 1977, but the restaurant closed after his death in 2014.
  • Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ does have killer brisket tacos, and the Violet Taco (the owner’s second food truck) has the same great style, just dedicated to tacos.
  • Rosita’s Al Pastor holds its own in a town full of al pastor tacos.
  • And Fact Check: though Delicious is, well, delicious, calling it a taco joint is a bit of a stretch. The majority of the menu is “sandos” (sandwiches) and brunch items.

Please don’t limit yourself to only five breakfast taco places. Try every Austin taco you encounter. If that sounds intimidating, take this comprehensive list of the best breakfast tacos in Austin as a guide.

El Arroyo gets in one last joke before Election Day is over

Austin restaurant El Arroyo is celebrating Election Day with yet another punny sign.

This is hardly the first time El Arroyo has weighed in on politics. During the recent clown scare, the sign was updated to put the Mexican restaurant’s two cents into the conversation.

And after the final presidential debate of 2016, the restaurant put up a silent message.

El Arroyo has had its share of generic election jokes:

And summed up the complex feelings everyone has about internet commenters:

While El Arroyo loses a steady stream of comedic fodder with the end of the 2016 election, its classic jokes live on forever on the internet.

Thank you for your tacos and for the smiles during these trying times, El Arroyo.

Eleven from ‘Stranger Things’ tried her first barbacoa taco in San Antonio and loved it

Twelve-year-old Millie Bobby Brown is officially an honorary Texan.



Last weekend in San Antonio, the good folks at Alamo City Comic Con introduced Brown, the British actress who played Eleven in Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” to the delicious joys of barbacoa. Spoiler alert: She loved it.


I have questions: Did she wash down her taco with Big Red? What other Texas cuisine did she sample last weekend? Will season two of “Stranger Things” see Eleven chowing down on tacos instead of Eggos? Nobody knows.

Brown wasn’t the only “Stranger Things” cast member in San Antonio for the convention. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, took in the sights and sounds (and flavors) of the Riverwalk.

And Caleb McLaughlin, a.k.a. Lucas, met some celebs.

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Epic airport moment. 🔥🔥 @kehlani

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Hope you had a great time in Texas, guys. Y’all come back now.


Paste Magazine dubs Tacodeli, Juan in A Million, Veracruz ‘must-try’ breakfast taco joints

Another day, another Austin to-do list. This time it’s from Paste Magazine, and it’s a list of the seven breakfast taco joints in Austin you simply must try, according to writer Ashley Blom.

We love tacos in Austin (duh). We eat them at every meal, shoot them out of cannons and even get in epic feuds with neighboring cities about who makes a better taco. But what’s the best taco in Austin? That’s a topic of much contention.

9/20/10 Mike Sutter/American-Statesman. A breakfast taco called the Vaquero (eggs, Monterey Jack cheese, corn, roasted red and poblano peppers) on a whole weat flour from Tacodeli on Spyglass Drive. For 30 Tacos, 30 Days cover story for Austin360 tab. 1014xlcover.
9/20/10 Mike Sutter/American-Statesman. A breakfast taco called the Vaquero (eggs, Monterey Jack cheese, corn, roasted red and poblano peppers) on a whole weat flour from Tacodeli on Spyglass Drive.

According to Paste, the must-try breakfast tacos in Austin are as follows:

  1. Tacodeli (which they misspell as Taco Deli — strike one)
  2. Juan in a Million
  3. Veracruz All-Natural (another misspelling, but OK)
  4. Torchy’s
  5. Taco Flats
  6. Valentina’s
  7. Tamale House East

Tacodeli, Torchy’s, Juan in a Million and Veracruz All-Natural have topped many a list of must-eat tacos in Austin — last year, Foursquare users ranked Tacodeli and Torchy’s as the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in town, with Juan in a Million sliding in at No. 49. Also last year, the Food Network ranked Veracruz’s tacos as one of the top five tacos in the entire United States.

RELATED: Three Austin taco joints make list of ‘greatest’ in U.S.

But this barely scrapes the surface of the tacos that will delight your taste buds in Austin. For example, there’s El Naranjo, which came in as No. 18 on our food critic Matthew Odam’s list of the top 25 restaurants in Austin this year. And back in April, we published this list of 11 truly excellent taco joints around town, and not a single one of Paste’s top-seven makes Odam’s list.

I’m not telling you who to believe here. I’m an equal-opportunity taco enthusiast. My advice? Work your way through Paste’s list, through Odam’s list(s), through whatever taco list your little heart desires, because let’s be real — any taco is better than no taco at all.

But for my own selfish purposes, I’d like to know: What’s your favorite taco joint in Austin? Any and all recommendations are welcome here. Feel free to tweet ’em at me @psencikk or hit up my email: kpsencik@statesman.com.

2016 Dining Guide: Top 25 Restaurants in Austin

Take a taco tour around Austin

This National Taco Day, remember Austin’s dedication to favorite dish

Taco Joint is now open at 134 E. Riverside Drive. Matthew Odam/American-Statesman
Tacos from the newest Taco Joint location, at 134 E. Riverside Drive.
Matthew Odam/American-Statesman

While we have recommendations of places to try and tacos to sample for National Taco Day, let’s take a moment to remember this year in tacos.

Here in Austin, we take our taco pride seriously. In 2016, Austin has declared a taco war, fed Weird Al Yankovic tacos and invented a taco cleanse.

Tacos have also become weapons in the past year. Two Austinites are using tacos as a tool to encourage civic engagement; Audrey Maker and Jose Valera have already committed two taco trucks to register voters in Travis County in a movement they’ve named “Guac the Vote.” As Texas gets closer to registering 15 million voters, Maker and Valera want to recruit taco trucks that serve areas with low registration areas and a lot of foot traffic.

“As a business owner, I want to stay apolitical,” Valera said. “But this is not a partisan push — this is a voter registration push, and something we’d like to turn into a voter turnout push. It’ll be a success if we get 50 new voters.”

Marco Gutierrez, the founder of Latinos for Trump, warned on Sept. 1 that if the U.S. doesn’t “do something about” immigration, there would be taco trucks on every corner. Mayor Adler responded with a passionate defense of the taco trucks.

“We in this room know taco trucks for what they are: the very ambassadors of community, of justice, and of guacamole — truly all that makes life worth living, the very bedrocks of our democracy, and of our breakfast,” Adler said.

However you celebrate National Taco Day, don’t forget Austin’s taco past. And don’t forget today, when San Antonio gave Torchy’s Tacos a thumbs up.



There’s not a taco truck on every corner in Austin, but …

People are going to start seeing “taco trucks (on) every corner” if immigration from Mexico continues at its current rate,  Latinos for Trump founder Marco Gutierrez said on MSNBC on Thursday. Would you guess that people on Twitter might have taken that comment and run with it?

The statement sparked the #TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner hashtag, and most of the related tweets posit that a dispensary of tortilla-based delight at every metropolitan juncture would not be the worst thing in the world.


There isn’t a taco truck on every corner in Austin, but our market saturation is as close to that reality as you’re likely to get in America. No matter what your take on the political side of this discussion, it is a non-partisan truth that tacos are one of the finest foods ever invented.

One of Veracruz All-Natural'’s specialty tacos. (handout photo)
One of Veracruz All-Natural’’s specialty tacos. (handout photo)

Here are some taco recommendations from our entertainment staff:

  • Take a taco tour of Austin: Taco trailers on the tour include Capital Taco, La Fantabulous, La Flor, Mellizoz Tacos, Pueblo Viejo and Tacos Michoacan.
  • Taco Tuesday: They’re not all taco trucks, but do you care?
  • Veracruz All-Natural: Matthew Odam says they’re the best migas taco in town.

Talk about a ‘Taco Grande’: ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic ate at Torchy’s Tacos this week

We have proof that “Weird Al” Yankovic didn’t smell like Nirvana during his gig at Bass Concert Hall. In fact, he probably smelled like green chile queso.

Torchy’s Tacos tweeted a picture of the parody song grandmaster dining at their Guadalupe Street location around noon Tuesday.

We know it’s not on the menu, but we sincerely hope he ordered tacos al pastor. Or maybe something with “Spam” in it.

Yankovic is not the first esteemed dignitary to dine at the Austin fave, of course. President Barack Obama famously stopped at the South First Street location in March while he was in town for South by Southwest.

Weird Al Yankovic performs on his Welcome to the Return of the Mandatory Fun Tour at Bass Concert Hall at The University of Texas in Austin, Texas on July 12, 2016 - Photo Credit: Scott Moore/For American-Statesman
Weird Al Yankovic performs on his Welcome to the Return of the Mandatory Fun Tour at Bass Concert Hall at The University of Texas in Austin, Texas on July 12, 2016 – Photo Credit: Scott Moore/For American-Statesman


Point for us in the taco war with San Antonio. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Alamo City tried to get Flight of the Conchords or someone to swing down the highway now.

[h/t Eater Austin]


Petition wants writer ousted from Texas over breakfast taco article

For jpg labeled: taco haven 3 Taco Haven breakfast tacos featuring the Torres taco (front), Haven taco (right) and chorizo and egg taco (back). Photo credit: Kin Man, San Antonio Express-News 1023food >>MOVED. Now for 1016food.
Taco Haven breakfast tacos featuring the Torres taco (front), Haven taco (right) and chorizo and egg taco (back). Photo by Kin Man, San Antonio Express-News

Don’t mess with breakfast tacos.

On Friday, Eater Austin published an article that has since become the center of controversy in the taco world. A veritable taco-gate, if you will. Matthew Sedacca, the writer behind “How Austin Became the Home of the Crucial Breakfast Taco,” set out to deliver the history of the dish as it pertains to the state capital. The response on social media has been swift, resulting in many comments claiming the piece commits cultural appropriation and resulting in an online petition to throw Sedacca out of Texas.

The number of signatures on the petition has grown rapidly, with more than 500 supporters within the 11 hours of its existence.

In the original article, Sedacca writes, “Like most foods in the Tex Mex pantheon, the breakfast taco was born out of cross-pollinating Mexican culture with Anglo-Germanic ingredients that were available in Texas.” While later saying the dish’s origins “lie in the kitchens of immigrant Mexican families living in Texas,” the article cites only one other city in Texas. Corpus Christi during the 1950s, as explained by food writer Robert Walsh, saw the “first instance” of the breakfast taco, known then as the breakfast “taquito.”

Walsh is the man behind book titles such as “The Tex-Mex Cookbook,” “Legends of Texas Barbecue” and “Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook.” Citing this taco historian, Sedacca writes Austin is the birthplace of the phrase “breakfast taco” and also the city behind the food’s rise to fame. The South By Southwest festival also had a hand in attracting tourists from all over the country who then spread taco appreciation to cities outside of Texas, according to Walsh.

“So the word went out, and in Brooklyn and L.A., you can get Austin-style breakfast tacos,” Walsh told Eater Austin.

9/20/10 Mike Sutter/American-Statesman. A breakfast taco called the Vaquero (eggs, Monterey Jack cheese, corn, roasted red and poblano peppers) on a whole weat flour from Tacodeli on Spyglass Drive. For 30 Tacos, 30 Days cover story for Austin360 tab. 1014xlcover.
A breakfast taco called the Vaquero (eggs, Monterey Jack cheese, corn, roasted red and poblano peppers) on a whole weat flour from Tacodeli on Spyglass Drive. Photo by Mike Sutter/American-Statesman

Tamale House’s Diana Vasquez-Valera told Sedacca the story of her father’s past visit to California. Tacos were sold outside of a sit-down restaurant environment, which inspired the Austin restaurant. But even she told the publication the tacos were “not an overnight sensation, but a novelty, a delicioso concept.” Tacodeli’s Roberto Espinosa also drops a line about the democracy of the breakfast taco.

Many comments on the article mention San Antonio as another important city in the taco game, as well as the south Texas region. (Full disclosure, this breakfast taco-loving writer hails from San Antonio.)

“Tejanos have been eating them for centuries, and the Taco Cabana chain, from San Antonio, found a very strong foothold in the mid 1970s— long before what this article mentions Austin as experiencing,” user Artisus writes.

“I’m from San Antonio but live in Austin. Breakfast tacos are awesome but their ‘home’ definitely isn’t Austin as much as it is San Antonio. Sorry dude,” writes user mina184184.

On an Eater Austin Facebook post, commenters echoed those complaints.

“Only a place like Austin would claim itself to be the home of breakfast tacos, or the original creator of the phrase ‘breakfast taco,'” writes user Jason Ybarbo. “There’s a whole region south of Austin that would beg to differ on this claim, but we know how much Austin likes to practice cultural appropriation while socio-economically segregating said cultures.”

“An article regarding the origin of the breakfast taco that fails to mention its neighbor 80 miles south is simply ridiculous,” writes user Greg Goodman.

But back to the petition. Among other complaints, the call for Sedacca’s ouster states that “More absurd is the notion that ‘breakfast taco culture’ was either codified or normalized by a generation of birkenstock-clad tech-jockeys and university incubatees majoring in Phish and Social Safety Net Surfing, and not by the laborers who spent the last century waking up at 5 am, breaking their fast on huevos con papas outside a truck, to build the aforementioned demographic’s luxury condos.”

The online petition calls for some rather creative resolutions, including “immediate deportation of the offender to a neighboring state where more liberal interpretations of ‘tacos’ are tolerated”; a ban on taco-centric writing until courses on “Applied Taqueria Studies and a seminar in Tex-Mex Disambiguation” are completed; “re-education and re-habilitation” courtesy of the City of San Antonio; and a “San Antonio Day” observed in Austin to include “public singing of songs that beg forgiveness for all taco-related transgressions.”

Despite the petition and online comment backlash, Sedacca seems to be taking it in stride, posting a photo on Twitter with a burrito, thumbs up and a smile with “burritos 4 life” as the caption.

Four Austin residents have invented a ‘taco cleanse’

Flush that carrot juice down the toilet and blanket your hands with the comforting warmth of tortillas. It’s 2016, and there’s a delicious new detox on the cookbook shelf.

According to the Los Angeles Times, four Austin residents and self-styled “taco scientists” have designed a taco cleanse guaranteed to “prevent or reverse taco deficiency.” Sure, such a calamitous malady is likely all but eradicated in the Lone Star State. But if you’re looking for a healthy way to build your entire dietary life around refried beans and guacamole, that resolution is now much easier to keep.

(Mike Sutter/American-Statesman)
(Mike Sutter/American-Statesman file photo)

In “The Taco Cleanse: The Tortilla-Based Diet Proven to Change Your Life,” vegan foodies Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly R. Frisinger and Jessica Morris detail a method of replacing all meals for a month with tacos. Good news if you’re quite particular about your folded fare. The book offers much guidance, according to the Times:

“Before attempting the taco cleanse, the book offers a taco quiz, in which you answer a series of questions to discover your taco-eater personality. You can be a taco purist, taco sentimentalist, taco adventurist or taco contortionist. Yes, it’s just like those Cosmopolitan magazine quizzes.”

“The Taco Cleanse” also explains how to make vegan versions of tortillas (flour, corn or waffle), margaritas and popular fillings like picadillo, carne guisada and more.

Of course, Austin has no problem baptizing themselves in the sweet embrace of the taco. We’ve got one of Food Network’s top 5 tacos in America, and Foursquare thinks we’re the king of this particular cuisine. Of course, you already knew that. You’re probably stuffing a fried avocado ‘co from Torchy’s in your piehole as you read this.