Those of you who watch the news might know that the Pacific Northwest is under a storm warning/advisory today. I had fully expected to stay home by myself all day and ride out the storm. I had specifically purchased peanut butter and canned tuna, two foods that are Not My Favorites, and a new MagLite flashlight, to ride this sucker out, reading a book in the half-dark, maybe with the occasional entertainment of a large oak tree barreling down my street, carried by forceful winds. This has not happened. While I have little compassion for immature people, I do have lots of it for immature trees. As I live on a Gentrification Block full of slender, twiggy tree residents recently planted in small squares of dirt, I keep looking out my window to see if those immature tree friends are being uprooted and tossed against the parked cars. So far, they just waggle around like those air-filled dancing weird air things in front of Jiffy Lubes.
I did not expect that today would have Adventures. I rolled my ass out of bed this morning, saw unthreatening weather, and hiked my bum to Zumba class, and figured that would be it for socialization for the day, but as I was rolling home afterwards, my from-Austin pal Phil rang me to say that he was homesick for breakfast tacos. He had a hankering. Would I like to join him for homestyle brunch at the local Austin-ish meatery called “Partners?”
The answer was yes, and so we went to Partners, where I had been wanting to try their Austin-style brunch options. For some reason, whenever the weekend rolls around and friends want to do brunch, I never think of Partners, but here we were, two Austinites with VERY STRONG OPINIONS ON BREAKFAST TACOS.
I will say here that Phil is a very chill dude, so when we were going over exactly what Partners was getting wrong with breakfast tacos and why, he was very calm. Phil ordered the meat-filled breakfast taco, which had upwards of seven ingredients in it, which was the first problem with their breakfast tacos. Back home in Tejas, a breakfast taco has two, maybe three, four items inside: eggs (obvs.), cheese, bacon or sausage, maybe beans, potato. THAT’S IT. Anything else is gilding the lily. The beauty of the breakfast taco is its simplicity.
Partners had exceeded the recommended number of ingredients. They had also exceeded the recommended circumference of a breakfast taco’s flour tortilla by using burrito-size 9″ tortillas. “What are you, a size queen?” Phil asked of the Partners breakfast taco mastermind, alluding to the idea that if you think a taco has to be this big to feel good, maybe you should just call it a burrito and pull your head out of your ass.
The other place in town advertising Austin-style tacos causes much consternation by using piddly-ass 4″ tortillas, which is bullshit. You’d get shot in the face if you pulled that shit in Texas, but here, it flies. My quarrel with Partners tortillas was that they were clearly from Safeway. These were average-ass store tortillas, the ones I avoid buying as they are starchy and have a slight chemical tang. I thought about the HEB mitad y mitad tortillas I have in my freezer, and worried about losing them to a power outage, and how I’d pay someone in Austin to FedEx me more of them because they are THAT GOOD.
The whole time we were eating, we were talking about Tacodeli. Tacodeli is the gold standard of Austin gringo taquerias. They serve something like forty different varieties of tacos, but my favorite is always the migas, followed by The Otto (beans, bacon, avocado). In fact, at some point, Phil and I considered opening a Tacodeli franchise in Portland, because that would make some serious bank. Take the line you see in front of Salt & Straw on a Saturday night, multiply that by ten, and that would be the line at Tacodeli. Tacodeli is the holiest of holies when it comes to the category of Gringo Tacos. We know they’re gringo, but they’re really fucking amazing. And their awesomeness has nothing to do with the quality of the tortilla. The tortilla is merely the vehicle by which tasty ingredients get to your mouth hole.
So why were we bitching about Partners tortillas when we wouldn’t give a care or thought to the tortillas were we at Tacodeli? It’s not ABOUT THE TORTILLA at Tacodeli. Or Torchy’s.
Because the other ingredients weren’t grabbing center stage with deliciousness, yo! No Doña salsa up in the Beaver State.
The thing is, objectively, there was nothing wrong with my migas plate. Sure, it wasn’t Tacodeli: at Tacodeli, their potatoes are mashed and creamy and full of green chiles. Every other place in the world has home fries. Whatever. Partners had acceptable home fries, fairly good beans (Phil thought they were Rosarita from the can), and eggs scrambled with The 3 Chs (chips, cheese, chiles) plus onion and tomato and a scoop of guac. Objectively good migas. Better than Torchy’s! (Torchy’s scrambles their eggs in the devil’s sebaceous excretions–always stomach-churningly greezy, those eggs.)
WHY WERE WE NOT DIGGING IT?
“There should be a steam tray by the cash register full of foil-wrapped tortillas, marked with a sticker that says what’s inside. “That’s legit.”
The breakfast taco is the food of the people in Austin. $2, maybe $3, max, and you are full and fed, and there’s only eggs, cheese, and potato or bacon, and the salsa really holds it all together. They sell them in coffee shops, and the steam tray ones are kind of puffy and soggy, but soooooo good.
Maybe there should be a food cart that does legit breakfast tacos, we mused. It would do well. But people wouldn’t GET IT. They’d want soyrizo spinach breakfast tacos, or eggs and wild boar meat. Something that a regular Texan would think was gringo-ass stupidity.
Why do we forgive Tacodeli its gringoness but not anywhere in Portland?
ARE WE NOT GRINGOS? (Yes, we are gringos.)
The Storm of the Century was not manifesting, so we paid our $22 check and fled ass out of Partners and hit up the nail salon, still trying to figure out what’s going on here with breakfast tacos, with us, with the hold that Austin, Texas, will forever have on our palates?
The answer we came to is that we just have to make breakfast tacos at home.