Earlier this year, a food writer from New York City declared Austin the Breakfast Taco Capitol of Texas. That re-ignited a long-simmering feud with San Antonio. It didn't stop until the mayors met to sign a truce.
In this episode of Verify, it’s time to stir up this hornet's nest once more with the help of viewer Olivia Gonzalez.
Olivia has worked in restaurants her whole life. She blogs about food and knows great breakfast tacos can be found all across Texas. But on this trip, she'll be our breakfast taco judge and jury between these two Texas cities.
"Every part of the breakfast taco's got to have some kind of love in it," she said on the drive down to Austin with reporter David Schechter."
OK, here are the ground rules. Each city's convention and visitor’s bureau nominated three restaurants and provided us with one spokesperson. We ordered the same three breakfast tacos, everywhere (bean and bacon, potato and egg, barbacoa) with each owner choosing one wildcard taco. Then, we scored for things like taste, authenticity and the quality of the tortilla.
So, let's start in Austin, inside the kitchen of Juan in a Million. They’ve been open 36 years and have served breakfast tacos from Day 1.
"Oh, Dude,” said Olivia said to Schechter, biting into the first taco of the trip. “Don't hog it. Get it over here,” Schechter said back.
They gave Juan in a Million a combined score of 82.5 out of a possible 100 points.
To speak for Austin, the Convention and Visitors Bureau chose its communications manager, Shilpa Bakre. “We have a friendly rivalry with SA and SA offers some great things. I just think we beat them on breakfast tacos,” Bakre said.
“Wow, she's throwing it down,” Schechter said. “Them’s are fighting words," said Olivia.
“Here's the deal. Austin has the rap as the cool city,” Schechter said. “It kind of gets a rap for taking things and making them their own. Is that what happened with the breakfast taco?
“I think the BT was sort of always our thing and we just evolved it into being something much more unique then what it originally started,” Bakre said.
As we leave Austin and head to San Antonio, Olivia’s feeling a sense of responsibility.
“I am. This means a lot to me. Especially, since, growing up in South Texas and knowing the breakfast taco that I grew up with, I feel the weight man,” she said on the drive.
Alright San Antonio. Let’s see what you got.
First stop, El Milagrito, where they make the tortillas on-site, something we haven't seen yet. It opens at 5:30 a.m. and the tortillas are made fresh in the kitchen.
Our combined score for El Milagrito is 91.5. “That's way higher than anything we had in Austin,” Schechter said.
“Talk about setting the bar,” said Olivia.
Chosen to speak for San Antonio is Edmund Tijerina, food writer for the San Antonio Express-News.
“In San Antonio people expect that a good breakfast taco place is going to be making their own tortillas,” he said.
“The breakfast taco is a part of the Mexican-American experience. And San Antonio is the epicenter of the Mexican American experience,” said Tijerina.
“And San Antonians are pretty laid back and pretty forgiving but when, you know, Austin is trying to take credit for this, then that’s when San Antonio says okay. Hey, wait a minute, enough now,” he added.
Over at Taco Haven, they take the extra step to roll the tortillas by hand. Score? 90.
The last stop on Olivia's great breakfast taco tour, Taco Taco with a score of 85.5.
What we need now is an objective voice. Jared Neece is a taco journalist, who wrote a book on breakfast tacos.
Here’s how he breaks it down
“San Antonio is just, I think, has so many authentic options. It’s so engrained in people down there. You don’t even think about talking about it because ‘it’s just like obviously we have breakfast tacos,’” he said.
And Austin? Because so many people visit there, and discover the breakfast taco there he says it's the city that bringing breakfast tacos to the world."
"Austin’s unique. Austin does unique food. And whether doing that is taking it away from the traditional and making it something else and it’s losing its roots or if you just think it’s the evolution of the breakfast taco, I guess that’s up to you to decide,” Neece added.
24 breakfast tacos later, Olivia's got a very difficult decision. Austin, or San Antonio?
“San Antonio was more about heart, it was more about love it was more about the tortilla, which was really important.
But it felt different. There was something magical about the breakfast taco in San Antonio,” Olivia said.
How about Austin?
"I expected when we went to Austin that things were going to get really crazy. Like the miso, egg, pork belly breakfast taco and things like that. They gave us a lot of traditional tacos. I was surprised. I was really surprised,” she said.
Adding up final scores Austin gets 81.5 and San Antonio 89.
“That's a lot higher,” Schechter said. “That is a lot higher. The reason behind that boiled down to one thing. The tortillas,” said Olivia.
“The tortillas were better in San Antonio,” said Schechter. “The tortillas were way better in San Antonio," Olivia said.
So, our question was, what’s the breakfast taco capital of Texas? And?
“It's going to be San Antonio,” said Olivia. Verified, by Olivia.
In the end, San Antonio had a better combined score. But, for Olivia, San Antonio simply could not be matched in its passion for the breakfast taco. But don’t take my word for it. Take hers.
- We know you want the truth and you don’t always believe the media gives it to you. So, this week we’re throwing out our news playbook and experimenting a bit. We’re taking real people on the road. They’re asking their own questions and reaching their own conclusions. It’s called Verify.
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