By Haylee Uptergrove
I remember my first breakfast taco with the same fondness one often feels when recalling a first love — with a warm, fuzzy contentedness accompanied by a satisfied smile.
I was 13 years old, in the throws of adolescence, navigating the terrifying world known as junior high school. I was just a girl, still innocent in the ways of breakfast tacos.
That would all change on a bus ride to a track meet.
The sky was barely lightening to the soft shade of blue that accompanies the early morning when my best friend turned to me and offered her half-eaten bean, cheese and bacon taco.
“Do you want the rest of this?” she asked sleepily.
I eyed the tortilla-wrapped creation in her hand warily. It was an odd concept for a girl whose breakfast worldview centered around Froot Loops and the occasional pancake or two. Still, it was free food, and even at that age, I never turned an offer like that down, a habit that has continued to this day.
I took the proffered taco from my sleepy friend, who smiled with already closing eyes, and took my first bite of the sacred Tex-Mex breakfast item.
My life was never the same.
Although it took until my teenage years to sample the traditional breakfast dish of South Texas, breakfast tacos have been a staple all over the state for decades, dating back to almost the beginning of Texas itself.
While it is a hotly disputed debate over where the breakfast taco originated — Austinites claim ownership of the dish even as the rest of Texas collectively rolls its eyes — it can be said without contest that the often cheese-laden, always tortilla-wrapped creation was birthed in the southern-most parts of the Lone Star State.
Stop at any hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant along I-37 and you will be sure to find on the menu a variety of breakfast tacos offered, from spicy Barbacoa (pit-cooked cow’s head meat) to slightly less adventurous options such as bacon, egg and cheese, all wrapped in a light-as-air, big-as-your-face tortilla.
You will likely only be able to finish half of it, and that’s alright — they are delicious even after being wrapped in tin foil for hours.
These are the breakfast taco treasures of South Texas.
It’s the luxury of these traditional breakfast tacos that some Texas Tech students who hail from areas south of Austin miss most about home.
Brandon Medina, a junior journalism major, said the selection of breakfast tacos in Lubbock is terrible, at best.
“It’s not good whatsoever,” the San Antonio native said, shaking his head.
Medina said he blames Lubbock’s lack of breakfast taco knowledge on a cultural divide.
“We have a wide selection of taquerias and pop-up taco trucks on every corner,” he said. “Here in Lubbock, you have to go far, and usually tacos aren’t as cheap, so you’re spending more money for an undervalued product.”
Medina’s feelings are mirrored by Brian Jimenez, a senior at Tech who knows a thing or two about traditional Tex-Mex foods.
“I was born in San Antonio,” Jimenez said, shrugging his shoulders with a proud smile. “My parents own a Mexican restaurant there, so obviously my opinion is biased.”
Las Palapas, the Mexican restaurant Jimenez’s family owns, offers breakfast tacos all day, every day, a staple common at many homegrown Mexican restaurants in the south.
“It’s pretty popular with the customers because people are looking for breakfast all day,” he said. “When they find out we serve it, they get pretty excited and order a bunch of breakfast tacos.”
Jimenez said he believes the root of Lubbock’s lackluster breakfast taco options stems from a breakdown in the fundamental understanding of one of the most important parts of the South Texas staple.
“A big part of it is the tortillas,” he said matter-of-factly. “Everyone knows a true tortilla is made from scratch from dough, and it’s supposed to come out big and fluffy and a little bit powdery at times. But here, they’re kinda flimsy, sometimes a little hard and crispy. They just aren’t as well made here.”
Although Medina said he is often less than pleased by the choices in Lubbock, he said he can’t blame them for trying.
“I think to Lubbock people, it’s probably like as good as it gets since they’re from Lubbock and West Texas,” he said. “I think it depends on the person, cause with tacos, there’s Tex-Mex and then there’s actual Mexican tacos, and those are two very different things.”
Still, not everyone is displeased by Lubbock’s selection of the traditional Texas breakfast dish.
“I feel like it’s okay,” said Annie Walker, a native of the Dallas area. “I feel like they could expand though. Especially around campus.”
However, Walker could not hide her enthusiasm when discussing where in Lubbock her favorite place to get breakfast tacos is.
“I like Torchy’s tacos,” she said seriously. “I like Torchy’s breakfast tacos a lot.”
Jimenez reciprocated her feelings.
“Am I allowed to say Torchy’s?” he asked, laughing. “Fuzzy’s is another great place to get breakfast tacos. Those are my go-to’s.”
Medina said he tends to lean toward a local Tex-Mex restaurant to suit his breakfast taco needs.
“Picantes, absolutely,” he said with certainty. “It’s the closest to my area of town, so I go there all the time.”
Although he continued to ascertain that San Antonio would always be home to the best breakfast tacos in Texas, Jimenez conceded that the potential for Lubbock to grow into it’s own tortilla-producing Mecca could come in due time.
“It’s not rocket science,” he laughed. “You just kinda throw it all in there.”
Although a rather irreverent way to refer to what many would call the unofficial state breakfast, Jimenez’s summation of the breakfast taco seems to perfectly wrap up a cheesy, tortilla-y tradition as time honored as the Lone Star State itself.