According to food historian Gustavo Arellano, Austin’s South by Southwest festival is the explanation for the ubiquity and popularity of the breakfast taco. “The first reference to the breakfast taco is in a story about San Antonio in The Arizona Republic in the 1970s,” Arellano says. “You know it’s the first reference because it’s capitalized in the newspaper, the standard treatment for a new word or term. I grew up eating breakfast tacos, but we never called them that. It wasn’t until hipsters started coming to South by Southwest, ‘discovering’ breakfast tacos and then returning to their home cities around the country that we see the explosion in popularity of this style.”
Arellano said the actual provenance of the breakfast taco is most likely the Rio Grande Valley, the stretch of river that divides the U.S. from Mexico along the southern tip of Texas. Austin, as is often the case, takes much of the credit, and at least in this case, they get credit for its spread, if not for its origin. Now, the breakfast taco is available throughout the U.S., and while form varies, the standard ingredients in addition to eggs are cheese, bacon, chorizo, avocado and salsa. Beyond that, it’s up to whomever is making it to decide the construction.
1) The Little Twin: What is it? The entry-level breakfast taco at Big Truck Tacos: flour or corn tortilla, eggs, choice of protein. Pictured is egg with borracho chicken, a spice-rubbed, beer-can preparation made in a spicy tomato sauce. You probably won’t need salsa, but that’s half the fun of Big Truck.
2) Chorizo and Egg: What is it? While it’s true that breakfast tacos aren’t common in many regional Mexican cuisines, when you do find them, chorizo is the most common protein after eggs. Cafe Siete makes its chorizo in house, and the taco is served in a traditional style. If you need the extra kick in the morning, ask for the chiles toreados – whole fried jalapeños.
3) Build-Your-Own Breakfast Taco: What is it? Elemental’s standard breakfast taco – corn tortilla, fried egg, choice of protein, spicy aioli and spinach – can be modified with carnitas (when available) or ham, or even tofu (sigh). Like all food items that emerge from Elena Farrar’s team, the tacos are delicious, if unconventional.
4) Breakfast Tacos: What is it? Definitely an evolved form of the breakfast taco, largely due to the addition of green chile hollandaise, this popular brunch spot’s tacos also feature guacamole, cotija cheese, sour cream, pico and cilantro. In addition to the hollandaise, it’s the fluffy eggs that make this a comfort food indulgence.
5) Pork and Beans: What is it? A remarkably different and delicious riff on a breakfast taco. Stitch smokes its ham in house on oak, and then adds scrambled eggs, refried beans and smoked gouda, to create a smoky, tangy, sweet, umami masterpiece.
6) Chorizo and Egg: What is it? A very traditional form of the popular breakfast taco with Rafita’s house-made chorizo. While it’s not pretty, it’s definitely one the must-have tacos in the city. Rafita’s is one of OKC’s taquerias that seems to do just about everything well, and its breakfast tacos are worth the drive to the Ten-Penn area.