These are not your discounted Taco-Tuesday snacks. Tacos with freshly made tortillas can be heavenly. (And there’s a great spot in Everett to buy some for home.)
The tortillas for your tacos don’t come out of a plastic bag anymore.
We have grown out of our Taco-Tuesday phase and expect more, much more, from even something as humble as a corn tortilla.
Have you noticed the kitchens in Mexican restaurants these days? Most employ a tortilla maker back there now, making them from scratch — Play-Doh-like masa, balled up, pancaked and tossed onto a griddle to sizzle. They bloom, fragrant with corn.
Those rubbery stacks sold in grocery aisles? Filled with so many artificial preservatives, those tortillas could have eternal life. They’re bland, a mere workhorse to transport the carnitas to the mouth. When served as tacos, they’re the equivalent of eating cardboard pizza.
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But when fresh, corn tortillas impart flavor and terroir.
You can’t have great tacos with mediocre tortillas.
Once, few restaurants — Rosita’s and Fogón Cocina Mexicana, for instance — made their own. Now, it’s expected.
Asadero Ballard, arguably the most successful Mexican restaurant to debut in Seattle last year, makes its own. The owner is so convinced that it’s a game changer, his kitchen will soon make flour tortillas as well.
Seattle’s most celebrated chef, Tom Douglas, takes it further, importing heirloom corn from Mexico to make his, grinding the kernels at 8 a.m. every day in a lava stone grinder at Cantina Leña.
The fresh tortillas are so integral to Cantina Leña’s operation that Douglas put an image of his tortilla maker Maria Orea on the menu.
Cantina Leña and Gracia in Ballard use organic maize from the Masienda brand, the gold standard in the U.S. Only 54 restaurants in the country shell out the big bucks to buy Masienda kernels to make tortillas.
But for all that progress on the restaurant front, it’s still tough to find good tortillas in stores. Many resemble industrial-strength wash cloths; others are flimsy. None seem as good as Three Sisters Nixtamal tortillas in Portland.
Chef Gabriel Chavez shares my misery. Before he opened his acclaimed namesake restaurant on Capitol Hill, Chavez searched all…