Tuesday, March 4, 2014

In Search of the Ultimate Taco

Okay, I know tacos are not traditional barbecue, but they are one of my all time favorite foods, and so I'm going to exercise a little self-indulgence and write about them here in my barbecue blog. And yes, I know there is a difference between a "taco" and "burrito", but for this discussion, I use "taco" as the general term. Deal with it!
My original taco heaven.

When I was in high school and getting drunk regularly with friends, our go to place for the end of night munchies was a placed called Casa DiBello on the corner of Maryvale and Beach. I used to get a large beef  taco with no tomatoes and extra hot sauce, take it home, sit on the end of the couch in front of Saturday Night Live, and dig into the best damn taco I ever had. Now really, what sets tacos apart from each other is the flavor and texture of the meat inside, and the ground beef they used at Casa DiBello had a combination of spices and tastes that I have not been able to find since. Again, my pallet is not sophisticated enough to know what exact flavor profiles were in there, I just know it was f!@#ing great! And so when the owner of DiBellos sold the business in December of '89, my lifetime obsession to find a taco THAT good began.

I happen to know one of the owners who bought the place in '89 and run into him from time to time, but he swears to me that that the original owner did not sell him the recipes, just the business. Because I refuse to accept that the recipe is gone forever, I suspect he is holding something back from me. Once in a while when I press him on the issue, he will offer little tidbits like, "I think it started with a Lawry's taco seasoning mix", or "try adding some cumin", but I can never get anything more from him dammit. I think DiBellos finally closed it's doors sometime in the mid-00's.

I have tried unsuccessfully to track down the original owner, Bob Miller, over the years. The best I have gotten is some conflicting reports that he went to school and became an RN, and/or he opened a horse training facility down in Pennsylvania. That's not a joke. He always had a love for horses and harness racing and had pictures of them all over the walls when he owned DiBellos. Well, where ever he ended up, I hope he is doing well and would love to hear from him.

So I have tried every kind of store-bought taco seasoning I can get my hands on, and find nothing that compares to the flavor of Bob's tacos. I have tried tacos all over town and am continually disappointed with the results. I don't think Mighty Taco even uses real beef. Moe's sucks. Taco Bell isn't worth the 99 cents. Lloyd's Taco Truck gets kudos for effort, but it's not my thing. I spit out Ziggy's the first time I tried their tacos. And don't tell me to go to an authentic Mexican place because that's not what I want. I simply want that crappy, American version of a taco that I used to get at DiBellos, dripping with hot sauce and all it's original flavor.

My go to taco from Johnny's.
My go to places lately have been Johnny's Pizza on Union in Cheektowaga, and Burrito Bay on Millersport in Amherst. They are a long way from what I used to savor at DiBellos, but they are well above average tacos. I would love to try some new places around town, so send me suggestions where I can faithfully continue my search for my ultimate taco. And so it goes.

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