Five years ago, I served on a food team that crafted a story that became The Greatest Tacos Ever Sold, Texas Monthly’s cover story, December 2006. Each time I work on these big projects, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to eat that item in question again. Once the story is finished and in print, I’m on to the next thing.
But the taco story comes up time and again, and our No. 1 pick, continues to attract attention, as it does once more today.
My job was to cover the taco scene in Dallas and Fort Worth, and I sampled the goods at more than 30 places when all was said and done. Close to the end of my 60 days of taco testing, a friend tipped me off to a fabulous, then-new taco stand inside a truck stop in the shadows of downtown Dallas. She said that she and her colleagues had to find time to eat the $1 tacos at this little favorite at least once a week and that I really needed to check it out.
Although I was somewhat dubious, I squeezed in a visit after I had already hit some four joints one day. Another friend was with me, “Why not?” when I told him we had one last taco to tackle before we quit for the day.
Pulling into Fuel City, we were agog first at the enormous Beer Cave inside the store, and both nonplussed (me) and amused (him) at the bikini-clad young women perched on barstools beside the truck stop’s palm-shaded swimming pool, serving as eye candy for the truck drivers while chatting on their cell phones and pretty much ignoring everyone gawking at them.
Remembering the task at hand, we popped over to the taco stand and ordered a handful of different tacos. The picodillo version I ate there, sitting in my car, left an impression both of us still recall: It was glorious. Here’s what I wrote, when that taco was deemed el numero uno out of the 63 tacos that made the story’s final version.
“When friends carry on endlessly about driving at all hours of the day or night to eat at a combination convenience store, drive-through beer shop, and truck stop, we pay attention. Good thing, too, because the tacos at this joint are simply out of this world. Orders are placed at the taco-stand window at the northern end of the store, and whether you pull up at 3 a.m. or 3 p.m., you’ll find folks sitting in their cars, gobbling from little carryout boxes. Tops is the picadillo, ground beef with bits of potato seasoned with a dab of garlic and a lot of black pepper. It’s tucked into a double layer of small white-corn tortillas and topped with chopped onion and cilantro. A wedge of Mexican lime comes on the side. The tiny container of green chile salsa is both superfluous and irresistible. (It goes just as well on the amazingly tender beef fajita taco, another good option.) Sitting in the shadows of downtown among strip clubs and liquor stores, Fuel City isn’t in the prettiest part of Dallas, but the gorgeous bikini-clad chicas lounging beside the landscaped swimming pool behind the wrought-iron gates certainly add to the scenery. Funny, though: It doesn’t appear as if they’ve eaten many of these tacos.”
I’ve been back a few times to enjoy the tacos again, as I did one early morning a couple of months ago. My breakfast taco with chorizo was more than pleasing, but I was still frustrated that there was no place – other than the inside of my car – to eat the darn thing.
Finally, however, the problem is solved: Fuel City, which now also calls itself The Ranch in Downtown Dallas, has added a patio with seating for 70. Now when you show up for a breakfast taco (between 5 and 10 am daily) or for the tacos al pastor, picadillo, barbacoa or chicken/beef fajita, you don’t have to worry about making a mess in your car or wearing your meal on your shirt.
Fuel City Tacos are now $1.40, and worth every penny. Find Fuel City’s eight-acre spread near the intersection of Interstate 30 and Interstate 35 immediately southwest of downtown Dallas proper, 801 South Riverfront Boulevard. For more information call 214-426-0011.
Hours: Open 24/7