"You can take the Mexican out of the Valley, but you can't take the Valley out of the Mexican. Writer, poet, interpreter."
feed the beast
Tornado Taco: Rated R for Really, Really, Good Burgers
In Jacobellis v. Ohio, Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart, concurring with the majority opinion, wrote a now-famous statement regarding obscenity, particularly when trying to define it in relation to hardcore pornography.
Stewart writes: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”
If Justice Potter were alive today, he’d recognize the following article as pornography, because there is no other way to describe the burgers at Tornado Taco, other than to call them “obscenely/pornographically good.”
Gather ‘round, burger aficionados, as our quest for the burger holy grail continues, this time at Tornado Taco #2 in the heart of Spring Branch, on the corner of Campbell and Longpoint. On a street full of aseguranzas, tire shops and churches, a red hut stands alone.
Is it a taqueria? Is it a burger joint? Is it…both? It’s both.
But we’re going to talk about the burger part. Maybe one day we’ll go on a quest to find the holy grail of taquerias in Houston. But this is not that day.
When you first enter Tornado taco, you’re essentially walking into what feels like a covered porch, with a lone fan fighting valiantly against the Houston heat. Red wooden stools surround a large countertop, and scattered green plastic tables take up the open spaces.
There’s been a remodeling one recently, the stools no doubt remnants of once-proud tables that reached their breaking point under the weight of the years of expanding waistlines — and heavy burgers. I make my way inside, to the newly-remodeled “inside” where there’s some air-conditioning.
Tornado’s burger menu? Deceptively simple.
You’ll notice there aren’t any mushroom-swiss-foie-gras-gourmet burgers here. Nope. This is a barrio burger — you’ve got your carne and you’ve got your cheese. You can keep your fancypants burgers in Midtown, hipster.
Should you care for my suggestion, I’d urge you to get the combo — it’s the best bang for your buck. If you’re hungry, get the double meat, double-cheese burger with fries and a drink. But if you want just one layer of greasy deliciousness, you big baby, the combo for that also offers a great deal.
Oh, and be sure make it spicy. This is where Tornado Taco really excels. There are warnings and hints in the menu nailed to the wall giving you a caveat emptor about the spice level. Thing is, they take their ground beef and a mix of spices and add chopped up, seeded jalapeños, which pretty much ensures that every batch is different.
So, for example, you and your buddies may each get a burger, but the spice level could be radically different. Yours could have a zesty kick, and your friend/coworker/boss/main squeeze/fly honey could get a burger that causes them to tear up, eyes watering heavily with every bite. Just live a little and take the risk. You could be one of the lucky ones, whether to you that’s a mouthful of burger and jalapeño, or one tiny bit of chile. Just think of it as the spicy burger lotto.
Oh, and side note: The fries that come with the burger are coated in the same spice rub used on the meat, so don’t be surprised if you end up making several trips to the soda fountain to refill your drink.
Now let me tell you about the burger itself. Beyond the spice level, there’s the meat itself. I’ve never been one to write something like “the combination of meat and spices slide erotically down your throat” but, well, the combination of meat and spices slide erotically down your throat. This burger is NC-17. This burger is waiting for your parents to fall asleep while you turn on Skinemax for just one frame of an exposed bosom. The French would call this burger la petite mort.
The fries are homemade, and they go nicely with the burger, especially if you’ve made them spicy. They’re greasy, yes, like 5,000 weight watchers’ points greasy. But they’re not too salty. They’re not too hard. They’re just right. I won’t say they’re the best french fries I’ve had in Houston, but they’re pretty darn good.
They’re a good break in between burger bites, though. As I sit in Taco Tornado, I find myself wanting to go back to the burger, but it’s getting closer to nonexistent, so I’m thankful for the fries.
Every bite is bittersweet because it’s one bite closer to the agony of separation. In just a few bites, nothing will remain of the burger but a satisfied memory and a translucent. That burger is going to leave nothing but a pleasant memory and a moist, translucent wrapper to be cast away as soon as I stand up from the table.
And I didn’t even get to cuddle afterwards.