Houston Matters

Texas Monthly’s First Taco Editor On What Is — And Isn’t — A Taco

José Ralat says tacos are the gateway to talk about Mexican food in Texas.

José Ralat
Texas Monthly’s first-ever taco editor, José Ralat.

When José Ralat, a native of Puerto Rico, met his future wife, a Mexican-American, she exposed him to the intricacies of Mexican dishes, such as lengua — tacos made with beef tongue.

“And I thought it was amazing how subtle, and herbaceous, and smooth it was,” he told Houston Matters.

And then she made him breakfast tacos.

“I was already in love with her, but I think that these breakfast tacos really sealed the deal for me,” Ralat said.

Breakfast Tacos from Luna y Sol
Breakfast tacos from Houston’s Luna y Sol Mexican Grill.

That experience — and later a move to Texas — spawned a new love of Tex-Mex traditions, which landed Ralat his new role as the first-ever taco editor for Texas Monthly, which has had a barbecue editor since 2013.

Kathy Blackwell, the publication’s executive editor calls Ralat “one of the foremost experts on tacos in the state and the country.”

He’s written about tacos for the likes of the Dallas Observer and his own website, the Taco Trail blog. Based in Dallas, he’s been a contributor to Texas Monthly for several years and has a forthcoming book called American Tacos: A History and Guide, which is slated for release in April 2020.

In the audio above, Ralat tells Houston Matters producer Brenda Ruiz he wont just be covering tacos.

“The way that I look at it is everything makes it into a tortilla at some point, and tortillas are often served with your Mexican food,” he said. “So, the taco’s almost like the gateway to talk about Mexican food in Texas.”

He also tells her what he thinks makes a taco a taco (it starts with the tortilla), what isn’t a taco, and what he hopes to write about in the his new role.

Tacos Rojos
A photo of tacos rojos, a favorite along the Texas-Mexico borderlands. In his new role, Texas Monthly taco editor José Ralat says he wants to write more about the food along the border.

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Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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