Eat Like a Local in Texas

John Lewis, from El Paso, Texas, is a long way from home. After a celebrated stint cooking brisket at La Barbecue in Austin, he’s getting ready to open Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, South Carolina, where he’ll be an ambassador for smoked beef in the heart of whole-hog country. That isn’t all he’s bringing to town. “Tuesday will be Tex-Mex night,” he says. “We’ll do brisket enchiladas, oxtails in red chile sauce, beans, and maybe even puffy tacos.”

(Photograph by Jody Horton)

For Texas Independence Day, we asked him to share a few of the Lone Star State hangouts he misses most.

Cattleack, Dallas

“I think this is probably the best barbecue joint in Texas, if I’m not talking about La Barbecue. Todd David makes his own sausages, which not many joints do. He always has a couple of regular ones and then something else interesting. The place is in a weird, kind of industrial part of town, and it’s only open two days a week. Not many people know about it yet. There’s a bit of a line happening, but now is the time to go. Pretty soon, there’ll be a four-hour wait.”

(Photographs courtesy of Cattleack)

El Primo, Austin

“This place has the best breakfast tacos in town. It’s a trailer, and the guy cooks everything on a flattop grill. It’s all seasoned right, and the sauces are really good. It’s fun watching him make them, too. For a spatula, he uses a drywall spatula that’s a foot and a half wide. He flips twenty tacos at a time, with eggs and everything. I like the chorizo, egg, and cheese.”

(Photograph courtesy of El Primo)

Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, Austin

“It’s an old honky-tonk, and Dale Watson plays there from 4 to 8 on Sundays. He actually bought the bar from Ginny recently, but she still works there. As a bonus, he sets up a free, all-you-can-eat chili dog buffet. He’ll take breaks in between songs and load the slow cooker up with hot dogs. Like, ‘Just give them 10 minutes,’ and then he’ll start playing again. There’s also a good chance that there’ll be guys coming through with coolers full of fantastic tamales.”

(Photograph courtesy of Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon)

Little Diner, El Paso

“If you’re looking for good Tex-Mex, El Paso and San Antonio are the places to go. Everything is good here, but the gorditas are the best in the world. They start them on a griddle and finish them in a deep fryer before stuffing them with ground beef, lettuce, and tomato.”

(Photographs courtesy of Little Diner)

Tito’s, San Antonio

“Once again, everything is fantastic at Tito’s—and greasy. You have to get the puffy tacos. They’re like the Krispy Kreme doughnuts of tacos: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.”

(Photograph courtesy of Tito’s)

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