Thursday, September 29, 2022 Sep 29, 2022
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Lunch Box

Garland Has a Great New Spot for Vegan Tacos and Tamales

El Rincón del Maíz, located in a former Sonic Drive-In, has menus for herbivores and carnivores alike.
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Brian Reinhart

It’s in a little old drive-in on Belt Line Road on the north side of Garland, a building which used to be a Sonic. It certainly doesn’t look too fancy. There’s a sign promising tacos. Then you walk inside, and the surprises begin.

First surprise: a chalkboard list of different tortilla flavors. Chipotle corn tortillas, cilantro-infused tortillas, mango-habanero tortillas, even one with chocolate. On our recent visit, there were seven varieties in all (not counting plain). Yes, you can mix and match: get your chicken mole taco on a chocolate tortilla, compare the chipotle and guajillo flavors, try a vegan chicharrón on a tortilla colored and flavored with beets.

Oh, that’s right. Surprise No. 2: the vegan menu.

Welcome to El Rincón del Maíz, the vegan-friendly new taco and tamale spot that’s about to take Garland by storm.

El Rincón del Maíz is the work of the Saporito family, who came to the United States from southern Mexico (Tabasco). Their recipes start with the flavored tortillas. El Rincón uses Maseca, the bagged instant corn masa flour that is common to many corn tortillas, then adds pureed chiles and other ingredients to the mix before pressing the tortillas. The result may not be quite the same as the nixtamalized corn tortillas you can get from Molino Olōyō, but it’s still a colorful, flavorful lineup of good tortillas.

You can try them with tacos al pastor—available in a pastor negro version, for which the chile peppers in the sauce are roasted and charred dark—or do what I suggested above and match the chocolate tortilla to the chicken mole taco. Maybe have your masa in the form of picaditas, small discs topped with salsa and cheese, with the meat on the side.

My recommendation is to go vegan. Creative vegan tacos feature ingredients like hibiscus flower, coconut, cauliflower, and, in the case of the excellent vegan quesabirria, jackfruit and vegan mozzarella. I was so won over by the quesabirria that after a few bites, I pondered the vegan meat—having completely forgotten that the cheese was vegan, too. A minute later I said something like, “Oh! That was vegan cheese!” and my dining companions looked at me like I was an idiot.

Even better are the vegan tamales. Two of the three tamales are perhaps better fit for dessert, but the vegan mushroom tamal is so good it’s haunted me ever since. Steamed in a banana leaf rather than a corn husk and absolutely doused in excellent salsa verde, the tamal defies anyone who still thinks this kind of luxurious richness can only be achieved with lard. I daydream about it now, while driving or washing dishes. My mind dwells on questions: “How many could I eat? Could I take down three in a sitting?”

I also can’t stop thinking about the rest of the menu. Will vegan migas be just as good if they’re covered in just as much salsa? What about the decidedly non-vegan cheesecake slices in the cooler by the cash register? And then there’s the game of matching tortillas to tacos. The possibilities aren’t quite endless, but they’re enough to keep me driving back to Garland, parking in the former Sonic Drive-In spot, and tasting El Rincón del Maíz’s next surprise.

Head here for more in this series.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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