Last weekend, I had the pleasure of going back home to see my family. Between an early arrival back to campus for Spring Semester and going on Appa for spring break, I was missing home a bit more than usual so it worked out to be the perfect time to go. When I arrived in the DFW airport Friday morning, I was met by my mother and a chicken biscuit and Arnold Palmer from none other than Chick-Fil-A. (Unrelated side note: I will fight anyone who says chicken isn’t meant for breakfast. You clearly haven’t allowed your life to be changed by this golden meal.) As we drove home, we talked about school and how happy I was to not see snow for the first time in months. When we arrived home, I walked into an unfamiliar place. The space that used to be the kitchen was now covered in dust and a team of around seven men were working to install new cabinets. I was shook. All I wanted was to grab a glass of water and an apple from the fridge and sit at the bar and chat with my parents. But alas, this was not an option. As unfortunate as it was to not have the ability for a home cooked meal, there was a positive to this: I now didn’t have to ask if we could eat at all of my favorite restaurants because there was no other choice.

Friday night after a showing of Beauty and the Beast in our local theater (10/10 would recommend if you have not seen it yet), my family drove around the corner to a local taco shop, Velvet Tacos. I know, the name does not paint the prettiest picture of food. This was actually the reason I didn’t eat here for a good two years after it opened. But once I realized why this is the name, I was sold. Velvet = red velvet cake which coincidentally goes great with a taco. Throughout high school, Velvet Taco’s employees began to recognize who I was because of a game I like to play here called Taco Roulette. The rules are pretty simple: 1) walk through the door and to the register, 2) tell the guy behind the counter – usually named Cameron or Jake or Austin – how many tacos you would like today, 3) tell them they have to pick which tacos fill that count, 4) pay, 5) wait for your tacos to arrive. For someone as indecisive as I am, this method has never let me down. I have come to discover a few favorites along the way but ultimately have been able to enjoy variations of tacos I likely would not have tried had I been ordering on my own. On this particular night, I was greeted with a brisket taco and a seasonal chicken taco with beets and of course a slice of homemade red velvet sheet cake.IMG_7299 Just writing this makes my stomach and heart hurt as I don’t have this delicious food in front of me. As my family ate our tacos and chatted about the incredible costumes in the movie, I couldn’t help but think how happy I was to be home.

The next morning I woke up after sleeping a full 12 hours – I’m as shocked about this as you are – and determined that if I wanted any normal food schedule for the day then I should probably skip breakfast. As lunchtime came around, I knew I had to go to Torchy’s Tacos. This is hands down my favorite go to taco shop in town. Many of my friends and I will meet here to catch up over breaks and it is one of those places that you can never go and not see at least one other person you know. Unlike Velvet Taco, at Torchy’s I have one order that I rarely deviate from. “Hey, I’ll take one chicken fajita, one democrat, and an order of chips, queso, and guacamole.” After about 10 minutes this is what arrives:

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This my friends it what heaven looks like. Let’s start with the guacamole. I am very particular about guac here in New England. I hate to break it to you but Pelon makes mediocre guacamole. Down south, the avocado is just a canvas for what can be combined. Onion, tomato, jalapeño, quest fresco, and seasoning all goes into this delicious dip that because it is made with vegetables, it has to be healthy.

Queso is a different story. Of all the foods I miss from home while here in New England, this probably is number 1. Queso is basically warm melted cheese and for whatever reason no one in Boston seems to know how to make that. But Torchy’s is different. In addition to the molten cheese, Torchy’s adds a scoop of their guacamole, queso fresco, cilantro, and diablo hot sauce making a food fit for a king. It is never not perfect. I am working on the logistics of how to ship it to Boston and I will let you know if I ever figure this out.

The tacos at torchy’s are a space of expression. Breakfast tacos with eggs and bacon, chicken and waffles tacos, fried chicken tacos, various of fish tacos, and of course in the heart of meat country a wide selection of beef tacos. Torchy’s has it all. The democrat which is my favorite (the name doesn’t hurt) is made with beef barbacoa, avocado, and fresh lime. Unlike many Mexican restaurants back home,  I don’t feel gross after eating here. Everything is not coated in cheese or refried beans and ingredients are fresh each and every day.

Even without my own kitchen and mother’s cooking, I was able to have these reminders of home and enjoy many of my favorite foods. In two weeks when I go home for Easter break, our kitchen will be complete but I can guarantee I will get my taco fix too.

— Emily