Here are the three main reasons I love gas station tacos. 1.) They satisfy that oh-so pretentious need for over-privileged foodies like me to “find” an off-the-beaten path place and guard that secret like a one-person terracotta army. 2.) The price usually ranges from reasonable to oh-my-god-how-do-they-make-any-money? And 3.) there’s something oddly satisfying about how efficient it feels to gas up your car, eat lunch, and stock up on beef jerky and Kit-Kat bars for your after-work shame snack all on the same stop.
I’m apparently not alone in my lust for gas station tacos –– it’s starting to look like the tiny joints have officially become the new food truck. They’re everywhere. Gas station tacos fit right on in to that cozy, low-budget niche abandoned by trucks, many of which have graduated to brick-and-mortar locales (Taco Heads, Heim Barbecue and Catering, Salsa Limon). By the way, I don’t consider carnivals like Fuel City Tacos or Buc-ees to be authentic gas station taco options. Yes, they sell gas and serve pretty good tacos, but the places I’m trying to find don’t shill their own clothing lines or house petting-zoo lamas.
The exact kind of experience I want can be found only in mom-and-pop-owned dives clumsily nestled between the scratch-off counter and the rack of “I’m with Stupid” hats –– perfect little gems like Danny’s Tacos (5815 W Arkansas Ln, 214-850-2654) near Lake Arlington.
Danny’s occupies a corner of an otherwise innocuous Shell Station. There are five tiny tables with a fantastic view of the shop’s vast assortment of fishing lures, live bait, and a surprisingly robust selection of lower-tier wines. Also, if you enjoy whatever a Taki is, this place is your Mecca.
Colorful signs on the wall, including a downright cheery chalkboard menu, draw the eye over to the counter, where Danny himself awaited my guest and me on a recent visit. As we perused the impressive menu of authentic Mex-Mex dishes, the owner charmed my guest into ordering a plate of beautifully tender and piquant green chili pork –– so intensely flavorful it was as if three pigs had been distilled down to one –– and a well-seasoned red-chile dusted chicken thigh, which tasted like a Mexican version of Tandoor-style fowl. The meats ($6.99) were accompanied by rice, beans, and corn tortillas.
I opted for the trio of tacos with rice and beans ($4.99). They were stuffed with meats that filled out their warm double-ply corn tortillas the way a fat man fills out a hammock. The proteins were canonical Mexican fare. Al pastor bright red with chiles was impressively complex; a chubby fistful of chili-dusted chicken was ready to tumble out of its swaddling tortilla; and stubbornly textured asada that, though well seasoned, was chewy and overcooked. The accompanying salsa verde tasted more of jalapeño than tomatillo.
The “dining room” was mostly full. As soon as we ordered, about eight people filed in. My guest and I were happy to find a place to sit –– and even happier that there weren’t more than two of us. The other guests sat four to a table, which made eating look like something akin to performing surgery on an airplane.
The kitchen does a brisk takeout business, and the place delivers. So if you’re worried about the nontraditional setting, you can always ease into the experience from the comfort of your own home. They’ll be there when you’re ready.