Even though they've been around for 10 years, the brisket tacos (see the recipe) at Garcia's Mexican Food could be considered a "new" menu addition.

Opened in 1962, the San Antonio institution is the sort of no-frills place with white tile floors and laminate tables, where everyone--from locals to visiting politicians--comes for good, honest, authentic Tex-Mex food.


"There have only been four cooks: my grandmother, my mother, my brother and me," says John Garcia, whose father, Julio, opened the place with a small menu of burgers and tacos.

These days, the place is known for its brisket, and John's brother Andrew is the brisket man. Most nights, he makes 20 of them at a time, smoking them in the restaurant's three giant pits for 13 to 16 hours--or, as Andrew says, "until they're done." He uses little more than a rub, oak wood and apple juice to give the meat subtle smoke and spice. It's so good, it doesn't need barbecue sauce, which John says "is used to hide bad meat."


The meat's trimmed to order, quickly crisped on the grill, then piled on house-made flour tortillas with some avocado and pico de gallo. Nothing more, nothing less.

"You get the right balance of brisket and smoke, and you really taste the meat," says John. "There's nothing else like it."