PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston November 2021

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By Laurann Claridge. Food photography Tony Luhrman. PULLING FROM GENERATIONS OF TEXAS CULINARY CULTURE Cacti and succulents replace cut flowers, and the pattern of the tiles reminds one of an agave. Here, Luhrman and his crew create fare that pulls from generations of Texans, from Mexican influences and cowboy cooks to the German, Polish, and Slavic communities that called this wild western state home. The signature Houston taco ($6) is built on a handmade corn tortilla (the corn, ground in-house) with tender beef cheeks, seared then painted with house- made adobo rub before being braised for eight hours. When you order, the beef is crisped on the griddle and dashed with aioli infused with epazote leaf, then topped with pickled red onions. The BBQ chicken taco ($6) involves a number of cooking techniques. An heirloom chicken is brined overnight in a sugar/salt/spice dry mixture before it's smoked over post oak wood at the smoker out back. On weekends, reserve a table for dinner, and you can expect the same level of culinary meticulousness. Select a three- ($50) or five-course meal ($80) with wine pairing ($30 to $40), or order a la carte and pick and choose whatever dishes appeal. Indulge in the masa cornbread and caviar starter with honeycomb and lemon butter ($30) along with chile Relleno filled with rarefied Carolina gold rice and mushrooms ($25) and snapper enmolada with mole verde and summer slaw ($30). El Topo, 6119 Edloe, 832.795.7251. H ow does an ambitious young man, armed with a graduate degree in film (and an undergraduate in graphic design and English), leave the white-collar world to wander about Houston in a food truck, serving his own brand of "Texian" cookery? Tony Luhrman is that man. The San Antonio, native followed his passion for cooking on a path that eventually led him to Houston. One evening, while preparing dinner for his family, his wife's aunt suggested, "You should start your own business." She meant it — and invested. Within six weeks, Luhrman had designed and fabricated his eatery on wheels, El Topo, named for the 1970s avant-garde acid western art film. Six years after he first rolled down Houston's roads, he's planted permanent roots in the former spot of Edloe Deli in West University. His eatery — also named El Topo — serves up tacos, sandwiches, and sides Tuesday through Sunday. Seat yourself at a plush banquette. EL TOPO OPENS IN WEST UNIVERSITY. Spring seasonal salad with Bella Verde-grown lettuce, pineapple lardons, pepitas in jalapeño ranch, and shaved corn Top: Butternut squash bisque with charred red peppers and queso fresco. Above: Houston taco with barbacoa beef), Mushroom Power taco, BBQ chicken taco, and Austin vegan taco. El Topo chef/owner Tony Luhrman BETHANY BREWSTER 108

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