Locura’s reddish-orange stucco exterior, embellished with small banners announcing the store’s name (in Spanish for “folly”), barely hints at the colorful displays inside. Walk through the front door of the four-month-old store to see strings of dried corn husks dyed in pink, blue, green, purple, yellow and red hanging over the entrance. Other envelopes adorn a framed sign above the order counter; these are the first clues of what is prepared in Locura’s kitchen. The oriental interior wall is painted in dark turquoise, with a geometric gold stencil that evokes the sun. Once the brick and mortar house was Deceived– a specialist in trompo tacos à la Monterrey, the cousin of Mexico’s northern al-pastor – the space is now what chef Laura Carrizales and her partner Mel Arizpe call a “bite-size” take-out shop. The word TACO in white letters on a black background on the facade of the building remains. Inside are the same counters where devoted Trompo patrons have munched on tacos. But tacos aren’t the star of Locura’s menu.
Instead, it’s elotes, what Americans commonly refer to as Mexican-style street corn. Classically served on a cob skewer with mayonnaise or cream, grated cotija cheese, chili powder, perhaps Tajín and lime, elotes are a popular sidewalk snack. But Carrizales is not limited by tradition. She sees elotes as a base for experimenting with new flavors, just like other chefs have done with tacos. “With all the other restaurants opening up that had Belgian waffles of a thousand flavors, tacos with anything you can imagine, you can put anything in a taco these days,” she said. . “And I thought it was going to be like the new frontier.”
A graduate of the Culinary Program at El Centro College in Dallas, Carrizales previously worked at several quick and casual eateries, gourmet restaurants, and the Central Market. It was through the latter, she says, that she learned to embrace creativity using items at hand. “Central Market allowed me to do what I wanted to do every day. All they would say is “salmon” or “beef” or “pork”. I could do whatever I wanted to do, ”she says.
During a recent visit to the fully reopened Locura, I tasted four of the eight elotes: the traditional comforting elote; a punchy variation sprinkled with truffle and Parmesan cheese; the dulce de leche elote, unfortunately bland; and the za’atar inspired by the Middle East. The latter was my favorite.
A mixture of spices of Middle Eastern origin built around an herb called oregano from Lebanon, wild thyme or biblical hyssop, the za’atar covering the elote of Locura is a thick layer of herbs and spices. It is covered with a layer of lemon mayonnaise and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The result is earthy and nutty in turn, with toasty and bright touches. “I’m not afraid to push the boundaries or make someone uncomfortable,” Carrizales says. “At the same time, I like the intimate and familiar flavors.”
These flavors also reminded me of the Middle Eastern connection with Mexico. Lebanese immigrants introduced spit roasting to southern Mexico in the early 20th century. This style of cooking has been adapted into what is now Puebla’s Arabian taco (Arabian taco), meat cooked on a trompo and served on a pitalike flour tortilla since the 1930s. In the mid-20th century, it would transform again into Mexico’s iconic taco al pastor and later into a Nordic-style trompo taco.
Other dishes on the menu include a range of pork platters, including a dry pozole of which Carrizales is particularly proud. Another dish is a spicy cinnamon pork taco, topped with pineapple strips and coconut milk, which looks nothing like what the previous occupant served. Carrizales also plans to offer more veggie tacos and occasionally a beef taco. One example is a special sweet and milky tomato and asadero cheese tacos. It might seem like foolishness for a snack and candy store to offer tortilla-wrapped options, but this is Texas, after all, where even Mexican ice cream maker is forced to serve tacos.