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Feb 3, 2013 03:42 PM

Home-made corn tortillas in Houston

So, during our recent Tamal Crawl, I was asked where I buy fresh, home-made corn tortillas.

I live in Katy, not far from one of the locations of Tacos la Bala. I don't know about other locations but, at Katy, when you order them, a very nice little lady goes into the kitchen and makes you some.

How about y'all? Any excellent tortillarias?

And, as many of you certainly know, but some may not, it's not difficult to make your own fresh corn tortillas. I've lived lots of places where buying fresh tortillas is an impossibility. It may surprise you to know that, in those locales, you can buy canned tortillas, but they're just about as horrible as you'd imagine. And my husband was a native Texan that got grumpy with no tortillas. So I bought a tortilla press during a visit home, and had my family send me the packages of Masa Harina. All you do from there is to add a little water, roll your masa into a small ball, and press it out. There is a technique to it, of course, but there are lots of more detailed instructions online for anyone interested in trying it.

Tacos la Bala:

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  1. I just posted about this recently on the best bakeries thread. The best place to get tortillas in Houston is the El Bolillo on Airline, across from Canino's. There is a lady who nixtamalizes the maize herself and makes the tortillas from fresh masa, not reconstituted maseca. The taste difference is amazing. She also makes very good flour tortillas. They are a lot more expensive, but worth it. When I go, I always stock up and freeze what I can't use up right away.

    I know of some taquerias that hand-make tortillas by hand but I don't know if they sell them by themselves in quantity - I've never asked.

    Besides El Bolillo you can get very good tortillas at the HEB Mi Tienda stores. There's one in Pasadena and one on 59 N, not that far north of downtown.

    Other than that, there are tortillerias all around town. La Reyna, San Luis and Zacatecas are some with multiple locations and there are many independent. You can find a pretty complete list on Yelp just by entering 'totilleria' in the search box.

    Many of the tortillerias are associated with taquerias; the La Reyna near me is next door to a taqueria/birreria, but their birria is not as good as Trudi's just few blocks away so I've only had it once. I've only had tamales from a San Luis location - they were not very good. I've only had flour tortillas from a Zacatecas location - they were very good.

    My favorite tortilleria closed up a year or so ago, unfortunately, Tortilleria Milpa Real on West Bellfort not far from where I live. They were a pollo rostizado place in addition to being a tortilleria and on weekends they also offered birria, menudo and tamales with champurrado. It was the latter that I miss the most, although their tamales were very similar to Dona Tere's, with lots of masa compared to filling and not as good.

    What I'm suggesting here is if someone can't make it to El Bollillo or Mi Tienda, I would pick a tortilleria based on convenience/proximity and what their specialty is besides tortillas. As far as I know, all of these tortillerias are making tortillas using reconstituted corn flour, i.e., maseca, not fresh masa and their products are going to be pretty much the same. Their corn tortillas, especially, will be better than store bought but that's mainly because they're fresher than some made a a tortilla factory a few weeks prior. After a couple of days, they'll taste pretty much the same as store bought tortillas in my experience.

    I'm going to include a link here (I got this from a post by Rancho Gordo somewhere) which isn't in direct answer to your question (or the person you're asking for) but is an explanation of the industrialization of bread making in Mexico and why what the lady at El Bolillo is doing is so significant. It is a decidedly political rant; I'm not trying to start a political discussion, just offer this for it's historical background.

    3 Replies
    1. re: brucesw

      Brucesw and Jaymes- thanks for the suggestions! We had a great little taqueria in St Louis near our house, but the dry flavorless tortillas always left something to be desired. When we hit a local taco truck after moving to Houston, my wife suddenly became a tortilla snob, exclaiming that her outlook on Mexican food had completely changed with that sweet fresh aroma.

      After reading that piece that you cited, Brucesw, I guess I'm ethically (and gustatorily) bound to support the local tortilleria!

      1. re: brucesw

        I am very sad to say that it appears the lady who makes corn tortillas is no longer at El Bollilo on Airline - assuming I went to the right store. This is the one across the street from the huge open produce market on one side and spice market on the other, right?

        On the bright side, they were selling freshly made flour tortillas, and you can actually watch them making and grilling them!

        The police officer there told me his favorite corn tortillas are at ... wait for it... Gerardo's! Just another great reason to go back for more tamales, carnitas and barbacoa!!! I did notice that their tortillas were especially fragrant.

        Will definitely have to try Jaymes' favorite place soon. Speaking of which - picked up a pound of Rancho Gordo Bolita at Revival Market. Wow. I think these have converted my wife into a bean lover too! Mind you, she was not at all a Mexican food fan before we moved to Houston...

        1. re: neointima

          Yes that is the correct place. Their flour tortillas are great.

          Sorry to hear the lady is no longer there. I have only a few left in the freezer.