In Other News...Apple Introduces the iTaco.

It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. In my opinion, there are simply not enough superlatives in the English language to adequately praise this handheld miracle. Although there is one word sufficient to describe its attainability: difficult.

Ever since I first heard about it, I’ve been driving around LA trying to figure out what location would be the best place to get one. I didn’t want to camp out for one like some kind of Star Wars fanboy. I definitely didn’t want to get myself into an online bidding war over one.

After a little bit of pounding the keyboard, I’d find my source. It was a trek but all holy grails involve traveling and some suffering. At least I had steel-belted radials and air-conditioning, those Hobbits only had their hairy feet.

While many people I know will be gnashing teeth and biting fingernails in high anxiety waiting for their chance at scoring the Swiss Army knife of cell phones, the Apple iPhone, I, on the blissful other hand, will be lounging on a warm, breezy Santa Barbara beach, sipping a margarita on the rocks (no salt) and eating an equally hard to get item (at least it is in the authentic taco world).

What am I waggishly referring to?

The eye taco, of course, or taco de ojo.


Lilly’s Taqueria, near Santa Barbara’s rustic yet fashionable downtown, will be my version of an Apple Store come iPhone release day. My reason for driving almost 80 miles to Santa Barbara for a taco is simple—nobody else does eyeball taco in LA. The only other city I know of that hawks this snack that eyes you back is Chicago.

At Chi-Town’s Maxwell Street Sunday market, there resides a vendor who sells goat eyeball tacos, Sundays only. What a lonely taco vendor he must be. As much as I’d love to spend a weekend in Chicago, I simply can’t make that trip, so it’s off to Santa Barbara.

Lilly’s tacos are cooked al vapor or steamed. When it comes to meats, they specialize in the bits I get all tingly over like the entire cow’s head. The cooks steam the whole head of a cow and then, after it’s done, remove various portions from it, like—the cabeza (head meat), lengua (tongue) and ojo (eye). After a part is removed, it is then sautéed on a flat grill and tossed with spices and finally nestled into an aromatic steamed corn tortilla.

Unlike many of LA’s taquerias, Lilly’s only makes and moves tacos and sells nothing else. No burritos. No enchiladas. Just tacos and assorted beverages. Lilly’s is the In-N-Out Burger of taquerias. Plus, they focus on tacos al vapor. This tiny eatery is deliciously specialized and the flavor of its tacos is the proof.

I know what you’re thinking. “Eyeball taco? That’s a huge burden of proof,” you ponder while holding back the puke in your mouth so it doesn’t project all over your brand new iPhone. I understand, but what you need to do first is let go of that instamatic visual of a bloodshot orb the size of a racquetball from your mind. The ojo (eye) taco doesn’t resemble a cow’s eye in the least. (Believe me, I was hoping for a bloodshot orb peering back at me as I ate.) Other than what I can guess were the “whites” of the cow’s eyes, those grayish-white chunks I saw in my ojo taco could be easily mistaken for plain fat. This sclera or “whites of the eye” is pretty juicy—when combined with the eyeball’s fat padding and surprising amount of eyeball flesh, the result can be extremely tender and creamy.

I realize creamy is probably the last word you’d expect to see when reading a description of a cow’s eyeball, but it’s true, at least when the eye is steamed and sautéed. However, after the ojo taco is all seasoned with chili heat and put together into the tortilla, your entire perspective on cow eyes will change and you’ll pronounce the eye taco as “ojo so good!” Once in your mouth, this beef eye will confuse you into believing that you are eating the most tender of braised meats when in fact you’re reveling in pressure-cooked pupil.

So to all you iPhone zealots out there on Friday waiting in those PlayStation 3-esque lines (remember those?) for your chance to own the one phone to rule them all, just remember: Sure, you can do a lot with your iPhone, but can you eat one?

Hey, you like Apple? How do you like them apples?

Lilly’s Taqueria

310 Chapala Street (off the 101 Fwy)
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
7 days from 11AM to 9PM


Anonymous said…
That's it, Eddie--you've gone TOO FAR. Never in my years as a Mexican have I heard of an eye taco. You've ruined my illusions of what a taco is. DAMN YOU, EDDIE, DAMN YOU!!!

On another note, I'll be in Santa Barbara in a couple of weeks. Guess what I'm eating? Tacos de carne asada!
Anonymous said…
You did not post my comment..Damn you!!!

No one wants to hear my voice. I might as well end it all.

Goodbye cruel world.

My Blood is on your hands and on your stove. Why don't cook some of that!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Slitting Wrists)
Anonymous said…
Yes I shop at Sears for my clothes. Stop laughing at me!

The voices, make them stop.

Mother said Toughskins last longer than Levis.

And steal-toed boots last longer than sneakers.

I once strangled my cat with a Stretch Armstrong (the arms).
Jared Carter said…
A well written expose into the truth behind these crazy i-tacos. A dish I can't wait to try. Hopefully I'll have more luck finding one in Phoenix.
Anonymous said…
i-phone, eye-taco. Clever. If I were to google i-phone I would catch this post on the 9,861st hit.
Anonymous said…
this topic needs more puns! As in...EYE can't believe you enjoyed that. Or maybe EYE wanna know if you ate it with any condiments, like salsa.

EYE wish Baltimore had these. sniff.

p.s. Eye pudding sounds like an indie band.
Chubbypanda said…
Only you could actually make me consider trying one of those.
Anonymous said…
Ahhh, it's been way to long since I've left my mark on your comments page. Don't think I haven't been keeping my eye (no pun...oh, forget it) on your culinary adventures.

Seeing as I was pregnant for as long as an elephant (at least it felt that way), I did consider eating something on par with the iTaco, to see if that couldn't get labor started. I opted for reflexology in the end.

And congrats to you too by the way!