A legendary takeout joint in far South Texas, where the state dips her toes into Mexico, Vera's sticks to the old border traditions for a truly one-of-kind barbacoa. While the definition of barbacoa tends to shift depending on where you stand, in Texas it generally means cow's head slow-cooked over coals in the ground – or, these days, steamed or roasted in an oven. As Vaughn tells it: "When I say this is the only commercially available barbacoa in Texas that's still cooked in the ground, I mean it literally – it's the only one." Pitmaster Mando Vera cooks whole cow heads over mesquite coals overnight in a brick-lined subterranean pit, yielding meat that's juicy without being wet, unlike the steamed variety. Vaughn is direct about the best way to enjoy this endangered species: "Throw some on a fresh tortilla with a dash of house-made hot sauce."
Credit: Nicholas McWhirter
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