Taco expert's podcast crowns the best bean and cheese in San Antonio via 'battle royale'
If there is one thing that Texans are guaranteed to be opinionated about, it’s tacos. But few have the fervor of Austin’s Mando Rayo. For almost two decades, he has chronicled the beloved food in obsessive detail, first as a blogger and now as a multimedia storyteller.
The 13-episode arc hears from Latino voices across the state, including the Rio Grande Valley, Central Texas, and the Gulf Coast. With new episodes appropriately dropping every Taco Tuesday, the new season gives Rayo a chance to explore a wide variety of angles, from vegan taqueros to the process of archiving food history.
“One of the main reasons I think I’m so driven to engage people in this conversation around taco culture is to get people to know the stories and the people behind that are cooking the food,” shares Rayo. “Yes, it’s important that food taste great, but it’s equally important that people understand where the food comes from, whether it’s migrant workers, to new immigrants, to second generation Mexican chefs.”
Rayo incorporates pop culture into the conversation and more than a little food bit of fun. In one of the highlights of the third season, Rayo teams up with influencer Stephanie Guerra (Puro Pinche), Nydia Huizar and Richard Diaz from BarbacoApparel, and Jaime Macias from Jaime’s Place to determine the victor in a San Antonio Bean and Cheese Battle Royale. (We won't spoil the winner; The episode is out now.)
“If you know anything about San Antonio, you know they love their bean and cheese tacos. And I love how the San Antonio community comes together around something that is so unpretentious yet deep rooted in the culture,” explains Rayo of the idea.
Rayo is particularly interested in the multifold identities of taco culture. A late episode does a deep dive into Encuentro, an initiative of the Texas Indigenous Food Project exploring the Native American roots of Texas Mexican food. Rayo spends two installments tracing the foodways of Black Seminoles and Mexicans.
“I believe it’s important to know and understand the intersectionalities of people, whether it’s Mexicans, Indigenous, or Blacks, not only in Texas but in Mexico too,” says Rayo. “I think telling these kinds of stories and going deep into the storytelling is important to help people understand where we come from and where we’ve been."
The podcast strikes the same balance, making complex subjects easily digestible (no pun intended). Listen to it online at KUT and KUTX Studios — preferably while driving to a taqueria.