In Texas, the breakfast taco is sacred. Served throughout the state and costing not much more than a dollar or two, its base of egg, beans, bacon, and grated cheese, all tucked inside of a soft taco shell, has cured untold Texan hangovers and reached food celebrity status. Presently, a heated debate centers around which Texan city can lay claim to its founding; in February, an Eater writer stated it was Austin, and got more than a little heat for doing so. The breakfast taco is no matter to take lightly; it is tied to local culinary—and, generally speaking—Texan identity. But in a time where almost nothing remains regional, oddly, the breakfast taco has managed to do so. Until now.
Jalap Jar Breakfast Bar, begun by two New Yorkers, their Texan cousin, and a chef in Austin will open in a small brick-and-mortar at 100 Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights no later than July 1. And, as far as they know, Jalapa Jar will be the first to serve the rapturously loved Texan-style breakfast taco in New York City. On Saturday, Jalapa Jar took part in large street fair popup on 1st Avenue and 71st Street on the Upper East Side. When I caught wind of this, I had to stop by to try these breakfast tacos myself; all in order to discover what—really—could make the little scrambled egg taco pockets the fantasy morning meal they have become.
When I approached the Jalapa Bar booth around 3pm—a solid 15 minute walk from the closest subway—a notably large crowd of curious taco eaters surrounded it, asking questions and eating the novelty food well past noon. In addition to breakfast tacos, Jalapa Jar also bottles and sells fresh salsa. Truth be told, this recipe was the germ for the cousins’ business. But once they realized the breakfast taco was glaringly absent in New York City, they figure their salsa would get a lot more love if the breakfast taco was something one could pour their salsa all over and eat it with.
Co-founder cousin Tommy Byrnes sat and talked with me about bringing the breakfast taco to New York just a few paces away from the hungry hordes. Simultaneously, I ate a couple. I chose the Industry City (soft eggs toped with bacon and mashed potatoes in a soft fried corn tortilla) and a Greenpoint (a veggie option with avocado and refried beans), and both were topped with fresh Jalapa salsa. I took my first bite: it tasted like breakfast (eggs, especially soft); it tasted like taco (for obvious reasons); and the texture was outstanding.
All of the ingredients I ate were familiar; so what, I asked Byrnes, makes this breakfast taco so special?
“It’s all about the mush,” Byrnes said—and I knew exactly what he meant when I heard it: the very soft scrambled eggs (theirs are made with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a scoop of Jalapa salsa to create a fluffy but perfectly moist bite), added to another layer of mush base, either refried beans, or potatoes in this case. “Mush” is not a traditionally appetizing word, but when hungover, or just very hungry, it is the acme of comfort. Still, Byrnes conceded, “We’ve been coming up with a better way to describe it.” His friend and co-founder Joel Nearing, their Austin chef, came up with the recipe.
Finally, the breakfast tacos on Saturday, as opposed to many Austin options, used a corn rather than a flour shell; a little corn oil was added to it before it got a quick pan fry, and then there was a nice portion of Jalapa salsa dumped on top of each.
Before the official Jalapa Jar Breakfast Bar opens in early July—in a small space around 100 square feet, right next to the Clark Street 2/3 Subway—Byrnes and cousin co-founder Steve Smith, and another cousin Ryan Smith (their New York City lead Chef) will hold a series of pop-up events around Manhattan and Brooklyn, so you can get your breakfast taco fill even before they officially unveil themselves to our fair city.
And when they do, you’ll be able to get a large variety of them: tacos in flour or corn tortilla shells, all with egg bases; you choose refried pinto or refried black bean bases, jalepeño garlic mashed potatoes, or mashed plantains, and then a variety of meat and veggie toppings, along with grated cheese. You’ll also be able to buy their jarred salsa, and Byrnes wants to offer something he called a “sweet stick,” mashed plantains in a tortilla shell with maple sugar, a jalapeño kick, and brown sugar.
“As far as I know, we’re the only ones doing this in terms of pop-up grab and go inexpensive breakfast tacos,” Byrnes tells me. He lays out the ideal scenario that breakfast and lunch eaters will soon experience. “You wake up hungover, grab a couple of tacos, a coffee”—he’s having his favorite Summermoon Coffee shipped from Austin—”some sweet sticks, and go sit in the park,” Byrnes said, referring to the Brooklyn Prominade.
I have to say, Texas in Brooklyn had never seemed quite so appealing as it does now.