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A Popular Houston Taco Pop-Up Will Take Over the Kitchen at Grand Prize Bar

Pan de Taco will take over the bar’s kitchen, slinging barbacoa tacos on fresh tortillas

a white plate holding four meat-filled tacos topped with cilantro and onions
Pan de Taco brings fermented tortillas, housemade pickles to the kitchen at Grand Prize.
Jordan Vasquez / Pan de Taco

A pop-up kitchen that’s been slinging tacos throughout Houston for the last several years now has a permanent home in the Museum District.

Pan de Taco, which specializes in tacos wrapped in hand-pressed, fermented corn tortillas, is taking over the kitchen of popular bar Grand Prize, which has been closed temporarily since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurant will operate curbside takeout service Thursdays through Sundays out of Grand Prize’s longtime location at 1010 Banks Street.

Pan de Taco offers a simple menu of barbacoa, pollo assda, aguacaté and al pastor tacos, served with cilantro, onion, lime and salsa verde, as well as house-pickled carrots, cauliflower, and serranos. The tacos are served on handmade corn tortillas which are fermented for four days.

The kitchen arrangement is a win-win situation for both businesses, according to Pan de Taco co-owner Elyse Monzon.

Grand Prize has been closed for more than five months, ever since Houston’s first stay-at-home order, which closed bars in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. The bar’s owners have opted not to offer take-out cocktails until they feel it’s safe for their employees to return work, a representative for the bar told Eater. In the meantime, though, Grand Prize has been renting its kitchen out to pop-up restaurants as a way to make extra money. (Though Grand Prize has a kitchen, they are licensed with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission as a bar.)

Monzon said Pan de Taco’s residency at Grand Prize is expected to be permanent. “We’ll be serving lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday each week until the bar opens, then shifting to match their hours once they re-open,” Monzon said. Monzon and their spouse, chef Albert Vasquez, have been lugging the pop-up’s portable cookware set-up throughout Houston for years, serving tacos at places like The New Potato, Axelrad and Holler Brewing.

“We preferred that to a food truck as it helped us to be closer and more visible to patrons in smaller venues,” Monzon said. “Our menu is always small and precise because we highly value consistency. We are very excited to bring our food back to the community , to introduce ourselves to new neighbors, while serving from a safer and more consistent setting.”

In a 2018 interview with Voyage Houstont, Vasquez talked about his background working at kitchens in his native Corpus Christi and his love for fermentation. “While tacos are our main focus, the technique behind the product— just like the people who call this place home— comes from every part of the world. Ancient fermentation, German pickling, Polish sausage making, French braising methods. So many beautiful cultures have influenced South Texas life. This is my way of saying thank you for letting it shape me,” he told Voyage Houston.

With their move into more permanent digs, Monzon said Pan de Taco hopes to continue that mission. “In this new space, we’re looking forward to fulfilling the purposes that we’ve had since the beginning — to contribute to the identity of South Texas cuisine, and bring quality food to the city’s working class.”

Pan de Taco’s pickup hours are noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Orders can be placed on the restaurant’s website.

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