Jillian Reddish at the now-infamous taco wall. Photo courtesy of Jillian Reddish.
Jillian Reddish at the now-infamous taco wall. Photo courtesy of Jillian Reddish.

Editor’s Note: Former San Antonian and frequent contributor to the Rivard Report, Jillian Reddish moved to Seattle in 2014 to pursue a communications degree at the University of Washington. Her letter to her fellow citizens below was originally published by the Seattle Globalist.


Dear Seattle,

I can understand that one primarily hipster city will have a natural affinity for another majorly hipster city, but I’ve been seeing signs lately that Seattleites are buying into a few fallacies about Austin, such as when Seattle Metropolitan recently published the myth that Austin is the home of the breakfast taco.

So let’s get one thing straight right now: Breakfast tacos are not from Austin.

Yes, they are in Austin, they are all over Austin, and I definitely agree that they are great in Austin. But Austin did not invent breakfast tacos, just like Seattle did not invent coffee.

Sure, Austin did a lot to make breakfast tacos a household term (so did Taco Bell). But if the word on the street is that breakfast tacos are going to be introduced to Seattle, it’s important not to fall into the cultural appropriation trap hipsters so often seem to.

When Seattle Met wrote about a new company called Sunrise Tacos bringing breakfast tacos to the Seattle breakfast taco scene, I was pretty excited.

Until I ran into this explanation of a migas breakfast taco:

“… It’s also the only one filled with the combo of scrambled eggs, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and fried tortilla strips known in Austin taco speak as migas.”

No. First, that “Austin taco speak” is Spanish, a language independent of Austin coffee shops and spoken by at least 470 million people throughout the world. The dish itself has a Spanish version and, it can be argued, both Mexican and Tex-Mex versions.

Second, the article generally upholds the contested myth that Austin invented breakfast tacos, when in fact, no one is certain who “invented” something this ubiquitous to South Texas. Texans have been having this, ahem, “conversation” about the origins of breakfast tacos for years, and it very recently heated up again.

When Matthew Sedacca claimed in February 2016 that Austin invented the breakfast taco, it sparked an outcry and even a Change.org petition to exile him from Texas (we get pretty serious about tacos). Multiple hashtags popped up, notably#maketacosnotwar and#keepAustinpretentious.

This is how San Antonio does breakfast tacos. Photo by Jillian Reddish.
This is how San Antonio does breakfast tacos. Photo by Jillian Reddish.

San Antonio went to bat on behalf of the rest of South Texas, the huge region south of Austin, all the way over to Corpus Christi and down to Mexico. Even a Californian got involved, calling out Austin for its shortsighted cheek.

In the end — and this is important — Austin backed down because it was proved beyond a pretentious doubt that breakfast tacos were a thing before Austin claimed them. And yes, this entire conversation is relevant to Seattle’s emerging breakfast taco scene for many reasons.

We can’t flippantly ignore the heritage of cultural cuisines. If Seattle buys into the “Columbusing” of breakfast tacos, it would be, to use the words of my native Texas friend, “like me writing an article to San Antonio about this great new food I recently discovered from Portland: It’s called salmon!”

I want you to know that I say this as a new Seattle resident who has given serious thought to questions of identity and heritage. Yes, I am a statistic: I moved to Seattle from Texas in 2014 along with 4,055 others, and I see this myopic ability to suddenly “discover” something great about another culture’s cuisine — with no appreciation for history or heritage — as contributing to the same gentrification Seattle is worried about.

Columbusing threatens our ability to live together and respect people from different backgrounds as we continue to take in new residents.

With all of these new Texans moving to Seattle, it’s obvious that breakfast tacos will find a warm welcome. But are we really going to fall for the old joke? Texans say about breakfast tacos that, “The Rio Grande Valley invented it, San Antonio popularized it and Austin takes credit for it.” (Writer Charles Scudder also does a decent job explaining why Austin’s claim to the breakfast taco is cultural appropriation).

When will hipsters finally start thinking it’s “cool” to acknowledge the real roots of something? Back before chefs started experimenting with pork belly, ahi tuna or kimchi in tacos, Hispanic mothers prepared cheap and filling meals for their families, adding rice and beans for protein, stretching out cheap cuts of meat, tenderly wrapping leftovers in a warm tortilla. Now it’s being elevated to “cuisine,” instead of being honored as the frugal genius this food is.

Seattle is a city with endless opportunities to learn about cultural traditions through tons of tasty dishes, if we do so with respect.

As a huge fan of breakfast tacos, I think it’s great that a company like Sunrise Tacos now exists here, but I would ask that they proceed thoughtfully and educate Seattleites about the cultural roots of the breakfast food they’re pushing to raise a real appreciation for preceding food traditions.

Whenever they deliver that foil-wrapped package with a side of salsa, Sunrise has an opportunity to remind us of the original influences the breakfast taco came from.

Until that happens, I’d rather get my breakfast taco fix in South Texas, and recognize the traditions and the people who taught me about the roots of the vibrant culture that thrives in San Antonio and South Texas.

I’ll do this whether hipsters think it’s Insta-worthy or not.


Top image: Jillian Reddish at the now-famous taco wall. Photo courtesy of Jillian Reddish.

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Chef Johnny Hernandez: Hey, Austin, Come and Taco It!

Photo Gallery: 45,000 Tacos Made at Cowboy Breakfast

Spurs, Family, and Tacos at Tony’s Bar

Jillian Reddish is a student, writer and communications strategist living in Seattle. She is passionate about cities, travel and access to higher education.

30 replies on “Dear Seattle Hipsters: Austin Did Not Invent the Breakfast Taco”

  1. I grew up in Texas - west Texas, south Texas, and San Antonio, and I never had a “breakfast” taco until the 1980s. I had tortillas, and huevos ranchero, for breakfast, but the eggs did not come rolled up in the taco while I was growing up.

  2. Really Seattle?! No you can't take a Mexican staple of every poor working family and try to make it yours. Grandma and other Mexican grandma's were making Burritos, Tacos since who knows when. Grandma would wake up at 4am, make fresh flour tortillas for her husband and sons to take with them to work. It was a breakfast to go in a sense. Workers like my grandfather had to be out selling their goods by the crack of dawn and this was easy, fast for them. If you want to settle it... Mexicans invented the breakfast Taco. The End.

  3. Hey Austin and San Antonio, this one is pretty easy to settle. The breakfast taco was invented even further south from both of you, in Mexico where guisados for breakfast are a common thing. Also, when eating a dish like huevos con machaca in salsa or huevos albañil is pasilla sauce and say, you eat those dishes with corn tortillas like most Mexicans do, the voila, basically more breakfast tacos. So sorry Austin and sorry San Antonio, both of you are just the Juany Come Latelys of the breakfast taco game...Funnily enough “breakfast tacos” aren't even a thing in Mexico, there, it's just called breakfast and it happens to come in taco form.

  4. The writer hits it on the head: “Texans say about breakfast tacos that, “The Rio Grande Valley invented it, San Antonio popularized it and Austin takes credit for it.” (Writer Charles Scudder also does a decent job explaining why Austin’s claim to the breakfast taco is cultural appropriation).”

  5. Enough is enough. Laredo is the true home of the “breakfast taco”, and they don't even call it that. It's called a “mariachi” there. It's also where you'll the find the most authentic Mexican cuisine before crossing the bridge.

    1. Why is “authentic” Mexican food? Mexico has different variations of its food depending on the region you are in. San Antonio's unique tejano culture is simply another regional variation.

      Just as new Orleans has its own unique cuisine and culture. San Antonio has its own. Besides, people in SA were eating tacos before Loredo even existed as a city.

  6. I like your “Columbusing” photo - a flour tortilla with cheddar cheese - wheat, cattle- came to the Americas with the Euros.

    The taco is arguably, along with the tamal, the oldest food of the Americas.

    Let's have some Seattle coffee and keep up the conversation!

  7. When I was a child...children of Mexican American families took tacos to school for lunch because there was no money for bread or sliced meats. Latino kids would eat their taco lunches quickly so that the rest of the white children could not see our poverty. Every day our mama's wrapped tacos in foil for our lunch that we took to the cotton fields. Tacos have been around in our Latino families all of our lives.

  8. Austin did NOT back down vs San Antonio. I doubt either place had the very first breakfast tacos. Austin has perfected them and we eat them all the time. Turning a silly food reference in Seattle into a culture affront is silly.

    1. You call the store bought flour tortillas from Torchy's and Taco Deli perfection? Silliness!

  9. In this SA vs. Austin breakfast taco debate, I have yet to hear any San Antonio claim we invented them. We've just claimed we do it better. And based on this article saying Austin puts pork belly, kimchi and ahi tuna in their tacos, I would agree we do it better. It's definitely a cultural thing that has no municipality borders. Being in my late 30s and born and raised in SA, I don't know a world without breakfast tacos . But my life of breakfast tacos didn't exist solely because I lived here. Visiting family in Mexico frequently, breakfast tacos were a common meal in the mornings. But going back to the pork belly, kimchi and ahi tuna, what makes those breakfast tacos. Does everyone forget that their is such a thing as a taco (breakfast not necessary)? What makes a breakfast taco a breakfast taco is that it is a taco filled with fillings normally made for breakfast. Who is having pork belly, kimchi or ahi tuna for breakfast (prior to deciding to stuff them into a taco)?

  10. Okay so the whole debate about Tex-Mex is ongoing. Before you had breakfast tacos you had huevos rancheros, an american invention. What people don't realize is that all “Mexican Food” as we know it came from the times of the cattle drives when at least half of the “Cowboys” came from Mexico. They brought their food staples and cooking ideas with them and the meals became a confluence of whatever could be used for sustainable meals. This evolved into the menus used in the south Texas local cafe's and eventual restaurants. Hipsters from Seattle, San Francisco or any other non-Texas area, including southern California will have no idea of the awesome flavors and tastes associated with true Tex-Mex, including so called “Breakfast Tacos”. You will have come to the mecca of the evolution of this combination of tastes at MiTierra in San Antonio. Austin, Houston, Dallas, wherever, are only trying to catch up with what became true “Tex-Mex” many years ago.

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