Talking Skirt Steak with Mark Mavrantonis
Mark Mavrantonis, Director of Culinary Development for Legacy Restaurants, which owns the Original Ninfa's, buys Certified Hereford outside skirt steak for the famous fajitas there. He doesn't hold back in his opinions about fajita meat.
"Using inner skirt steak for fajitas is probably okay," he wrote me in an email, "just as long as you use frozen tortillas and tomatoes out of a can... but you'd never see any of that crap at the original Ninfa's on Navigation. In fact, if I went in there next week and suggested using inner skirt or not using Hereford to save money, the cooks would probably kick my ass."
American outside skirt is rare and expensive because we export almost all of it to Asia. Meanwhile, we are importing outside skirt steak of lesser quality from Central America, a situation which Mavrantonis (and a lot of other meat buyers) finds a little ridiculous.
"We sell most of our good fajita meat to countries like Korea because their meat sucks and they pay more than we're willing to pay," he said, "and then we turn around and import shit quality (outside skirt steak) from third-world countries that tastes more like old liver than beef because it costs less than we could get for ours. Seriously, that makes about as much sense as stepping out of the shower to take a piss. I'm not sure what this says about the state of restaurants in America: We shouldn't have to deal with problems like that. I shouldn't have to go to the DMZ if I want good American skirt steak. WTF."