When I moved here 4 years ago almost to the day, one of the 1st things I did was log on to Chowhound in search of the city’s main Mexican squeezes. The thread I found was rife with what I now know to be among the usual suspects: El Taco de Mexico. Chubby’s. Santiago’s. Jack-n-Grill. Tacos y Salsas. Los Carboncitos. Patzcuaro’s. And Tacos Jalisco, which I finally crossed off the list this week—with a flourish.
The moment I set foot in the main dining room, in all its lively if well-worn warmth, I had a good feeling—starting with the fact that I hadn’t yet slid into the booth where pals M & A were already holding court when the kid manning the host stand asked me (from behind, even), “Can I get you something to drink?” Like there wasn’t a moment to lose. Young man, you’re going places.
In that spirit, while perusing the entrées (M recommended the Camaron Diaz, which A & I actually used up a few precious seconds of our lives looking for), we ourselves wasted no time ordering snacks on top of the chips & salsa trio that come out pronto—starting with queso fundido.
Having been traumatized in my youth by “kwaysoh” as served in the Meximerican joints of the Midwest, I hadn’t ordered anything of the kind in years. Turns out it’s not, in fact, glue de Velveeta. It’s real Mexican melting cheese like Chihuahua or asadero, in this case mixed with crumbled chorizo. That’s it & that’s all—pure, simple, salty & luscious.
Same goes for the chicharrónes (technically a side dish). If a bowl full of seasoned, deep-fried pork rinds with chunks of meat still attached here & there doesn’t speak for itself, I don’t know what does.
Being unsure how the poblano plate differed from the chiles rellenos, I ordered it. The answer: not significantly. The poblanos are topped rather than stuffed, & they’re not breaded—but then, that’s true of some versions of chiles rellenos I’ve encountered. What I remain unsure of is whether they actually yielded the advertised mushroom cream sauce. If so, I didn’t see or taste it amid the cheese & chicken—which was itself a slight disappointment; I’d assumed it would be shredded, which is neither here nor there, but the chunks were tough & a little dry. Still, all mixed up with guacamole & sour cream, diced tomatoes & shredded iceberg alongside perfectly good beans & rice, it went down nice & easy.
If I understand the definition of alambre correctly, it specifies the technique of cooking on skewers (the word literally means “wire”); I believe that’s how Los Carboncitos uses the term on its menu. But it’s applied more loosely to a particular type of taco that contains bacon as well as ground beef or steak (&, in this case, ham), as well as peppers & onions & all the usual trimmings. Chop & char, that’s all right by me meatwise, especially when contrasted with fresh, crisp, cooling veggies & squirts of lime—though the peppers were a little too crisp, not quite softened/blackened by the grill.
Speaking of telltale markings, M pointed out the pale lines on the surface of the warm corn tortillas that indicate their pass down a conveyor belt—housemade versions are, after all, an unfortunate if understandable rarity around here (I hear Araujo’s might offer them; true? Any other tips?).
No qualified praise, meanwhile, for A’s camarones adobados—it was simply great: fresh, firm, sweet shrimp slicked with a sauce that boasted the consistency of marinade, not too thick, & a well-seasoned balance between smoky & sour elements.
Since the Director couldn’t join us, he asked me to bring him some tacos de carnitas & al carbon—as good as M’s not least for offering up a whole blistered jalapeño that we split with wide, watering eyes.
Amid the furious fleet of mobile loncheras, it’s good to remember there are some brick-&-mortar longtimers out there that aren’t budging.