Chow, Baby: Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Taco Loco

Chow, Baby likely isn’t the only one who’s starting to get bored with its recent soft-taco addiction, which is threatening to break the pho record in the “Will Chow, Baby ever get off it” category. But just when it’s ready to make a run for this side of the border, bam, it stumbles across a couple more great little taquerias. What’s a lover of delicious, hearty, expense-account-friendly meals to do?

Theoretically, Chow, Baby could have passed up Juanes Taqueria (3401 Altamesa Blvd.) for its jam-packed next-door neighbor, Cici’s Pizza, but hell wasn’t freezing over that day. Juanes is small but lively, with orange faux-plaster walls shaken by boom-shaka-laka tunes on the stereo; though we were the only customers for lunch, it felt like a party. A family celebration, with a genial patriarch host and a rarely glimpsed matriarch cooking in the back. Unfortunately that day she hadn’t cooked enough carnitas — the part caramelized-fat, part juicy roasted-pork bits that are so dear to (but probably not good for) Chow, Baby’s heart — so Chow, Baby went with overstuffed tacos ($1.40 each) of various beef treatments, liberally sprinkled with onions, cilantro, and a lovely not-too-hot green sauce. All the meats were winners; all are also available in burritos, gorditas, and tortas ($2.95-$4.50).

The beloved, who is way past being bored with tacos, enjoyed half of an enchiladas de mole plate ($6.95) before Chow, Baby took it over to savor the rich, sweet, nutty sauce. Made-to-order guacamole (grande $4.95) was outstanding. For dessert, the silkiest flan ($1.75) Chow, Baby has savored in quite some time, and a chunkier custard called jericallas ($2). Chow, Baby, planning that this would be its last taco meal for at least a month, was quite happy to go out on such delectable notes.

But the very next day ... Chow, Baby was dodging the traffic cones on Eighth Avenue when it noticed that, darn it, that little deli no longer occupies the former gas station just off Rosedale. So long to gyros and Philly cheesesteaks; hello to La Pasadita (1116 8th Ave.). Really, Chow, Baby was planning just to stop in and pick up a menu, maybe come back in a month ... ooh, carnitas! Well, then.

Okay, one taco plate ($5.50 with pink rice and cheese-topped beans) couldn’t hurt. The crispy, juicy carnitas were as good as they smelled, and that’s saying something. Even better: the intensely flavorful shredded cheek meat of the slow-cooked barbacoa. Best of all: the carna asada. Here it’s not just marinated and grilled, as is usual, but also slow-simmered with onions and peppers. La Pasadita puts this juicy stew on a plate and calls it fajitas ($5.50) — it’s not the sizzling fajitas we’re used to around here, but Chow, Baby isn’t complaining. For one, because it’s delicious; for two, because that could be the “right way” to make fajitas somewhere in the world, and Chow, Baby is bored with showing its ignorance. (Similarly, Chow, Baby is not going to speculate about what “La Pasadita” means. Its first guess would have been “an ancient Mayan site,” but that’s what it thought about “Palenque” a couple of weeks ago, until perceptive reader Julia pointed out that “Pollo Palenque” actually refers to a cockfighting arena. Which is much cooler.) Anyway, Chow, Baby is full now and promises not to write about tacos again for, oh, at least a week.

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