PICK YOUR POISON An array of potent potions.
Considering the lengthy, complex, and well-respected culinary history of Mexico, it's a pity that any Taco Bells are getting business around here. (I'm looking now to see if there are any in New Mexico . . . Whew. Nope.) Up for Mexican food and limiting yourself to tacos and burritos is like having a yen for French food and choosing french fries.
That said, two of the three guys I had lunch with recently chose tacos. Sigh. The upshot was that we were eating at El Rancho Grande, so the double-corn-tortilla tacos were right on the money, with unusually large piles of meat as well as rabbit food. Sorry. Once a carnivore . . . . Speaking of which, these tacos ($1.75-$2.50) offer a choice of more than a half-dozen meats, from chipotle chicken and marinated steak or pork to goat. Or cod cooked with chipotle salsa. Or sautéed shrimp and corn, topped with guacamole and pico de gallo (salsa fresca). Enough choices?
As pleasant as what I chose to have, some other items on the menu were tempting. Soups (most $8) are available weekends only. They include pozole, with big kernels of hominy and pulled pork; and menudo, with tripe and chickpeas. The torta oaxaqueña ($6) is a grilled roll with both ham and carne adobada (marinated pork) among its ingredients. As well as ordinary pork tamales ($2.50), there are oaxaqueños ($3.50) with chicken and mole sauce and tamales dulces ($2) for dessert, sweetened with plum or pineapple.
Along with the complementary kitchen-made corn chips and salsa ($2 for refills), I started with ceviche ($8). I haven't had a better version. Shrimp only, not diluted with fish, was "cooked" in lime juice, diced and mixed with chopped tomatoes, and topped with plenty of cilantro, as were the tacos. Delicately spiced, delicious.
For my main dish I had the tinga poblano ($14). It packed a one-two punch of shredded beef and chorizo, stewed with chipotles, onion, and light on the garlic. Halved tomatillos and pieces of stewed tomato filled out the dish, and black beans were served on the side. My fork kept returning to it without needing my instruction.
Across from the taco-munching duo was a somewhat more adventurous friend. Rob had a chimichanga ($8). Per usual, it was made more interesting than a plain burrito by being fried. But what topped that, better than literally, was being covered with and swimming in a delectable chipotle and cream sauce. Chopped lettuce and guacamole on the side provided some contrast. He was pleased.
The chicken and shrimp fajitas ($13) I took home for the wife would have been served on a sizzling plate at the table. The quantity was much too much for the three flour tortillas provided, so you might have to order more. An abundance of bell peppers and onions were sautéed along with medium shrimp and a proportional amount of white meat strips. Pico de gallo, cheese, and a cream spread were provided to add. If you want guacamole, it's among the appetizers for $4; a poblano variation, spiced up, is $5.