As much as Chow, Baby loves a good taqueria taco, it had never thought to try making them at home – until a recent party at a neighbor’s, where Chow, Baby chanced to chat with the owner of the two La Superior mini-supermarkets (3724 Decatur Av. and 700 N. Sylvania Av.).
Turns out all the essential ingredients are available in grocery stores! So here’s your ethical disclosure: Chow, Baby has met socially (but not made out with or anything) the owner of a place it’s about to review. But not quite yet. The personal rule about not going hungry into a good grocery has to be respected – and luckily, the corner of Decatur Avenue and NE 36th Street sports three taquerias, where Chow, Baby could both fill up and steal ideas.
Benito’s (3708 Decatur Av. #B, and thanks to reader Tom for the tip) was a great first stop: friendly counterguys, happy to pantomime across the language divide, filling tortas, tostadas, tacos, and burritos from steam tables of great-smelling lengua, barbacoa, chicharrones, and much more. Chow, Baby’s favorite was the ultra-tender, lightly spicy pollo guisado taco ($1.60). Next stop, La Nueva de Zacatecas (3700 Decatur Av.). La Nueva, which has half a dozen branches in the Metroplex, is actually a tortilleria – it’s fun to watch the kneading machines go at it – but they also sell prepared meats and salsas, and some stores will put them all together into a taco for you.
Here the counterlady’s pantomiming and Chow, Baby’s pointing to various parts of its own body both failed, but Chow, Baby bought a pound ($8) of juicy barbacoa “de borrego” anyway. (Later, after eating most of it: Borrego means “mutton.” Whew.) Food isn’t the top priority at Panchitos Taqueria (3714 Decatur Av.). One table was piled high with kids’ clothing for sale; one long side wall was crowded with perfumes (Chow, Baby was attracted to one called “Shiny,” $34); and the back counter was dotted with unfamiliar-brand watches. Chow, Baby’s carne asada taco ($1.40) seemed to be a few days old, or maybe the swallowing difficulty came from being watched the whole time – not with “What’s an Anglo doing here?” mild curiosity, which happens, but with “Why is there a person actually eating here?” suspicion.
This person won’t again. Having finally completed its self-stuffing mission, Chow, Baby felt pretty dumb when it waddled into La Superior to find … a convenient in-store taqueria (tacos $1.25). Oh, well. Past that, past the crema-stocked dairy case, on to the butcher counter with its unfamiliar but gorgeous cuts of meat: ranchera (thin flank cut), milanesa (thin round steak), fajitas (fajitas), tripas, various stylings of puerco and pollo, so much more.
As a home-Mexican-cooking novice, Chow, Baby stuck with the deli end: freshmade pico de gallo and salsas, queso, melt-in-the-mouth ceviche, and the piece of no resistance whatsoever – carnitas ($5.95/lb), big chunks of fried pork just begging to be chopped into juicy bits and crispy bits and slipped into a warm tortilla. Which Chow, Baby already had, from La Nueva, so it was just a bop to La Superior’s produce section for limes, onion, and cilantro, and Taqueria Chow, Baby was in business for the rest of the week. Pretty good, too, though Chow, Baby must concede that Benito’s is better.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.