By the time my three a la carte tacos arrived, I was ready to raise my arms to the heavens and cry, “Enough of this Medici wedding-type banquet of meats, seafood, piquant sauces, and so much starch!”
I wasn’t even going to order the tacos, but apparently they are only $1 on Mondays and Tuesdays at Taqueria San Andreas (961 W Magnolia Av, 682-250-3542), the newish eatery that took over the space that Tina’s Cocina used to occupy. So after gorging on an appetizer, cup of soup, entree, and god knows how many chips, I figured I might as well see if I can explode all over the dining room like that guy toward the end of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. A thin wafer mint could have been a stick of dynamite that day.
I’m happy someone is making that restaurant space relevant again after Tina’s languished under new ownership for the past year or so. The food and service weren’t bad at either iteration, and I couldn’t tell you why the buzz died down on what was once a hot name in a popular area. Maybe the glut of new eateries that have come along since its opening in 2014 just drowned out the tiny taco purveyors? The restaurant game is cruel like that. I hadn’t walked through those doors in years.
Based on the crowd on a recent weekday lunch, the critically acclaimed local chain has apparently rekindled the interest of more than a few locals – though the sample size was a little small for that statement to mean anything.
The Bacchanalian meat orgy started thanks to a miscommunication with my server. I ordered one cup of pozole ($4.50) and an appetizer portion of the tostada de ceviche ($5.50), and our prompt and eager server brought both my guest and me a portion of the apps. Turns out, it was a happy accident. Neither of us wanted to share the soup, a master class of dark and intense broth, though not especially spicy, with tender cubes of pork bobbing in the brew and diced radish, shredded lettuce, and wedges of limes waiting on the side. The ceviche was a superior if unimaginative version of the dish. Hunks of citrus-drenched fish, chopped cilantro, and creamy slivers of fresh-tasting avocado were piled atop a crispy tortilla.
Had I only walked out the door at that point (after paying, of course), I wouldn’t have had to mainline caffeine the rest of the day just to feel awake enough to drive.
My guest and I inadvertently shared the entree carne asada ($11.99). He canceled his entree order when it became clear we were in over our guts. The flat portion of steak looked more like a lean piece of liver and suffered from lack of seasoning. The accompanying grilled onions and jalapeño enlivened the dish. After we swaddled the entire combination in a thick, warm corn tortilla, the bland meat was but a distant memory. A generous gush of the criminally spicy housemade salsa verde turned the whole thing into an exercise in masochism.
Then came the tacos. We didn’t need them, but that’s not the point of extreme indulgence –– you wring that serotonin out of your brain like a damp towel. One each of pastor, carnitas, and rajas con queso (sliced bell peppers and cheese), all served in the same heavenly tortillas with cilantro and onion, arrived like more of a challenge than the final act to an extravagant lunch. The highlight of the trio was the brightly colored, well-seasoned al pastor, though it’s a middling version compared to other varieties around town. The biggest miss of the lunch was the veggie taco, whose sweet and flavorful taste couldn’t overcome the slimy texture of the peppers. Though they might have been a little on the meh side, all three were certainly worth their dollar price tag – not a bad deal for what could be my last meal for a few days.