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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tacos in Riverside: Good to Great, and then Inedible

The strangest thing happened on my way back from Riverside. I stopped by a very promising looking fish taco joint called Tacos Los Compadres (don't ask why I went for fish tacos in an inland city) and for like two bucks, I got the best and crispiest fish taco I've had in a long time. The fish was just out of the fryer, piping hot, whose temperature was tempered by the cold tomatoes, crunchy lettuce and white sauce on top.

I relished that taco so much I returned a few months later and ordered two fish tacos. The first one was just as good as I remembered it. But then it happened. As I bit enthusiastically into the second taco, I had a serious case of cognitive dissonance. Naturally, I first rationalized the seemingly inedible fish that tasted like lead and not at all fresh and fleshy like the one I had had exactly one second ago was just a bad first bite.

But then the second bite was just as bad. The fish tasted so bad I had to spit it out and couldn't eat the rest. So sad. I told the friendly guy at the counter but not sure I'll ever return. There are simply too many taquerias to be lax in quality control.

On another trip to Riverside, I went to Mr. Taco after some message boards raved about its namesake goodies. I had the carne asada and al pastor tacos with rice and refried beans. The carne asada was nothing special and the al pastor was definitely better than average but not mind-blowing.
I liked that the pork pieces were nicely charred and flavorful. Did you know that al pastor came from shawarma that Lebanese immigrants brought to Mexico? Cool random factoid of the day.

The salsas were also deep in flavor and spice, which I liked.

The rice was far too dry but the refried beans were fine. It's hard to go wrong with refried beans with a gooey layer of cheese on top, after all. 

I probably won't return since Riverside is so vast and I'd prefer to try other new places in search of that perfect taco, whether it'd be one filled with fish, carne asada or al pastor.

I was disappointed that Mr. Taco didn't have any jamaica, which is usually my drink of choice when I down tacos. It did have a watermelon agua fresca that was refreshing and probably a bit better for me, but I love me a tall glass of bright red jamaica any day.

I dedicate this post to my dear friends who are living in places where getting decent Mexican food is like a hunt for the Holy Grail. Believe me, as someone who's been there, I feel your pain. This is incentive for you to come visit!


Anonymous said...

Your considerate thought to those who have much less fortune to good tacos made me cry at 9am in my office. Thank you NJ! La chica Umami from NY.

ironchef442 said...

querida chiquilla umami,

sorry to hear you cried but hoping that will be incentive for you to come visit us and bring some katz's pastrami to go! te hechamos de menos...