Treasure trove of tacos
Hungry from a day of post-hole digging and fence raising, my partner and I walked into Taqueria Adelitas with ambitious plans to order every taco on the menu — a 13-flavor taste tour of Northern Mexico, from birria (a peppery stewed goat) to
cochinita pibil (a citrus-marinated pork filling slowroasted inside banana leaves). All too familiar with this request, the floor manager rolled her eyes and informed us that tacos must be ordered in pairs, at a minimum, and asked if we were really prepared to eat 26 tacos. Sheepishly, we retreated, ordering some of our favorites: lengua (tongue), suadero (brisket),
tripitas (tripe), and buche (pork stomach). English translations are not offered on Adelitas’ counter menu. The employees speak English, but most of the restaurant’s customers know their way around a menu of Mexican street tacos, many of which are delicious concoctions of offal and other, more standard meats. Yes, this Cerrillos Road taqueria also serves tortas, burritos, flautas, menudo, nachos, and roast chicken; but the plates on the restaurant’s gingham-cloth-covered picnic tables are largely covered in tacos, made using earthy corn tortillas ridged with a whole-grain texture. Since the tacos can be had for a dollar a pop, a culinary education can be yours for considerably less than the price of a Rick Bayless cookbook.
Like a workingman’s sashimi, our tacos came served on a long wooden slat built for sharing. First up were the tripitas, beef tripe cooked till crisp on the outside but chewy on the inside. These were followed by suadero, an exceedingly tender cut of brisket. The tacos de lengua (can we please banish the nasty-sounding phrase “tongue taco”?) are Mexican comfort food, their fork-tender heartiness the equivalent of pot roast. But the most pleasing taco at Adelitas has to be the buche, made with bits of slow-braised pork stomach that are buttery and decadent. We also tried the alambre tacos, but their mishmash of marinated beef steak, bell peppers, and melted cheese felt too much like a nacho crammed inside a tortilla.
Some of the best food at Adelitas comes free at the salsa bar, a wagon-wheel contraption fashioned out of an old Marco Pollo restaurant cart. There’s an array of rich condiments here, all house-made daily and not a weak one among them: a smoky paste of char-roasted chile pasado, a guacamole that tastes more like a spicy chilled avocado soup, chipotle-cream dressing, a garlicky pico de gallo, and a nutty salsa roja made from roasted chile árbol. You’ll also find lime wedges for squeezing, pickled red onions for adding tang, and thin cucumber slices to soothe the palate.
The quality of food and service at Adelitas seems to be contingent on when you go and who’s working. When we first visited, early on a Wednesday evening, we found the place nearly deserted, save for the two cooks behind the counter. The quality of the food and service was just off. The chipotle-cream dressing, normally the lodestar of the bountiful salsa bar, tasted like oversalted, underspiced sour cream. We ordered a parrillada, a hefty mixed grill of meats, served with corn tortillas, baked potatoes, and a chorizo-cheese melt. Despite placing more than a pound of buche and lengua in a sizzling skillet before us, the waiter brought us just six small tortillas and neglected to bring plates. The one redeeming feature was a Super Michelada, a Mexican summer drink composed of Dos Equis beer, Clamato juice, limes, Tabasco, and dried shrimp that’s served in a goblet. It’s like a rough, coastal version of the bloody mary — perfect for hot summer weather.
When we returned on a bustling Sunday night (Lakers-Celtics game blaring on the flat-screen TV, kids playing in front of the lime-green and electric-yellow walls), a staff member was berating the cooks for missing an order and madly dashing from table to table making sure the customers got what they ordered. I’ve since learned that other local chefs who are fans of Adelitas make sure to peek in the front windows and see who’s on shift before entering. The difference in the food and service can be enormous.