Trea­sure trove of tacos

Pasatiempo - - Restaurant Review - Casey Sanchez

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.

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