AS A DEVOTED taco shop hopper, Iâ€™ve learned a thing or two about what to look for. The No. 1 rule: the appearance of a taco shop has an inverse correlation with the taste of the food.
In other words, the most authentic tasting tacos will come out of a ghetto-looking taco truck with a misspelled menu written in Sharpie, served on a paper plate soaked through with grease.
TaquerÃa Jalisco on the southeast corner of Shaw and Cedar Avenues isnâ€™t that ghetto, but the myriad of Mexican and seafood dishes are all very authentic-tasting and filling.
A $4.95 order of Bulldog nachos for lunch kept me feeling full until the next morning.
I couldnâ€™t believe I got a styrofoam to-go box holding a two-pound heaping mound of tortilla chips, meat, beans, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and salsa for less than $5.
TaquerÃa Jaliscoâ€™s menu is basic but lengthy. The typical taquerÃa meats â€” carne asada, chicken, carnitas, lengua and more â€” are available in a variety of Mexican dishes, including tacos, burritos, sopes, tostadas, tortas and quesadillas.
Combination plates with your choice of items plus beans, rice and salad are available for less than $8. Seafood dishes are more expensive, but each is less than $9.
Beverages include fountain drinks, imported Jarritos sodas, Gatorade and â€œauthenticâ€ jamaica and horchata. (I canâ€™t call them truly authentic because they are made from a mix and poured from bubblers. Real aguas frescas are made fresh inside a large clear bucket with ice and served with a ladle.)
On a separate visit I ordered a combination plate with a chicken taco, carne asada taco, beans, rice and a salad.
I gave the jamaica a chance â€” it failed me. The sweet taste of hibiscus was overpowering and didnâ€™t go down smoothly as real jamaica would have.
The tacos, which consisted of chunks of meat, white onions, chopped cilantro and hot salsa wrapped in two white corn tortillas, held the perfect combination of flavors. No ingredient was too overpowering.
No. 2 rule: real tacos are wrapped in two tortillas. Not Double Decker Taco style like at Taco Bell â€” but two soft white corn tortillas.
The idea is one tortilla would break because it is so overwhelmed with food and grease, so the second tortilla acts as a backup.
The rice is well seasoned and fluffy, while the refried beans taste homemade, which brings me to rule No. 3: the taste of a restaurantâ€™s beans and rice, (the staples of Mexican cuisine) determine the quality of the rest of the food.
If the restaurant canâ€™t get these right, it fails. TaquerÃa Jalisco gets it right.
The salad turned out to be a few pieces of iceberg lettuce, one strand of a carrot and two pieces of purple onion all swimming in a puddle of ranch dressing. So much for the healthy part of the meal.
Itâ€™s wise to order your food by phone and take it to go. The chairs arenâ€™t very comfortable and all dishes are served with a flimsy plastic fork.
The inside of the restaurant is not much to look at. The dÃ©cor is a strange mix of posters of Diego Rivera paintings and U.S. Air Force advertisements.
But as I explained in the No. 1 rule of taco shops, you donâ€™t go to one for its looks â€” you go for the delicious, greasy food.
What: TaquerÃa Jalisco
Where: 4978 N. Cedar Ave. at Shaw Ave.
Open: Mon-Sat 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Phone: (559) 222-0600