POSTED ON AUGUST 22, 2012:
Good Food with No Fuss
Visit to an east side taco joint for authenticity
Tacos San Pedro, 12929 E. 21st St., is the type of place where the menu is in both Spanish and English, but certain items aren't translated into English.
Not that I was very likely to eat lengua (beef tongue), but it shows that Tacos San Pedro has its Anglo demographic pretty well pegged in terms of what it will and will not eat. In addition to this authentic Mexican fare, Tacos San Pedro has food closer to Tex-Mex.
It's also the sort of place where you can watch a cook make homemade tortillas right in front of you. I don't think many people do, though. The cook looked nervous as I watched her fry. Still, it was fun and I wish more restaurants would let you watch these things.
Tacos San Pedro provides good food at a reasonable price, but without many frills.
The food was tasty. I had soft shell shrimp tacos -- the tortillas were warm and delicious. It had a sauce that the cashier identified as chipotle. It wasn't like any chipotle I'd had before, but I sure did like it.
The tortillas were hot and fresh off the grill. The batter the cook used looked thick, but they were light when they were served. I really liked them.
My wife is a vegetarian -- don't judge me for marrying her anyway -- and had cheese enchiladas. Its parmesan cheese stood out, but none of the cheese overwhelmed the enchilada. This was nice because it enabled us to actually taste the tortilla, the deliciousness of which I can't overstate.
Both dishes came with refried beans and rice. The refried beans were vegetarian, or at least we couldn't taste any meat in it. The rice wasn't spicy. It was light, fluffy and had tiny pieces of vegetables. Both of them were good, if unremarkable. My wife doesn't usually like rice at Mexican restaurants, but enjoyed it here.
Tacos San Pedro doesn't offer chips and queso. That was the only disappointment with regard to the food. Except for a few pastries by the cash register there were no desserts to speak of. That said, the food we had so delicious we didn't really feel the need for dessert.
Our meals had healthy portions, but they were not enormous. Unlike Tex-Mex restaurants, Tacos San Pedro won't load you down with so much food that you feel sick when you leave.
One of the best parts about the food was the price. Considering the quality, it cost next to nothing. Our dinner was about $6.50 a plate. You just can't beat that. When you consider that a value meal at McDonald's is more expensive than actual good food at Tacos San Pedro, the choice of where to eat for less is a no-brainer.
Tacos San Pedro is a plastic fork and Styrofoam plate kind of joint. You are there for the food and not the ambience. The tables are older; some of the booths have ripped cushions. I should note that my wife was uncomfortable using the bathroom due to what appeared to be an exposed wire.
However, it was neat and clean. The atmosphere had its own charm. I faced a TV playing a Spanish-language talk show featuring a priest and a woman whose body mods made her look like the devil -- right down to the horns. I have no idea what they were talking about, but it was probably exciting!
I was impressed by the diversity of the place. The clientele was about evenly divided between Spanish and English speakers. An interracial, English-speaking family sat a couple of tables away from a Spanish-speaking mother and daughter.
It wasn't very crowded while we were there, but that may have been because we were there early. Another reason may have been the quick service, which meant many of the diners shuffled in and out in short order.
Tacos San Pedro has no wait staff per se; you order at the counter. As a result I didn't expect a whole lot in terms of service. However, when our food was placed on the counter, the cashier came out from behind the counter and told us to go get our own food. Then she sat down to watch TV. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when restaurants leave out the little courtesies.
However, the service was quick. The food was out much faster than we expected. This was especially pleasing because it didn't affect the quality of the food. With only three people working (and only one cashier/waitress), I could see how it might be difficult to cope if it were busier. But as it was, the food came out in just a few minutes without negatively impacting the taste. This made up in part for the lack of courtesy from the staff.
I had a nice time. The food was good and we were in and out quickly. Because we were done so fast, Tacos San Pedro isn't much of a date night venue. It would be nice if you wanted a quick bite before a movie though, and I certainly would recommend it for lunch.
Tacos San Pedro was very reasonably priced -- dinner for two for less than $17 -- and the food was delicious. The service, however, was lacking. I would eat there again, but it's not a can't-miss location next time I have friends come to town.
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