POSTED ON JANUARY 9, 2013:
On the Taco Trek
To-go stand has seriously good food
It will never win stars for looks, but Mr. Taco's is a Mexican spot not to be shunned. While there are multitudinous options for authentic Mexican cuisine around the city, having North Lewis Avenue as the destination is probably not the first on the list.
This out-of-the-way place should be on everyone's list.
Driving north on Lewis Avenue, sights unknown to many Tulsans appear. Crossing 11th Street are familiar sites, such as Perry's Meat Market; at the intersection of 6th is Moe's Grill at the Phillip's 66 Station; when you see Perez Video you know you're getting closer. At 3rd is Warehouse Market; moving into the heart of Whittier Square at 1st Street is Swinney's Hardware, which opened in 1934 but unfortunately closed a few years ago. Crossing over I-244 is Las Americas Super Mercado on the right and, at last, look fast and closely, because on the left or west side of Lewis at Haskell is Mr. Taco's.
This building is something one would not even stop for a glance; it has a tired, even worn look, but inside, the grill is hot and the tacos and tortillas are flying off the menu. Mr. Taco's has three options of dining: carry out using the back window, carry out using the walk-up front window, or carry-out and sitting on the outside picnic tables.
Mr. Taco's serves up all authentic, traditional Mexican food in this little place. The carne azada tacos are some of the best in town. Served on two small white corn tortillas, these tacos are filled with chopped onions, chopped cilantro and a hefty portion of crispy grilled steak -- $1.65 each.
When I went recently, I was gathering food for a few, so I scoured the menu for the appropriate items. Most can be ordered a la carte or as a large dinner plate. An astounding selection of meats include azada, carnitas, pastor, pollo, chorizo, barbacoa, lengua, ham and tripas. Mr. Taco's serves such favorites as soft tacos, tostados, burritos, gorditas, quesadillas, tortas, shrimp cocktails, tamales, champurrados (a chocolate-based thick drink with masa, milk, brown sugar, and spices such as anise, cinnamon and vanilla), and dinner plates (taco, tostada, quesadilla, carne azada, king burrito, and super nachos). Quite a menu for this tiny building.
For my hungry diners, I selected the Mr. Taco plate ($10.50) which comes with two tacos, two tostados, beans and rice; king burrito plate ($10) which is a huge burrito with beans and rice; tamale plate ($7), two tamales with beans and rice. I ordered through the front window and waited outside while my meals were being prepared.
It's a colorful part of the city. A few other customers came to the window, placed orders, and drank a cerveza in their cars while waiting on their lunches. More came through the drive-through window.
Once home, all Styrofoam containers were placed open and lined up for all to select their meal. First was the tamale plate. These were no ordinary pork tamales. Large, robust, and proud to fill up the entrée side of this container, these two tamales were something to behold. The brown smashed pinto beans were in one side area bedecked with round corn chips and topped with Monterrey Jack cheese. A good portion of rice filled the other side. Next, we opened the Mr. Taco plate; if you're really hungry or want to split this with three other friends, it's the plate to order. This contained two meat tacos -- I chose pork -- and two extra large tostadas: these two flat shells were layered with refried beans, chicken, iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and plenty of shredded Monterrey Jack cheese. These were like two snowy mounds of goodness.
The final plate which I just couldn't wait to open was the king burrito plate. By far, we all judged this one won for "best in show." Opening this container warranted a drum roll. It held the grandest burrito I have ever laid eyes on. The pico de gallo alongside was dwarfed in comparison. (This should be stacked up against the T-Town burger at Bill's Jumbo Hamburgers -- a three layer of stacked ground beef and cheese -- for the most gargantuan single-item meal.)
But looks can be deceiving: The proof is in the taste.
Beginning with the tamales, the taste was even better than the looks. Fresh with thick masa wrapping, this tamale held its own. It was moist and rich with tender chicken. The rice and beans were good: Brown beans tasted as they should, earthy and rich. The rice was light and airy, with a tinge of tomato sauce through the grains.
Is that a Burrito in your Pocket? Mr Taco's serves large and delicious burritos and other authentic mexican cuisine.
The tacos held a magnificent taste that I didn't want to let go of. These simple tacos packed a flavor with the simple ingredients of white and green onions, cilantro and shredded, marinated pork. The pork was tender and juicy. The tostadas seemed to expand as we ate them. One is plenty, but two are always better. The best way to eat these is to cut them into pieces and eat them as the ingredients fall onto the fork. In this way, all bites retain their individual flavor and texture.
The king burrito definitely deserves this royal title: A very large flour tortilla was topped with both melted American cheese and sour cream. Cutting into this burrito took some patience and skill. Once opened, mounds of grilled and crispy beef was exposed, expanding with each cut. Other ingredients included lettuce, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and cilantro.
If there was anything better than this burrito, it was the hot sauce accompanying the meal. The red sauce was a very hot and spicy mix and the green sauce was the milder of the two. Both accentuated each bite. The only problem is we needed more sauces to accommodate this order.
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