There are some great, hip taco joints in town, but sometimes I like to get my lomo on the down-low. Warning to drivers: Do not tailgate in the vicinity of taquerias. I have been known to spot salsa verde with my peripheral vision and slam on my brakes.
That’s how I discovered Taqueria Yolandita (1881 Westwood Ave., Fairmont, 513-551-0828) a few years ago, as my taco detector went off on Queen City Avenue. This is a place you’ll never find through advertising. It’s about as inconspicuous as possible — just an old white trailer in the parking lot of a bodega, dispensing deliciousness through a lifted hatch window. The trailer was mobile enough to move down the hill a little last year, and now it’s come to rest in South Fairmont at the corner of Westwood Avenue and Quebec Road. The owner prepares every order year-round, in ridiculous weather conditions, while you stand and watch. It’s worth the wait — believe me. Grab plenty of napkins and retire to the cozy confines of your parked car for a feast. Tacos — three for $7 — are piled with slices of fresh avocado and garnished with radishes, and the tortas are stuffed full of goodness. I love the rich barbacoa or spicy chorizo. Try both salsas and see if you agree with me that the verde is the best. But do not attempt to operate your vehicle while eating — the combination of messiness and ecstasy could cause a crash.
My newest find is Margarita’s Mexican Food (119 W. Benson St., Reading, 513-948-9800), right at the edge of the wedding district in Reading. There used to be a chain called Margarita’s, but this is an independent little treasure that’s been open about two years, run by a brother and sister. It’s cool, clean and inviting, with orders taken at the counter and food delivered to the table — indoors or on the shaded, fenced patio. And listen to this: Not only do they allow BYOB but if you bring your own tequila, they’ll make you a margarita from scratch. How cool is that? I haven’t tried that option at lunch — you know how fussy bosses get about tequila breath at afternoon meetings — but it’s good to know. The tacos are $1.50 each — so cheap! My favorite was the chorizo filling, although the pastor was a close second. If you order the Cuban torta, bring a friend. It’s a grand sandwich, and gives you the chance to try the chorizo, the delicious roast pork loin (lomo) and the ham — muy bueno. Save room for homemade rice pudding or flan with caramel sauce for dessert.
Another quirky, off-the-beaten-path eatery is El Valle Verde (6717 Vine St., Carthage, 513-821-5400), on the section of Vine Street between Saint Bernard and Elmwood Place. It’s a fairly big, cheerfully cheap diner with TVs tuned to MTV Latinoamérica, and a menu that combines Mexican and Guatemalan dishes. They specialize in seafood, and Hubby adores their shrimp quesadilla so much that our 20-mile round trip seems like a hop, skip and a jump. Their carnitas tacos are my favorite, but I watch in awe as diners slurp their way through enormous bowls of menudo. A little too authentic for this gringo.
Authentic is the word at Taqueria Cruz (518 Pike St., Covington, Ky., 859-431-3859), too. Tucked between a laundromat and a convenience store, just a block west of the Anchor Grill in Covington, this is the place to get goat tacos. You haven’t tried them? Well, actually, neither have I. But I did watch a Spanish-dubbed slasher flick with the owner’s children once while waiting for a carne asada burrito to go. The burrito was much better than the movie. Trust me.
Texas Joe (713-454-2278, texasjoethelegalmexican.com), who calls himself “The Legal Mexican,” is legit. He sets up his trailer at The Party Source on Wednesdays and the Covington farmers market on Saturday mornings, as well as at cool events around town. Joe cooks everything from scratch, and is our go-to guy for Saturday brunch, when we order a chipotle chicken quesadilla and a couple tacos filled with Joe’s excellent picadillo — seasoned ground beef braised with onions, peppers and Corona beer. Don’t miss his mango lemonade if it’s available — you’ll thank me for the suggestion. To find Joe’s truck, check his Facebook page.
CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: [email protected]