Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Boston Taco Crawl, 4.10.10

Winging my way across the country from Massachusetts (where I used to marvel at how angry - really angry - my Texan friend in college used to get at the Border Cafe's salsa, until I lived in Texas myself) to California (easy to find good Mexican food), I thought I'd take the opportunity to write-up the results of this past Saturday's Boston Taco Crawl, an event that had some beautiful beginner's luck, featuring bikes, sun, beer, and at least three tacos that were delicious by any standard, but on which we (me, Stacy, Annie, and Carter made all the stops; four others made some of the stops) will shortly improve.

The first stop - and the unanimous winner, even controlling for hunger - was Taqueria Cancun, right by the Maverick stop on the blue line (the bikes waited patiently by city hall). Carne Asada. It was simple - just beef, cilantro, onions, and a little self-administered salsa - probably no other taco we ate had as few ingredients. This was where we were first introduced to Carter's taco rubric, featuring the question, "When you smell this taco, how badly do you NEED to eat it." Badly. Points for serving cans of Tecate. I actually got a little shorted on meat, but that did not seem to be the universal experience.

Taco number two was just efing terrible. For years, I've been hearing about the burrito lady in the gas station on Cambridge Street by the Charles MGH T stop. Certainly going to the back of a gas station convenience store is a promising start, and since they didn't sell beer, we innovated our way to a winning setting, eating tacos and putting down a 6-pack, creatively hidden by mittens/cozies, on a couple of benches by the water. Unfortunately, Annie has the best review of our Carnitas: "At best, a vehicle for beer; at worst, a cat food sandwich." Stay away.

Taco number three, after the longest bike ride of the day, led to civil strife for the first and only time. Taco Loco, in Sullivan Square, is a place to which I would go back - everything looks delicious. For me, though, the steak in our steak tacos just played too small a role. This was the opposite approach to Taqueria Cancun - this taco was a massive mixture of wet ingredients. Tasty ingredients, though, and while Stacy and I were underwhelmed by the featuring of so much guac and sour cream, Carter and Annie really enjoyed it. We also threw in some plantains on the side, which were delicious.

Fourth was the by now well renowned Tacos Lupita, at the wedge of Elm and Somerville in Somerville. These people do a mean Al Pastor. Stacy was appropriately focused on the density of taste in those pink, crispy bits of pork. Also, like Taqueria Cancun, a spare taco, with delicious salsa, especially the green one. Stacy says she’ll ask for no tomatoes next time. She’s not wrong.

Next up was a late-breaking addition, which was on the list as "The one to the left of the Independent in Union Square," as described by my friend Allison the night before - she raved about it. It was later revealed to be El Potro (no relation). Orders were split between fish and steak, and both were fantastic - I think the fish actually got the slight edge. With a different horse painted on every chair, it was a very colorful setting. Even more beer points than Taqueria Cancun, because though they didn't serve beer, they let us bring it in, and by that point we were ready to be waited on. Carter ate two, which, at this point in the crawl, was impressive. I ate half of Annie's.

Finally, after almost 6 hours, we reached Olecito, an old favorite. This is the little taco stand cousin of Ole, in Inman. I've long been partial - whenever I'm in that area around a meal time, I stop in for a Carnitas and a Shrimp. Here, at the end of a long day, we sat at the little table they provide in the driveway, drinking another beer, and despite our fullness, managing to enjoy this neat trick they pull off - the sauce is incredibly buttery, and just makes the Shrimp taco so rich and meaty and tasty. Carter thought we could get margaritas there, and had been talking about it since probably 4 pm, so I think he left a little bitter.

Plenty of ground to explore for next time - more East Boston, Dorchester, and from Fenway to points west...

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