Thursday, December 21, 2006

Taco Mexicali

I first noticed Taco Mexicali as I was finishing the NY Deli review-- it's housed in their old location. I hurried over, grabbed a menu from the bustling dining area, and swore to make a return trip.

The focus of the menu is short and sweet, consisting mostly of wrapped Mexican-style goods. The line-up is familiar, and allows your choice of the following "Mexicali" meats: al pastor (red chili pork), barbacoa (beef barbecue), carne asade (grilled steak), carnitas (barbecue pork), chile Colorado (pork tips in red sauce), chile verde (pork tips in green sauce), chorizo (Mexican sausage) and pollo asado (grilled chicken).

The restaurant is laid out 'pick-up' style. Place your order at the register and grab your drinks. You can opt to watch your meal being prepared behind the sneeze-guard, or wait for it to be delivered to your table.

After ordering, we stuck around long enough to watch my husband Dave's margarita($5.95) being prepared. The cook, who had been slapping down thick tortillas onto the grill, was summoned to the counter by the cashier. There was much impassioned murmuring and gesturing, but the margarita was soon shaken into a plastic cup. I was handed my Modelo beer ($2.00), so we wandered to our seats in the back of the colorful tiled dining area.

After a few minutes of watching Hispanic television (on the ceiling-mounted flat screen television) the cashier came around the corner with our plates.

Dave had ordered four types of tacos. Tacos carne asado ($2.25) were beefy grilled strips of steak that greatly benefited from the addition of some vibrantly green sauce and spicy salsa from the self-serve condiment bar. Tacos chorizo ($2.25) were spicy, pungent, greasy and utterly gorgeous: these were easily the best. The original taco Mexicali taco ($1.40) came in soft or hard shell versions, both using the original ground beef. The soft shell was good, but bested by the fresh corn flavor of the hard shell.

I'd had thoughts of burritos or gorditas, but was tempted astray at seeing tortas-- Mexican sandwiches. My choice of the torta cubana ($4.95) was not at all what I expected!
The menu said that this pork loin sausage was served on 'freshly baked Mexican bread"; it came with lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado and jalapeno (I asked them to hold the mayo). The latter half of the explanation was correct, while the former seemed to have been lost somewhere in translation. The meat was a fire-grilled slice of pork that tasted and looked similar to a square-shaped bologna. It came along with what looked and tasted like a good hot dog, similarly cooked. Not bad at all, but certainly not what I had anticipated.

All in all, the food was flavorful, fresh, and amazingly fast. The employees, from cook to cashier, were very friendly, and seemed to take pride in what they were serving. It would seem that quality IS a matter of choice.

from The Daily Press

Taco Mexicali
6572 Richmond Road, Williamsburg
Phone: 220-3116 Fax: 220-3117
Specialties: Mexican
Price range: From $1.40 for a taco to $6.95 for fajitas to $8.50 for arrachera
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week
Alcohol: yes
Smoking: no
Vegetarian: yes
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit cards
Noise level: conversational to noisy
Atmosphere: relaxed
Star rating: food 3 1/2, atmosphere 3, service 3 1/2
(out of five stars)


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