If your definition of a taco goes something like, “served in a curved, crunchy shell, comes from a drive-through or a box,” then this review is not for you. Why are you even reading this blog, anyway? Go hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings with your bros.
Okay, serious eaters. I’ve had tortas and roasted corn from taco trucks in Albuquerque. I’ve had tacos and horchata from beach huts in south Florida. I’ve stumbled through my limited (but usable) Spanish vocabulary in search of great food. Taqueria La Michoacana is the real deal.
When my companion alerted me to a taco truck located only about a mile or so from our house, I was delighted. Sure, Tex-Mex has its place, but I’ll be damned if all that food isn’t exactly the same. Cheese, meat, lettuce, guac, served in a deep fried tortilla/deep fried chile/deep fried styrofoam dish, then covered in some kind of mysterious sauce. Come on. How far can you really go with that?
Taqueria La Michoacana consists of a truck outside, store inside. Hard to find but worth the quest, the establishment is located on the “other side” of Youree Drive in what apparently used to be a sub-par pizza restaurant. I say this because the sign for the pizza restaurant is still up.
Go inside and talk to the lady at the counter. If you say “hola,” she’ll respond with an entire paragraph of words you don’t understand. Smile and nod, gringo. Menu? There is no menu. Order yourself three el pastor tacos. Order your companion a carne asada torta. Ask for a Pepsi if you want it (many of their sodas are imported from Central America, which means they’re sweetened with sugar instead of corn syrup). It’ll be a little while, so watch some Latin American soap operas. Poke around the adjoining store, where you can find a cornucopia of prepared foods, beverages, and candy. This is a fun place, but if I may be frank, Mexican candy really isn’t that good, unless you like dried fruit rolled in chili powder and possibly salt. But don’t judge a culture on its candy! Have a seat in the taqueria instead. I think your food is coming.
Depending on how much you’ve ordered, one or two attractive young girls will come in from the truck outside wielding styrofoam take-out boxes. The beauty of the el pastor tacos rivals that of a newborn baby or the first flowers of spring. Crack its steaming box (yes, I am aware of just how filthy that sounded, but I’m leaving it) and find three corn (not flour! This is essential!) tortillas piled high with marinated pork (el pastor), cilantro, queso fresco, and crushed pineapple. Yes, pineapple! They also provide a lime wedge for your squeezing pleasure.
One word that I hear constantly being used to describe Mexican food is “bright.” We’re talking sparkly, light flavors: citrus, herbs, fruit. This is perhaps the best illustration of the disparity between authentic Mexican food and Tex-Mex. The latter can seldom be called “bright”; instead, it’s defined by heavy, warm cream and cheese sauces, thick, rich beans, and “darker” spices like cumin. Again, let me remind you: I am in no way bashing Tex-Mex. But it’s a special peeve of mine to hear people refer to things like taco salads and taquitos as “Mexican.”
Now, onto the torta. If you followed my suggestion, you ordered a carne asada torta. Now, for whatever reason, carne asada is billed in the U.S. as some kind of premium beef. It’s not. Carne asada is just marinated or rubbed grilled steak (usually thin slices of flank or skirt). I’m aware that using the word “just” makes it sound like it’s routine and boring…and it definitely isn’t. I just wanted to make sure we’re all clear on this. Clear?
A torta is basically a big Mexican sandwich. Do not let my vanilla description deter you. Usually served on soft, round white bread (called telera or bolillo), Taqueria La Michoacana’s tortas are garnished with sliced avocado, mayonnaise, jalapenos, the ubiquitous lettuce and tomato, and maybe a few crumbles of queso fresco for good measure. I have two gripes with Taqueria’s tortas: very often, I am disappointed at the ratio of meat to the rest of the sandwich. I like meat. Taqueria’s meat is delicious. I want more. I am also not thrilled with the amount of mayonnaise they use. Fortunately, I think that’s more of a personal preference than a hard-and-fast rule, but I have a pretty high tolerance for mayonnaise.
Meat and mayonnaise issues aside, the tortas fill you up and ensure that you have fun getting there. These are ideal hangover foods, by the way: lots of absorbent bread, a moderate amount of heat, and just a touch of grease soothes an unhappy stomach and a clogged head. Taqueria La Michoacana offers several meats, including barbacoa and lengua (slow-cooked beef and beef tongue, respectively), but the el pastor and carne asada are my favorites.
Even if you’ve had your fill, order a slice of their homemade tres leches cake to go; light, creamy, and cold, the cake is the perfect way to punctuate your spicy, porky dinner.
An open mind and a couple bucks are all that’s really necessary to have a good experience at Taqueria La Michoacana. You’d be surprised how well good intentions and an empty stomach can translate.
Taqueria La Michoacana
2905 Youree Drive
Check out my friend Chicken Fried Gourmet’s enticing taco pictures here.