Monthly Archives: February 2009

REVIEW – El Paisa Grill

El Paisa Grill2126 South 3200 W

Carne Asada Taco

Carne Asada Taco from El Paisa Grill (after a trip to the salsa bar)

Hello taco lovers, I am the new taco taster around here, and I simply want to persuade you to partake and enjoy all of the Mexican-American food dining experiences that are uniquely available to those of us in this part of the world. I grew up in the Salt Lake area, so I know a thing or two about where to get a good taco around here.

For my first outing I decided to go to one of my all-time favorite spots, El Paisa Grill. I have probably eaten here over 200 times in my lifetime, and it is always good!

It is open for lunch or dinner and also has a killer weekend brunch. Each of those time slots will make for different experiences with various menu offerings at this place. Good lunch specials, and it also has a secret discoteca switch that gets flipped on for Friday and Saturday nights, better than any Port ‘O Call party you’ve ever heard about. Did I say they have an awesome weekend breakfast/brunch?

New Sign at El Paisa Grill

¡La Original Casa Del Molcajete!

It is easy to find, just take the nearest route to the 201 and exit on 3200 West. The restaurant is directly to the south of the 201 freeway, so turn accordingly to the direction you face when exiting on 3200 West. (Click the address at the beginning of this post to view a Google map) It is on the west side of the street, almost directly across the  from Grinders 13, which (by the way) is a great lunch/sandwich place.

I went on a Sunday afternoon at about 3pm. I knew we would just miss the brunch crowd. The dinner shift was just beginning, but that is not to say the tables were not full. One the reasons for liking this place is the amount of activity, it is usually full, and there is usually some form of live music on stage, or walking around to tables. A band in cowboy hats was warming up, they even had an acordian player.

The mission of this trip was to order a molcajete dish. Which basically means that it is something served (and sometimes cooked) in a HOT stone bowl. I had been here plenty of times to have taken note of the popularity of the dish here, but I always stuck with ordering the various tacos and burritos they have available. I cheered about the new signs that now feature a bowl of molcajete for the logo.

Micheladal

mmm...michelada

The complimentary chips and salsa and my michelada arrived. Somewhat similar to what Budwiser is selling as “Chelada” in a tall can, it is a Mexican Beer (Tecate, Dos Equis, etc.) mixed with a bloody mary type mix. Sometimes with lime juice and salt. Usually it is about half beer/half tomato juice mix, but these are one of those items that will be different every time you order it. Some are really good, this one was good.

Supreme Grill Molcajete from El Paisa Grill

Supreme Grill Molcajete

We ordered the “Supreme Grill Molcajete” described as a beef, chicken and shrimps with a special green sauce, green nopales and cilantro and onions. Definitely a dish dominated by a lot of meat, the cost for this was around $20, but it could probably serve 3 belly-fulls just fine. I also ordered a carne asada taco for $1.50 and for no apparent reason.

Everything was extremely good as usual, the molcajete was brought in bubbling. We slowly just picked the hot stuff out of the molcajete bowl to put on tortillas, very much like rolling your own tacos or burritos. Adding various things found at the salsa bar to them was good too. The thing that made this molcajete bowl so tasty was definitely the green sauce, it is like a chili verde. I think there might be some queso mixed in it, because it is a bit creamy. I loved the roasted jalapenos too, but I like those anywhere.

Stay tuned, I’m planning on going to El Rodeo Market for lunch very soon.

Tacos in the News

In the last 7 days,  slctacos.com has been mentioned a few times in Salt Lake City newspapers.  Several people have asked me for links to these articles and as I am a journalist, I am obliged to share this news.

Here they are :

City Weekly

IN This Week

West Valley Taco Showdown!!!

I recently started teaching English at a new location in West Valley on 3500 S.  Last Monday night before class I had a brilliant idea : TACO SHOWDOWN.  There are two taco stands I know of which are right across the street from each other on 3500 S.  I decided that I would try tacos from each of them the same night and see which one would be the winner.

It was serious.  There was pico de gallo everywhere.   I got a lot of salsa in or around my mouth.  But I am a taco journalist.  There was work to be done.

THE RULES :

In order to keep things equal, I decided to try :

  • one al pastor
  • one lengua
  • one taco besides these that the owner recommends

So which one did I like more?   Which one will I be hitting up more often as I fuel up before teaching English?  Who emerged victorious in this TACO SHOWDOWN?!?!?!?!?!

Well, you can just scroll down and find out.

Or if you are lazy, you can click these links :

Tacos El Jaripeo vs. Tacos Alex

AND NOW…. LET THE TACO SHOWDOWN BEGIN!!!!

Wait… you’re wondering why all the circa 1995 animated explosions below?  You act like you’ve never been to a TACO SHOWDOWN before.  If you’re afraid now, you should probably find another website…

REVIEW – El Jaripeo Taco Stand

Taco El Jaripeo is a very popular taco stand in West Valley. I saw carloads of people come and go in the time I ate my 3 tacos.

El Jaripeo

Taco Stand

3500 S. 3892 W.

South side of 3500 S, in the parking lot west of Rent-A-Center

3 out of 5 stars

I had never been to Tacos El Jaripeo but I recently heard about it from an article from Xris Macias in chicano\latino student newspaper Venceremos.  When I saw this I immediately thought of the reviews Noyen and I recently did of the Oaxacan restaurant of the same name.  I asked a very nice guy working the stand (whose English was muuuuch better than my Spanish) if there was a connection between the stand and the restaurant.  He told me that the person who owns the restaurant on Redwood Road also owns this taco stand.  He told me he was surprised that I knew of the restaurant since it only recently opened.  I myself have been surprised that other Salt Lake publications have heard of El Jaripeo the restaurant.  Just last week, Salt Lake’s IN Magazine wrote an article on it (this link is just the dessert portion — couldn’t find the rest) and I couldn’t help but wonder if they had been tipped off by slctacos.com?  Possibly?  But I digress…

In keeping with my guidelines with my TACO SHOWDOWN with “Tacos Alex” across the street, I decided to order 1 al pastor and 1 lengua.  Then I asked which of their tacos they felt I should add for my round 3.  They said their carne asada was particular delicious, so I told him it was time to get the TACO SHOWDOWN on the road.  He went to work and served me up a warm champurrado while I waited.  This hit the spot while I waited on a cold February night.

Itemized deliciousness (from top to bottom) : 1 lengua, 1 al pastor, 1 carne asada, 1 super warm cup of champurrado hanging out near my feet

While I waited, I snapped a few photos of the stand and a few of its clientele with permission of all.  I couldn’t believe how many people went in and out of this stand.  Trucks and cars were pulling in and out at a constant rate.  At least 2 families were staying warm in trucks eating their tacos while they watched me in the cold with my champurrado to keep me warm.  One after another latino families came and went.  My hands started shaking from excitement not the cold as I surmised from the stream of people that this must be a great stand.

Then I heard some English as the guy called to me to grab my 3 tacos. Being predictable, I dug into the al pastor first.  Medium.  Medio.  I already started worrying that the tacos would not be as good as I was hoping.  Then I tried the lengua.  The lengua was good, but a bit  still not as good as I was hoping.  Then I tried the carne asada that was recommended to me.  Once again, it was good.  But it did not live up to my hopes.  There was nothing bad about the tacos.  In fact, these were better than most of the tacos in the 800 S State area.  Especially at the price of 3 tacos for $3.00.  But overall, my tacos were medium.

A thirsty gentleman picks out a beverage to chase his tacos with. When asked if I could take his picture he replied, "No me importa". So I did it.

I definitely want to head back another time and try a few items I didn’t have time or room for this time (I was in a TACO SHOWDOWN!!!).  I saw huaraches listed on the menu and I would like to try those out new time.  If I do I will hold my oath of taco journalism and share what I thought.  But for now, there are other tacos I must try…

REVIEW – Tacos Alex

I've been to Tacos Alex for at least a couple years now. To this day it is delicious.

Tacos Alex

Taco Stand

3500 S. 3872 W.

North side of 3500 S, In the parking lot of Los Feliz

4 out of 5 stars

It’s been at least two years since I had been to Tacos Alex.  A friend of mine first brought me there one summer night to celebrate and try what he said were his favorite taco cart in Salt Lake.  While I was in the area this week I stopped in and decide to try it out again as part of a TACO SHOWDOWN between this cart and “Tacos El Jaripeo” which does business directly across 3500 S.

In an effort to be fair I made sure to try 2 of the same style of tacos : 1 al pastor and 1 lengua.  Besides these, I asked the cook which taco they felt was a good representation of their food.  The two people working at Tacos Alex told me that I should try the barbacoa so I agreed and ordered one of those.  The old woman cooking also asked me if I wanted cebollitas and told her that some onions sounded great.

While I was waiting for my food, I asked them if I could take a few pictures for a review of the taco stand.  They gave me a confused and nervous look.  They asked why and I told them that I was a taco journalist covering all the taco stands possible in Salt Lake City.  They still looking a bit confused and did not quite believe me (I left my taco journalist badge at home that night).  Finally I paraphrased my goals of the site which I have outlined here.  After this, they were excited.  They quickly asked for the web address and wrote it down saying they were excited to check it out.

1 al pastor, 1 barbacoa, 1 lengua. Also featured is a big fat pepper and some delicious onions up top.

They handed over my tacos and I dug in.  First I tried the al pastor.  It was good but nothing terribly exciting.  Flavorful, but more or less medium.  When I asked them how their pastor was, they seemed to admit with a bit of a shrug that it was not their best taco.  Then I tried the lengua which was much better.  The meat was very tender and was very juicy without being full of grease.  The lengua was delicious with a few of the large onions in there.  At last I tried the barbacoa.  One of the best barbacoa tacos I’ve had in town.  Delicious.  I don’t remember that I’ve ever tried the barbacoa at this stand before but I will definitely order this one from now on.

Tacos Alex also has a large menu of Tortas on the right of the window.  Next time I will have to try some of these like the Milanesa. The prices at Tacos Alex are very reasonable.  I had 3 tacos for $2.50 which is a much better price than what you pay these days around the Sears \ 800 S State area.

So check it out.  Hopefully the owners of the stand read this review and are happy with them.  I will definitely be stopping in more on Monday nights since I will now be teaching and English class very close to Tacos Alex.

REVIEW – Chunga’s

Chungas.  This is the place you go.  For real tacos.  Street taco style.  Mexico City style.

Chunga's. This is the place you go. For real tacos. Street taco style. Mexico City style.

Chunga’s

180 S 900 W

5 out of 5 stars

KABOOM!  First 5 star rating on http://www.slctacos.com.  This is the restaurant I was talking about before which I believe has the best Tacos al Pastor in Salt Lake City.  I try them in every stand and restaurant I go to.  These are the best I’ve had in Salt Lake and they stand up the tacos al pastor I’ve tried in my voyages across Mexico.  I have tried pastor all over Mexico.  From Nogales to Guadalajara.  From Acapulco to Mexico City.  From Merida to Taxco.  From Puebla to San Juanito (donde esta ese pueblito????)

A few months ago my good amigo Ruben told me that he heard about this place from family members.  Ruben is from a city which is very close to Mexico City so while he is no chilango, he is no stranger to what a good taco al pastor is.  I tried them the first night and I was blown away.  I couldn’t stop eating.  I immediately felt an amistad with the cooks, servers, and owner.  This place makes you feel at home.

Taco enthousiast (and co-worker) Jeff cant wipe the damn smile off his face as he eats tacos at Chungas.  He was recently quoted as saying The chicken tacos were good.  But when I tried the al pastor it was like I was transported... to another planet.  I recorded that on my phone.  Because I am a professional taco journalist.

Taco enthousiast (and co-worker) Jeff cant wipe the damn smile off his face as he eats tacos at Chungas. He was recently quoted as saying "The chicken tacos were good. But when I tried the al pastor it was like I was transported... to another planet." I recorded that on my phone. Because I am a professional taco journalist.

Since I didn’t want to fly off the handle I decided to curb my taco emotions and try the place again.  And again.  And again.  Already this place has become the new favorite restaurant of all my co-workers.  Last time I walked in the door I saw two tables of co-workers I didn’t intend on seeing there.  Word of mouth has been carrying the name CHUNGA’S around the hallways.

Like I said, I have been back to Chunga’s at least weekly (3 times last week) to make sure that I was not mistaken in this review.  I have tried many of the standard items on the menu like tacos al pastor and chicken tacos.  After trying most everything on the menu by this point, I highly recommend the huaraches.  At least once.  What are huaraches? Meaning “sandal”, you can see the resemblance with its oblong shaped cornmeal frybread covered with your choice of meat (get the pastor), sour cream, and covered in queso de oaxaca.  Whoa.  I’ve tried several other of the antojitos shown on the posterboard below but I have many yet to try.  The nopales are delicious.  The quesadillas are wonderful.  But my heart flutters and my mouth waters thinking of the tacos al pastor.

A list of the antojitos served at Chungas.  This sheets is posted on the side out of direct sight.  Antojitos are little desires or fancies.  These are the specialties at Chungas.  Try some of these at your own risk.

A list of the antojitos served at Chunga's. This sheets is posted on the side out of direct sight. "Antojitos" are little desires or fancies. These are the specialties at Chunga's. Try some of these at your own risk.

Pick up a card at Chunga’s and after reading the name and address on the front, you flip it to the back and you read “El Famoso Taco Al Pastor Del Distrito Federal“.  This is indeed the same famous taco which is an institution in Mexico City.  If you talk to many mexicanos in our city, they will tell you that if someone claims to make a good taco al pastor, they must be from Mexico City.  Such is the case.  The cooks here know their stuff because they are indeed from that giant sprawl of a city.  The tacos usually have their sauces and veggies pre-loaded.  They are ready to go.  Not much needs to change except the optional limes provided on your plate to squeeze on if that’s your style.  Cucumber slices are also provided as a post-taco refreshment.

As a test to see if these are really authentic tacos from the D.F. last week I brought my father (papa de Burgersmoke) with me to try the place out.  We have a tradition of checking out various new Mexican restaurants since he once lived for several years in Mexico City.  After ordering and receiving a warm welcome from our server, we sat down and prepared ourselves.  When the tacos al pastor arrived, the eyes of papa de Burgersmoke rolled into the back of his head.  He didn’t speak for a few more bites.   When he spoke again he said, “when I eat these tacos I instantly feel like I am in the middle of Mexico City.”  Case closed.

Papa de Burgersmoke giving his thumbs up approval of the Mexico City style Tacos al Pastor.

Papa de Burgersmoke giving his thumbs up approval of the Mexico City style Tacos al Pastor.

If you get a chance to meet Gilberto the owner of the restaurant, make sure ot say hello.  He is an incredibly friendly guy and he is passionate about providing a higher quality taco.  He claims you will not find any fat in the meat.  He is right.  He shops around to find high quality meat and you will notice the difference.   Also, he loves a challenge.  Make sure to ask him about the 27 taco challenge.  If you think you can handle it, order them up and if you can eat 27+ tacos in 45 minutes with only one drink, you and your family eat for free.  Several people have done it and Gilberto laughs out loud talking about it.  He even says that he is often surprised by americanos like me who aren’t very big that can put away that many tacos.  So someone try it.  Tell us about it.  I want this website to be a website of champions.

Taco enthousiast Jaren is a champion, but I doubt he could east more than 10 tacos in a sitting let alone 27.  For shame...

Taco enthousiast Jaren is a champion, but I doubt he could east more than 10 tacos in a sitting. Let alone 27. For shame...

It’s because of restaurants like this one that I decided to re-launch my career in taco journalism.

So go check it out.  It’s only a few blocks away from Red Iguana.  You’ll feel a lot more at home, you’ll eat well and you won’t have to wait in the cold for your table.

They are also opening up a new location in Provo.  The opening will be sometime during the week of Feb 16-20.  If you’re in Provo, check out the new location at :

664 North Freedom Blvd

Gilberto tells me that he just might invite the public to eat for free on the day before the opening to give a chance to experience the quality of the tacos and their meat.  If you live down there, please go check it out and report.  We would love pictures and reviews of the new location.

5 star review coming very soon…

On Thursday at some time we will be posting our first 5 star taco review.

Get ready for it.

This is where the magic happens.

Do some deep knee bends.

Light a candle.

Lay on the floor to stretch your stomach.

Don’t be afraid.  This is not a sign of the tacolypse.  These are just amazing tacos.