After a few months out of the United States, i returned craving one of the things they do not do well in Canada; TACOS. Well, they don’t do Mexican food well at all up there (apart from El Trompo), so getting back into town i was relieved i would have no problem finding some good, cheap food.
We decided to check out Latino Mall, located on the south west side of Salt Lake City. While we probably didn’t go at the best time (after 7pm on a cold Wednesday night), i was impressed with this little Latino treasure i had no idea existed in our city. A mini-mall of sorts, it hosts an old school arcade, a full on Mexican market, and dozens of shops including all sorts of food, and even a little frozen treats shop.
As we entered, there were only a few shops open. The first one being directly to our right immediately caught our eye and we proceeded forward to check out the menu. The Paisa grill had the usual fare on it’s menu, but it’s specialty was the Molcajete. The Molcajete is pretty much how it translates to english. It is a mortar (minus the pestle) lined in foil, and layered from bottom to top with cheese, cactus, grilled jalapenos, onions and meats including steak, chicken or a “Supreme” version adding shrimp.
The full size easily feeds at least two people, and would probably feed 3-4 realistically. We were unable to eat the entire contents of our molcajete, but we were particularly fond of the molten cheese at the bottom. Armed with a stack of warm tortillas, this is great comfort food and something good to sit down and share with a friend or two.
Now we needed desert. Thank goodness only a few feet away from Paisa, was Palateria or “The Beautiful One” which specialized in frozen fruit popsicle and drinks, ice creams, etc. There were dozens of flavors to choose from, so we figured we should try something a bit exotic and not just go for a chocolate or straight up fruit popsicle. Kelly opted for the Cucumber and Chile pop, and i went for the Tamarind and Chile pop. Let’s just say these were interesting. Maybe after a messy, drunken trawl across the city is required to truly appreciate one of these Chile infused pops, but it was just a bit too much to handle, for both of us. While mine was not spicy, the conflicting flavors just weren’t happening on my flavor flap. They may go well while smoking crack or eating pickled eggs. That sort of thing. So, not a fan of those – especially after a few burps an hour or so later. Cucumber and Chile just don’t taste right coming up the wind pipe. I almost felt like puking is a better alternative to burping up these flavors. Ever have radishes and then eat some toothpaste and do a shot of tabasco? If you haven’t tried yet, i highly recommend you go out and try it so you know how unnecessary it is in your life.
Something strange to note about Latino Mall, is that while it caters exclusively to Latinos, there is a strange section under construction that will soon host a Vietnamese restaurant. You can be sure we will be checking this place out, as rumor has it it will be spanish speaking friendly and i’m just dying to find out if there is gonna be some traditional mexican flavors blasted into this stuff from the other side of the continent.
Not quite defeated we cruised up north on Redwood Road in hopes of encountering a rogue taco truck or two. While we didn’t find any worth our immediate attention, we did pass a curious little dive that had road construction literally blocking it from all view aside from a glowing “OPEN” sign. The name of the restaurant is El Maguey (I need to double check this as i can’t find them again on Google Maps, so the name may be updated next time you read this).
We had to traverse a bit to find the entrance and park. After we exited the car we were greeted with the back side of a pretty shady looking place with “ENTRADA” sharpie signs all over the place. I felt a little like i was soon to be pounced and stuffed into a potato sack and sold on the black market to pornographers looking to cash in on my pretty boy looks and make some donkey-porn. Sadly, nothing like that happened and we were instead greeted with a Hola! from a tiny woman inside. This place obviously did not cater to those looking for a sanitized, mormon-friendly chow house. This is for all the real dudes. Probably a hit with the blue collar crowd, this place is a little run down and in a bit of disarray given it’s structural integrity and obvious impediment the construction had on it’s attraction. However, the tacos KICKED ASS. We took a seat on the yellow and orange booth seats and were pleasantly surprised with chips and two types of salsa – a traditional tomato salsa, and something else i was not sure of, but was cream based with cucumber and probably a bit of avocado. The al pastor and carnitas tacos were delicious. The pork marinade for the Al Pastor tacos was not as glamorous as, say, Chungas, but these had an undeniable flavor that prompted both of us to make guttural moans of pork eating pleasure. Thoroughly impressed with the food, this is another one we need to put on our list of “must visit again”. Hopefully the construction situation improves and they can maybe clean up the place a bit, and it would be a surefire hit. By the way, the also sold cell phones. So, maybe they like this place looking a little seedy to keep out anyone of an unwelcome ilk (ie; pigs, ignorant caucasians, and mexican food haters). Check it out if you’ve got the time and can speak a little spanish, because the only one who did in this restaurant was a young lad who looked like a skinny version of me. His mother probably shoved him out into the dining area to ask us to speak English with us. Luckily, Kelly (burgersmoke) is 1/8th Latino and speaks Spanish.
Well folks, this concludes another episode of Taco Land adventures, and we hope to bring you more soon! I have severely neglected writing here, and hope to rectify that situation by stuffing my face with more tacos, frequently. If you have a place you want us to check out, email us and let us know. If you run a restaurant and want the professional Taco Journalists of SLCTACOS and our staff of expert Taco Tasters to come sample your food, hit us up as well and we’ll have no problem coming out to eat on your dime.