Taqueria Cantina: Burrito

I’ll give Taqueria Cantina this: they got some chutzpah. A $17 chorizo-stuffed burrito should at least come served with a side of mariachi lessons. It doesn’t, shockingly enough, but the burrito is, if nothing else, decent. Not mind-blowing, but overall a fraction better than average.

The chorizo is the differentiator and is worth the $2 extra, even on top of the already hefty $15 base. Add a side of sour cream, and you’re looking at a $19 burrito. But I digress…

This type of sausage stands or falls on its dryness and its spiciness. It should obviously not be too dry, but I’ve also encountered mushy textures which, scientifically speaking, is gross. Cantina passed that test, and also placed high on the heat index. By that, I don’t mean that it was crazy spicy, but rather properly balanced. It’s not going to burn your tongue off, nor is it bland.

Yet, there is no way around the perfectly average base, no matter how good the chorizo is. I could head to a taco truck and get a similar burrito for half the price. They might not be quite as skilled in their chorizo prep, but that would more likely than not be a sacrifice I could handle.

Taqueria Cantina delivers a good enough burrito, but with a $15 starting price, it should take some extenuating circumstances to make the investment in it.

Remi’s rating…
Score: 3 out of 6 stars

Visit them…
2630 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

… or talk to them… 206-995-8588

… or socialize with them… Web Facebook Twitter Instagram

Señor Villa: The Ahogada Files

When you find something new and exotic in faraway lands, it is just natural to want to keep exploring the phenomenon at home. Does the discovery exist here? Does it measure up? Can you relive the glory of another culture?

These were questions raised after we sampled tortas ahogadas in Guadalajara. On the surface, it seems like the sandwiches should exist in Seattle, but a major caveat is the bread, which, allegedly, can only be baked in Guadalajara. The ahogada comes drowned in sauce, and a solid foundation is needed for the sandwich not to turn into mush.

We have found a handful of spots around town that make ahogada, and, if Señor Villa is anything to go by, it sounds like the claims of proper bread only existing in Guadalajara might be right.

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To its credit, the WeRoRa1 restaurant delivered a well-flavored sandwich. The sauce was right up there with what we tried in Guadalajara: spicy, with smoky, distinct undertones. The traditional carnitas retained their bite, even when drenched in sauce. Put the fillings on a tortilla, and you’d have a legit taco.

The bread, though, faltered as the local Tapatío had warned. It was hard to make out the flavors, and a spoon was required to scoop up the sandwich. The baseline test had, in other words, failed, and the result was more of a flavorful bread pudding.

In that sense, we can recommend the sandwich for what it is, as it tasted good, but as an ahogada experience, it was a letdown. If that is something you can live with, you will at least enjoy an honest, savory attempt.

Maybe it does, indeed, come down to the required bread solely existing in Guadalajara. We will keep investigating because that is what we do: selflessly eat sandwiches as a public service to you, the tortillaphile.

1 Wedgewood, Roosevelt, Ravenna.

Remi’s rating…
Score: 3 out of 6 stars

Visit them…
8064 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115

… or talk to them… (206) 517-5660

… or socialize with them… Web Facebook

Tortas Ahogadas Las Famosas: The Ahogada Files

A wise man once told me, a torta is a torta, and a torta will always be a torta, but is that actually the case? After a recent fact-finding mission to Jalisco, we can only say no.

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Guadalajara is an experience different from what one might expect from Mexico’s second biggest city. It feels deceivingly small, with short buildings and a relative quietness; a far cry from the country’s more touristy areas. Start exploring, and you will find a city of art, culture, and, possibly most importantly, food. Specifically, the ahogada, Guadalajara’s signature torta.

I’m not entirely sure where we tried ours—it was a stop on the Street Tour, a recommended three-and-a-half hour mural and art walk—but you can find versions of it all over town. And if you’re in Guadalajara, it is of the uttermost importance you do so.

(Update! It was Tortas Ahogadas Las Famosas.)

Two main facets make the sandwich unique:

First is the birote bread, which is solely baked in the Guadalajara region. It looks like a baguette, but that’s where the similarities end. Eating the bread by itself would be hard—literally. It was designed to be drowned in sauce to become chewable, which is also the ahogada’s second differentiator. After filling the bread with the standards—pork, onions, etc.—you pour the sauce over, and the result is almost magical. No matter how much you use, you can still eat the bread with your hands. Sure, there’s the option of a spoon, but I’d consider that a mere backup. I ate the sandwich with my hands just fine.

Any ahogada shop worth its salt will give you multiple choices of sauces, too. I went with a spicier variety, but a more middle of the road variety was also available, as was one based on beans. Throw in your pick of pickled vegetables, and your torta is something different from anything I’ve tried before.

It’s hard to really compare the ahogada to a regular torta. The concept is the same, but the drowned birote is the polar opposite of its more common sweet, soft counterpart. All respect to the latter, but going back to it could prove to be a painful experience.

Can we recreate something similar here in Seattle, then? Make our own equivalent, or something close to it? In the next few weeks, we will try. Stand by for your Tortillaphilia™ report, coming soon.

Bonus fact!

Ahogada is, in fact, Spanish for drowned.

Remi’s rating…
Score: 5 out of 6 stars

Visit them…
Av. Patria 2546, Col. Lopez Portillo, 45037 Guadalajara, México, Mexico

… or talk to them…

… or socialize with them… Facebook

Monarca Express: Taco

Located at the nexus of Wedgewood, Roosevelt, and Ravenna1 is Monarca Express, a truck we bestowed the honor of being the first stop of the The Great Seattle Taco Hunt. A truck is, in general, a safe spot for these kinds of missions. Their baseline tends to lean toward the authentic side, which is something we can get behind. Additionally, Monarca has held a high quality during prior burrito sampling—we can recommend those without hesitation.

The hunt, though, goes deeper than a mere burrito, and for a tortillaphile, the adobada taco can be a fickle yet dependable friend. It is the type of meat that elevates the taco to greatness when the sweet spot between dry and soft is adequately hit, which is easier said than done. Dry pork is not a pleasant experience.

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Luckily, Monarca’s take stood firmly in the epicenter of where we like it to be. It had a pleasant chew, and the accompanying limes added a tangy zest to the palate. (Use limes with any taco when they land on the drier side—it can often be a helpful crutch.)

They also did not skimp on the cilantro, which we appreciate. The herb adds an earthy depth, though the amount could be too generous for those who tend to brush it off. Make sure to place your order accordingly.

The tortillas were unfortunately on the bland side and likely bought from a grocery store. They work as a vessel, but the spiced meat deserved to be cradled in something fresh and flavorful.

Overall, though, Monarca was solid. Maybe not a journey through the unexpected, but good and familiar, which is just O.K. with us. Braving a severe storm to try the adobada should be expected of anyone who takes tortilla-based cuisine seriously. Plus, they serve horchata, which is above and beyond of what we’d expect from most trucks.

1 WeRoRa as it is not commonly known as.

Remi’s rating…
Score: 3 out of 6 stars

Visit them…
8721 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115

… or talk to them… 206-931-7220

… or socialize with them… Facebook

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