Lorena’s Kitchen: Taco

There is good Mexican food to be found in Seattle, exclaimed Seattle Times breathlessly, to which we replied, Really? That’s not to say we don’t believe there are good Mexican spots in Seattle, as there are plenty of choice with-a-twist restaurants. But as far as the authentic stuff goes? Fair enough, we could certainly do with a greater selection.

Lorena’s Kitchen is located in Georgetown and is, as promised by the Times, just a walk-up window. That is a good sign. A quick scan of the menu revealed traditional tacos for $2.50 a pop, a fair price. In fact, nothing will run you more than $8, so good deals abound.

The one twist on the traditional taco is the optional inclusion of sour cream and shredded cheese, which I can admire. Those two additions are often a warning sign, but if you already know how to deliver the classics, there is nothing wrong with sparingly adding some extras.

And Lorena’s does know its classics, there’s doubt about that. The homemade tortillas came double-stacked – why have so many spots stopped doing that? – and had no problems standing up to the succulent carne asada. Equally important, they served as a proper part of the meal, as opposed to just functioning as a vessel. The flavor-y corn complemented the meat in a highly satisfactory manner, an important milestone for any tortillaphile.

Otherwise, the carne asada taco was served the way a carne asada taco should be served. Cilantro and onion on top, with delicately spiced meat. It’s hard to beat the original when it’s done well, which is precisely what Lorena’s did.

Too, a serving of roasted pumpkin seeds was worth $4; excellently seasoned, with a proper chew.

I sort of wish we didn’t have to celebrate finding proper, old school, authentic tacos, but the Times’s proclamation is well placed. There is good Mexican food to be found in Seattle, and thank heavens for that. And, of course, we are making it our mission to track down more of it.

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

Visit them…
6124 12th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108

… or talk to them… 206-519-2868

… or socialize with them… Facebook

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

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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.

Illustrative image

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

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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.

Illustrative image

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

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