Looking for food on Western Avenue is easy. There are great restaurants everywhere. N.W. 23rd Street? Childs play. You cant throw a rock without hitting a good place to eat. And then you should probably go apologize for throwing rocks at the restaurant. (What are you doing? You cant just look with your eyes?) But a little farther out from the corridors of foodly power, things get tricky. Chain restaurants multiply like rabbits. Still, there are little eateries hidden out in the hinterlands. There are even tacos.
Way out west, in a little strip mall near Wiley Post Airport, sits Chalos Tacos. Its a taqueria serving a few of the favorites you might not expect to find so far north.
Just a quick note on taquerias vs. Taco Bells: A taqueria taco is usually a little thing with some meat and maybe some cilantro and onions on a stack of two tiny tortillas. A Taco Bell taco is a crunchy shell filled with carpet remnants that might be dusted with leftover Doritos flavors, like Mild Heartburn EXXXTREME or Spicy Ennui Blast.
So, the tacos ($1.35 a piece).
Generally, the weirder the ingredient, the better. Chalos Tacos doesnt get super-weird lengua (aka beef tongue) is about as wild as it gets.
The meat is not incredibly moist, but you can make up for that yourself by dressing the tacos with some golden sauteed onions or a squeeze of lime. Hell, toss some radish on there, chief. Go nuts.
Even though Taco is right there in the restaurants name, I was much more taken with the burritos ($3.75), which combine a bit of shredded lettuce and your meat of choice with refried beans, cheese, onions and cilantro then roll it all up in a flour tortilla. These are not giant burritos, but they are filling. Or maybe thats because I ate four tacos before I started. Whatever. The human stomach is a mystery. Nobody knows how it works.
All I know about my stomach is that it wants tamales ($1.35) on the regular. And Chalos has them.
Tamales are a tricky beast, like velociraptors or women. Unlike pizza, in which even bad is pretty good, tamales can be problematic too dry, too wet, too corny, too bland.
Im not ready to put these tamales in the hall of fame just
yet, but I was quite taken with the poblano and cheese tamale. The
cheese adds a bit of creaminess and a little tart sting, but the poblano
is the real deal a little sweet and just enough heat to make it
Slather it in spicy green salsa and call it a day. No, wait! Eat it first then call it a day. If youre looking for something meatier, the pork tamale is also a good choice.
How authentic are quesadillas ($4.25)? How much do you bet I dont actually care?
I got one, and it was pretty great. Unlike so many quesadillas, this
one had a little more to it than just cheese and a tortilla. In fact, if
youre bringing someone for whom the idea of tiny tacos is not doing
it, Id get a quesadilla, because its remarkably similar to what he or
she is wanting. A little lettuce, a little cheese and, oh my, a little
avocado goes a long way.
What are dorados (4 for $3)? Are they named after Blair Waldorfs maid/ confidante on Gossip Girl? No
one would tell me, so Im going to assume yes. Anyway, theyre like
pockets of fried tortillas. Not the best thing ever, frankly. Not bad,
but just not a thing that Id choose over other dishes.
the weekends, Chalos Tacos also serves menudo (cow stomach soup) and
birria (a thin, spicy broth with tender stewed goat meat). I know thats
probably not what everybody is looking for, but its exactly what Im
looking for. I love birria ($4.50 small, $8 large).
cold days, Im about 50-50 on drinking birria vs. having a cup of
coffee. The meat is tender because all the toughness has melted into the
broth, leaving it velvety and filling. And if youre worried about
eating goat, you need to get over it. Goat is delicious and tender and
is blessed with a number of great taquerias. Whether you want fancy and
adventurous, like Big Truck Tacos, or small and straightforward, like
Taqueria La Original, theres something for every taste.
if you want to try a tasty little taco or a flavorful, filling burrito,
and youre almost at the edge of Oklahoma County, then Chalos Tacos
deserves your patronage.