- Mark Hancock
- Up front are tacos de papa, with a bowl of pozole, and and a plate of three tacos in background, at Taqueria la Tropicana, and things go better with Coke, 12-21-15.
You didnt like your soup?
After leaving behind a pretty large bowl of pozole at Taqueria La Tropicana, 1022 SW 29th St., another patron on the way out of the restaurant wanted to know if there was something wrong.
I told him it was fine, but not exactly what I wanted. Some pozoles are so good you can scarcely slow down to chew the hominy and chunks of pork. This pozole ($8.99) was OK, but not enough to stuff myself with, especially after everything else Id eaten.
- Mark Hancock
- Pozole at Taqueria la Tropicana, 12-21-15.
The pork chunks were huge, but pretty fatty, and some still had a bit of connective tissue and bone. Of all the things Ive gotten used to with food, working my way around cartilage is still a challenge. Even more so with soup, which runs the risk of splash-back if something flops back into the bowl.
The broth was mild, but pleasant. The hominy was plentiful, if thats your thing. Its not a bad pozole, but its not my favorite in the city, so lets keep our focus on the things youll love.
Taqueria La Tropicana doesnt look like much from the outside, but the always-full parking lot is a testament to the food its serving inside. The walls are bright red with festive paintings, the tables are clean and the menu above the counter is pretty clear if you have a grasp of basic menu Spanish.
For instance, the 5 Tacos de Papa ($7.99) are five tacos of potato. Theyre mashed potato tacos. If that doesnt sound good to you, Im sorry you lost all your taste buds in the tragic Mouth Fire of Aught-Nine.
- Mark Hancock
- Tacos de papa, at Taqueria la Tropicana, 12-21-15.
Crispy fried corn shells surround tender mashed potatoes with a sprinkling of shredded lettuce and a slice of avocado on top. Slot in a slice of pickled jalapeño and youre holding three bites of glory.
For a slightly different experience, I recommend the sopes ($6.99) with your choice of meat. On the plate are three crispy, golden boats sailing the seas of carb. On top are a smear of beans, meat, lettuce, tomato and avocado. You can try to cut it in half to share with your friend, but what kind of friend only gives you half a sope?
The meat selection is uniformly excellent, from what Ive tried. The asada (steak) is pretty standard, which is good, because carne asada is wonderful. The carnitas (crispy pulled pork) are some of the best Ive had tender, a slight chew and deeply tasty. The barbacoa (shredded beef) is fatty and moist but really comes alive with the application of Tropicanas three sauces.
- Mark Hancock
- Barbacoa, carnitas and lengua tacos at Taqueria la Tropicana, 12-21-15.
The lengua (beef tongue) is tip-top. Cooked incorrectly, lengua can be chewy, tough and gross. At this taqueria, it was perfect, with a look that was similar to the asada but with a slightly softer texture.
Most tacos are $1.50, but the lengua and tripa (tripe) tacos are $2. So for $4.50 or $5, you can have a pretty quick, very tasty meal.
Plan that meal carefully, though. Taqueria La Tropicana has one major factor holding it back: Its hours are crazy.
The owners of the restaurant also own the garage next door, so the taqueria is closed for breakfast and lunch. Monday-Wednesday, it opens at 3:30 p.m. and keeps cooking until 2 a.m. Thursday-Sunday, it opens at 8 p.m. and closes at 4 a.m. (Take heed, night owls.)
Parking can also be tricky, because the lot is small and fills up fast. Be patient or be willing to walk a short way and youll be fine.
One item I didnt try but my pozole-concerned friend recommended is the Tostada de Camaron (shrimp tostada) for $3.99. His enthusiasm seemed so genuine, I figured I should pass the plaudits on to you.
And, of course, if youre looking for a larger taco-type meal, the tortas (sandwiches) and burritos (cmon, you know what a burrito is) are $5.50.
There are also corn dogs and chicken nuggets on the menu, but please dont get them. Dont let your kids get them. They might be the best chicken nuggets and dogged corns on the planet, but this is a taqueria get some tacos. Squeeze some lime on top and enjoy the simple, glorious taste of a truly well-made classic.
Theres more to explore on Tropicanas menu a task for which I am eager to volunteer. And for those willing to take a short drive for some excellent tacos, Im guessing the volunteer list will fill up quickly.