Another reason to love El Tarasco

I love El Tarasco’s St. Matthew’s property. I go there for lunch several times a month with my friend and business associate Jerry, and we’re never let down — when it comes to quality Mexican at a great price, it’s hard to beat. The chicken tacos are ridiculously good.

Recently I was there with my buddy Fred, and he pounced upon a new menu item called tacos al pastor ($9.99). I tried a bite or two of his order and was immediately hooked. Not that my chicken soft tacos weren’t delicious, all stuffed with fresh, tender pulled breast chicken, lettuce and enough Chihuahua cheese to choke … well, a really big Chihuahua. But this al pastor stuff was that good.

So I went back a week later and got an order of my own.

The tacos al pastor is actually one of a number of new menu items at El Tarasco’s six locations around town, including three new seafood dinners — siete mares (seven types of seafood cooked in a soup), mojarra frita and camarones a la Mexicana — and four new lunch specials. When my friend Mia and I stopped in for lunch recently, I already knew what I wanted; she opted for the solid No. 7 lunch special of two tacos with rice (or beans) for a measly $4.99.

I wasn’t disappointed. Three double-wrapped soft tacos stuffed with marinated pork, onions and chunks of pineapple, along with huge portions of Mexican rice and refried beans, soon appeared before me. To top it off, the meal comes with a serving of fresh, chunky garden salsa and another flavorful salsa that tastes like a smoky red, roasted-tomatilla-style salsa infused with plenty of cilantro. It’s great poured into the tacos or greedily devoured with chips, and there is plenty to share.

The spices in the marinade are bold enough to be noticed, but not overpowering, and the pineapple chunks not only act as a tenderizer during the marinating process but also add a nice tang to the flavor mixture. In fact, the spices make each little morsel that drops from your tortilla (and trust me, plenty will) worth scooping up with your fork. The ingredients are grilled, fajita style, and the blackened edges only heighten the taste experience. Topped with the salsas, the tacos are a veritable mouth-gasm.

Sorry, am I gushing? The scary part is that while we were there, I observed someone at an adjacent table eating a cocktail de camarones (shrimp cocktail, $10.49) the size of a small bucket, topped with fresh avocado. I think I know what I’m getting next time.

El Tarasco
110 Fairfax Ave.
Rating: 90