El Taco Tote – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Never mind Montezuma’s revenge. El Taco Tote is striking a blow for everyone of Mexican descent (and anyone else, for that matter) who has ever denounced Taco Bell and restaurants of that ilk for serving inauthentic parodies of Mexican food.
El Taco Tote is making tote (slang for huge) inroads in the American market where it has been warmly embraced and today threatens some of those long-standing pretenders by capturing an ever increasing share of the Mexican fast food market.
Founded in 1988 in Juarez, Mexico, this burgeoning franchise now has more than 40 locations throughout the Southwest and appears poised to conquer America by storm with its grilled “build your own” taco concept. In 2004, one of the El Paso Taco Tote stores was named by Hispanic magazine as one of America’s top fifty Hispanic restaurants.
El Taco Tote celebrates the Mexican tradition of “street food,” a term which usually conjures up images of simple street stands serving up steamy, fresh corn or flour tortillas wrapped around seared meat with stinging chiles and sweet, sautéed meat on top of which you splash on a toasted tomato salsa. Like those street stands, El Taco Tote won’t insult their patrons with tacos crafted of ground beef and sour cream. Instead, the tacos (not as generously stuffed as the restaurant’s name might indicate) are made with grilled top sirloin, bistec (steak), pork, chicken and fish–what “real” Mexican tacos are made of.
Place your order then saunter over to the condiment bar which is where your taco becomes a tote as you cram it with onions, cucumber, cilantro, grilled hot peppers and more. Six salsas, all of which pack a potent punch, are also available, but be forewarned, a couple of them might require a fire extinguisher. The pequin chile talamada isn’t quite hot enough to remove the enamel from your teeth, but it might burn your tongue a bit. Even the guacamole bites back. You’ll be impressed by the fresh quality of the condiment bar where everything appeared to be homemade.
We fell in love with the pickled red onions which went well with the fish tacos (which by themselves would have been boring). El Taco Tote’s fish tacos are more akin to what you might find in Mexico where fried fish is nestled into warm corn tortillas then it’s up to you to dress those tacos with the condiments of your choice. Americans have become acquainted over the past few years with San Diego style fish tacos, typically made with a coleslaw-like dressing.
El Taco Tote’s corn and flour tortillas are made by hand, ostensibly the way they’ve been made in Mexico for hundreds of years. You can even watch these magical orbs being crafted thanks to the restaurant’s open kitchen design. Refried beans have a slight aftertaste of lard which also holds true to Mexican tradition. The Spanish rice is both flavorful and colorful. Horchata, a traditional Mexican rice drink is available to wash down your victuals.
El Taco Tote
4701 Central, N.E.
LATEST VISIT: 2 June 2006
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Fish Tacos, Horchata