500 Tacos: La Casita
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Hours: 6am-10pm Mon-Fri, 7am-10pm Sat-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 02.15.15
Tucked into a tight little corner bounded by Burrell Drive, the railroad tracks and West Anderson Lane, La Casita is a clean, no-frills neighborhood spot with walls painted adobe and lime, upholstered chairs, table service and tacos that call for a degree of discretion.
The taco: Carne guisada
Spanning a rainbow of world cuisines, gravy is the great equalizer. Its homogenous warm viscosity compensates for sins of the protein and amplifies the virtues. Carne guisada at La Casita falls into the second category, starting with gently simmered beef stew meat still pink at the edges, then calling on a lightly salted gravy that absorbs into the beef for a silky finish. ($1.99)
► One more to try ...: Barbacoa here falls in mahogany fibers, a tender braised collective of cheek and tongue that puts cilantro, onions and a fresh corn tortilla to their best cumulative purpose. ($1.99)
► ... and three to skip: (below right) No amount of gravy or metaphor can soften my dislike for tacos filled with bitter and fatty al pastor ($1.99), cabrito that’s gone gamey bordering on rancid ($1.99) or rubbery chunks of unpeeled tongue ($2.49).
► Tortillas: When a restaurant makes its own corn tortillas, why order flour? La Casita’s maiz is strong and stretchy enough to go single in the land of the double corn. The pockmarks of color they get from the grill remind me of the dog and chicken tracks forever cast in the Saltillo tiles in the restaurant’s back hall.
► Salsa: Before you scorch your palate with La Casita’s emulsified jalapeño verde, give its fresh, mellow red a chance to do its work with tomato, onion, cilantro and just enough chile heat to keep it honest.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)