500 Tacos: Taqueria Adelita’s
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
5401 S. Congress Ave. (map). Hours: 4pm-12:30am Wed-Thu; 4pm-1am Fri; 4pm-2am Sat; 4pm-12:30am Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 07.31.15
The first time I tried to hit Adelita’s was a weekend night, and cars were stacked like leftover bricks in the big gravel lot. The lamplit trailer itself and the awning beside it were swarmed with people as thick as moths at a ballfield. And this was just two months after the trailer opened in late May. Couldn’t get near the place. And now I know why: $1 tacos. One dollar. But it’s more than that. It’s the cooking of Adelina Reyes Gonsalez — fast, flavorful, balanced, authentic. This is her first professional cooking job, but it’s an old story, the best kind: Talented home cook takes her family’s advice and goes pro.
But why a dollar? Her son-in-law put it best: “Whataburger doesn’t have hamburgers for a dollar. McDonald’s does. If I have three kids with me and I have $5, I’m fixing to feed all three. She wanted to do that, and give them something good and filling, and have some variety.” This food is fast, but it isn’t fast food. Just ask the crowds swarming around Adelita’s. They recognize a pro when they see one.
The taco: $1 tacos
For a dollar, you have to try them all: bistec, chorizo, campechanos and al pastor. They’re each built on doubled-up 3-inch corn tortillas softened in oil, or on flour toasted on the grill. The bistec is chopped into nuggets and grilled with salt and pepper to a chewy tenderness. The chorizo is as dark as oiled mahogany, ground to gravel-size clusters in an equal balance of herbal spice, fat and char. The two of them together — campechanos — emboldens the beef and chills out the chorizo for a yin-yang singalong. The pastor glows adobo orange in its small, sturdy chop. Each and every taco is finished with freshly chopped onion, cilantro and lime. ($1 each)
► One more for the road: Adelita’s also does the fast-turnaround version of the quesadilla called a gringa: a toasted flour tortilla with melted cheese and meat, folded over itself like a smile. It’s just a dollar more, but the bistec gringa is still one of the best taco-family values in town.
► Tortillas: Storebought flour and doubled-up yellow corn, both cooked on the flat-top.
► Salsa: Adelita’s could get away with basic taco-stand red and green, but its jalapeño-tomatillo is as pulpy and twangy as fresh squeezed juice, and its chile de arbol red is smoky and dry, with skins and seeds to keep it honest.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)