3028 University Avenue, North Park
It's good. Really damn good.
Okay, I only earn the right to dole out restaurant reviews by stretching them out to more than a couple of words, so I'll elaborate. North Park's newest taco shop opened a few weeks back under an incredibly generic name: City Taco. And it is a taco shop in the truest sense: no tortas, no hamburguesas — not even burritos.
However, it's not a taco shop as we tend to know them. There're no plastic trays or Styrofoam plates, and the menu doesn't deliver the typical carne asada, pollo asada, carnitas, and cabeza lineup.
Okay, you will find pollo asado, but it reads like this: "Grilled chicken breast topped with arugula, diced tomato, golden raisins and toasted almonds in a tamarind aioli on a homemade flour tortilla." Not exactly something you could pull off a street cart.
And if it's any indication how deep this foodie-friendly menu gets, I didn't even consider that particular item. Pollo asado would've been my sixth or seventh choice. I only picked up three, at $3.50 apiece.
First up I got the chile relleno taco, which didn't go all hog wild with the special toppings, but I considered it special enough to find relleno in taco form. The beer-battered chile guero was tasty, the oaxaco/cotija cheese blend melted beautifully within and the flour tortilla a light, airy, almost crispy vessel. One of the owners, the brilliantly affable Gerry, requested I try a bite of my tacos at least, before adding salsa. I did so, but definitely enjoyed the little roja kick from the salsa bar.
Next up was the Mahi Al Adobo, featuring seared fish with mango habañero jelly and smoked chipotle avocado cream sauce. This one definitely delivered sans salsa, especially for a seafood lover and someone with a bit of a sweet tooth. Not my favorite, but it definitely held my interest.
Or it would have, except for the first taste of the Borrego, which featured lamb, wild mushrooms, and fried leeks, this time on a homemade corn tortilla. Everything here is made on premises, right down to the sweet hibiscus drink, and all seems the better for it. As I was about to dig in to my Borrego taco, Gerry showed up at my table with a bit of salsa I'd missed. More of an oil really, a chile tostado of toasted peppers, garlic and corn oil. This one he gave me permission to use with the lamb mushroom and leeks.
I've never had a taco like it. I've never heard of a taco like it. In fact, I've been walking around this earth dumbly assuming no taco could ever surprise me again. Touché, Gerry. This oddball collection of textures and flavors, with that smoky oil giving them some fire, well it damn near justifies bastardizing the very notion of a taco. With eight varieties and counting, including grilled chorizo with pineapple, and scallops with bacon bits and cayenne pepper sauce, what can I say?
See you there, everybody.