Walter Mencken 9:23 a.m., Oct. 10
The One-Taco Dinner
On Fifth Avenue, tramping uphill, north.
Get to Nutmeg Street, St. Paul’s cathedral.
It’s five o’clock. Unbelievable pink sunset. And I’m looking at it from this maroon stucco corner place almost the same color as the clouds.
Huh. I remember a piano place here once, and a picture framer? Whatever, now, in the sunset, its rosy, terracotta red stucco outside glows.
Bougainvillea's clutching the side of this building like hot coals.
Oh man, tempting, tempting. See it's called Barrio Star.
Name has an almost Texan feel to it
So I walk through big double doors into this pretty romantic eatery bar. New Christmas decorations...
...mixed with skull masks, candles, and purple, orange and white walls, and at one end, this huge, swoopy white plastic sofa.
The welcome table is loaded with a couple dozen lit candles all around full-sized skulls and a sign saying “Please wait to be seated.”
But what thu heck. I make for the counter.
Soon as I set down, though, I’m shakin’ in my boots: everything’s going for, like $15 bucks or more, foodwise, and drinks are up there too. Fact is I’m down to my last six buckeroos. Saw the word “Mexican Soul” and took a chance.
But luck is with me! It’s Tuesday night, and hey, this guy Billy – turns out he’s the manager - says it’s Taco Tuesday. Points to a chalkboard above a passage to a purple side room.
So chicken, carnitas, soy chorizo or tofu, $2.99. I mean, no way cheap compared to, say, even the Gaslamp on Taco Tuesdays. And fish or carne asada tacos are $3.50.
They also have $5 margaritas all night from five o’clock.
John the barman brings me an iced water.
“Get you something tonight?” He hands me a couple of menus. I ain’t even gonna look.
“Was thinking about that taco. Would it be alright just to have that and this water?”
“Oh sure. Not a problem. Which one?”
So hey, A-Plus for attitude.
I go for the carnitas, pork. Must say, you feel kinda cool, sitting up on designer white stools at this multicolored ceramic-looking bar. Glows, like the sunset outside.
John warns me that this is street taco-sized. He makes a circle with his fingers and thumbs. Can see how for three bucks (and normally you’d be paying around $15 for a plate of three of them) people might have a size issue.
Yeah, it’s that small.
But it’s a thick corn tortilla, and have to say, the pork-guac-cotija cheese combo (plus chopped onions) is fabulous and filling. Really flavorful. The cotija tastes like goat cheese. It’s squelchy, drooly, rico suave all the way.
Takes me ten minutes to get through, what with talking and all. Turns out this is one of six or so eateries that the chef Isabel Cruz has going. And they say she was involved in The Mission in Mission Beach, North Park and East Village as well. Good news is this doesn’t feel like a chain.
So Tuesday’s the deal. Though they do have daily happy hour, five to seven.
But mostly I’d say it’s organic, dressed up Mexican nosh for the sleek classes who don’t get down to The Street a lot.
Me, I’ll come back any time, soon as I’ve moved up the food chain a little.
But Tuesdays, I’ll certainly be back. Hey, this water's delicious.
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