Fat and happy
Loosely translated, the Spanish word “gordito” means “little fat one” or “chubby.” Gorditos Tacos takes its moniker to heart with a straightforward menu of carbs, stuffed with meat and cheese. Your vegan, vegetarian and pescetarian friends will want to sit this one out.
There are six classic meat preparations to choose from: cabeza (beef head), lengua (beef tongue), carne asada (grilled marinated beef steak), pollo asado (grilled marinated chicken), carnitas (slow braised pork) and al pastor (spicy, spit-roasted pork with pineapple). The meats are then served in one of six ways—as tacos, quesadillas, mulas, tortas, burritos or astride a big pile of fries.
We began with cabeza, lengua, pollo and carnitas tacos ($2.50 each). I was a little surprised to see each with a pair of five-inch, yellow corn tortillas—a break from the three-inch, white corn variety commonly used for “street tacos.” The stronger yellow corn flavor definitely came through, a bit of a distraction but not a deal breaker. Crisped a bit on the grill, the tortillas were stuffed with meat and nothing else. The traditional mix of chopped onion and cilantro was available at the salsa bar, as well as a crock of flavorful stewed pinto beans. I found this to be a nice touch, and the housemade salsas were all good. The habanero and avocado salsas both had great flavor and some serious fire.
Every taco meat was exceptional and well seasoned. The carnitas were a little crispy; the pollo wasn’t overdone; the cabeza was that perfect balance of meaty, fatty goodness that only comes from a roasted bovine head, and the tender lengua was a great example of why I love and admire expertly prepared beef tongue.
A pollo quesadilla ($4.50), ordered for a youngster in our party, featured a lightly crisped flour tortilla, stuffed with meat and melted cheese and served with a bit of lettuce, tomato and sour cream. The kid made short work of it.
The word “mula” is Spanish for mule, which apparently carries along some negative colloquial connotations. Regardless, the al pastor mula ($4.50) I ordered was essentially a double corn tortilla quesadilla, and that baby was great. It was simple—akin to something I’d make for a quick snack—but the meat and seasonings were anything but average.
Carne asada is a beautiful thing. Throw in some cheese, sour cream and hot sauce, and I’m there, man. But put all of that atop a pile of french fries? That’s one tasty, cross-cultural, culinary comfort food collision. Gorditos’ asada fries can be ordered with any of the meat offerings, but we stuck with the marinated, grilled beef ($6, half order). The pile of fries was so big I had to double-check that I had actually purchased a half order. I could have used a little more goo and meat than fries, but, overall, it was a pretty tasty pile of guilty pleasure.
The place is simple and unassuming. Our order was taken by the same woman who cooked the meat and then loudly whacked it to bits with a cleaver. The drafty building was pretty chilly on a quasi-winter evening, and the TV was a bit loud. It’s not fancy, but the food is good and the free pot of beans at the salsa bar was damn good. I wish every taqueria offered that.