North of the Border

A hefty chile relleno is served with rice and beans at Carmelita’s Taqueria.

A hefty chile relleno is served with rice and beans at Carmelita’s Taqueria.


Carmelita’s Taqueria is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Carmelita’s Taqueria in Golden Valley is exactly my kind of joint—friendly, family-owned, with a short but oh-so-sweet menu. Crunchy chips and a fantastic salsa started my family off. The salsa was hot but not blistering, with big chunks of onion and tomato, and plenty of cilantro.

My son and I each ordered combination dinners ($8.99) with a chile relleno and enchiladas. Both included ample amounts of lettuce and tomato salad, seasoned rice, and refried beans. The rice wasn’t dry and tasted great, especially mixed with the perfectly seasoned frijoles. I could have had a mixed bowl of this topped with a little cheese and salsa, and been happy.

Although the stuffed pepper was not the fresh-fried, crispy wonder I always search for, it had excellent flavor, great sauce, tons of melted Oaxaca cheese and was large enough to fill its side of the plate. Better yet was the moist and flavorful shredded chicken in my enchiladas. For my taste, they could have used a little more cheese and sauce, but they were good enough to carry their weight. Paired with the above-average rice and beans, the meal was a serving of pure comfort food.

It would be a sin to visit a taqueria without trying the tacos, so, for $2 a pop, we ordered cabeza (cow’s head), al pastor (pineapple roasted pork) and carnitas (slow cooked pork). If you’re a fan of “street tacos”—a pair of small corn tortillas topped with meat, diced white onion, scallion, cilantro and salsa—you won’t be disappointed with Carmelita’s. The meats were all excellent, with plenty piled on each taco. There was excellent bark on the carnitas, a classic combo of spice and fruit on the al pastor, and the cow’s head was perhaps some of the best I’ve tasted. In hindsight, I really wish I’d tried the lengua (cow’s tongue), because I’m willing to bet they do a great job on that tricky item, too.

My daughter—who attempts and occasionally succeeds at sticking to a vegetarian diet—ordered her wet burrito without meat ($7.99). They stuffed plenty of rice, beans and cheese into that plate-sized beast, topped it with shredded asadero cheese and sour cream, then drenched it in one of the best green salsas ever. She had to take half of it home. Spicy, yes, but the flavors of tomatillo and lime really brought it together. We spooned it onto other items.

The mariscos portion of the menu could just be called camarones, as it consists of four preparations of shrimp. The large, crisp corn tortillas of the ceviche tostadas ($4.99) were topped with plenty of chopped, lime-cured shrimp, onion, cucumber, tomato, cilantro and salsa. I gave my “vegetarian” daughter a bite, and she finished half of a tostada.

Rounding out the meal was a shared dish I actually hadn’t tried before, aguachile ($13.99). This version was basically a big earthenware oval of citrus-cured shrimp swimming in a pool of lime juice, chilis, salt, cilantro, chopped cucumber and purple onion. It was absolutely delicious and totally refreshing. As with the wet burrito, we spooned this sauce onto tacos, chips, everything. It was served with a foil packet of hot tortillas, but we gobbled that stuff down so fast there was no time for them. I live on the south end of Reno, but this meal was totally worth the drive to the North Valleys.