Yo quiero Mexico

The <i>cocinera</i> at Tacos El Rey prepares what many call some of the most authentic Mexican food in town.

The cocinera at Tacos El Rey prepares what many call some of the most authentic Mexican food in town.

Photo By David Robert

Tacos El Rey is one of three or four local joints are routinely mentioned in conversations about where in town to go for “authentic” Mexican food. And for good reason: It says right out front, on the signs and on the menu, “Comida Autentica Mexicana.” Most of the signs are in Spanish, the place is full of vivid colors—bright red napkin holders and orange sponge-painted walls—and when we arrived, the one-two-one-two strains of Mexican polka were loud enough to inspire involuntary dance routines.

My friends and I read the menus posted on the wall. A girl at the counter started to take our order and then excused herself, marched resolutely back into the kitchen and yelled something of which I could make out only one word: “musica!” The volume was quickly lowered, and the girl came back and flashed us a friendly, apologetic smile.

We all got combo plates ($4), which include rice and beans; I got mine with two tacos and an extra sope ($1). You choose the kind of meat you’d like, and I had carne asada in all three—the meat was juicy and good. Joe and Danielle got vegetarian burritos. We rounded our meal off with some Bohemias, probably my favorite Mexican beer (all import beers are $2.50).

All of the food was flavorful and tasty; the veggies were fresh and crisp. The burritos were large and loaded with vegetables including peas and avocado (not guacamole, but fresh avocado). Danielle proclaimed it one of the healthiest- tasting burritos she’s had. Our food was served with some tasty salsa picante that Joe and I doused liberally onto our plates.

Joe and I are planning a trip to Mexico, and we had hoped to discuss our travel plans over dinner. However, I was too distracted by the food and the décor of the restaurant, particularly a large mural on the back wall. Joe was enraptured by something else. I quickly deduced that his moans of pleasure and grunts of disapproval had nothing to do with his food and everything to do with the soccer game being shown on a gargantuan television.

Joe, who’s into “birding” (which I gather is the more aggressive, extreme version of bird-watching) made one contribution to my analysis of the restaurant. He pointed out a fatal flaw in a Corona ad that adorned one wall. The ad portrayed a tropical-looking bird skiing down a mountain with a beer in his hand.

“That ad doesn’t make any sense,” Joe said. “That’s a macaw, and macaws are only found in tropical areas—they would never be found anywhere near a snow-covered mountain.”

I neglected to point out that birds generally do not ski, nor do they drink beer, and, furthermore, skiing and drinking, for reasons of safety, should not be mixed.

The battle over control of the music volume continued throughout our meal. In one moment of abrupt silence, I faintly heard a distinctive sound come from the TV: “Goooooooooooolllllllll!” I succumbed to the pleasure of enjoying the lyrical dribble of the soccer game. We watched the whole first half, which ended with both teams, America and Atlante, having one point apiece. Sitting there, watching futbol, sipping on my cerveza, and having just enjoyed a most satisfying meal, I became quietly but intensely excited for my upcoming south-of-the-border travels.