Mighty, meaty tacos

Bravos Taco Shop

Good for: 24-hour service, masterful meats
Notable dishes: adobada burrito, posole

Bravos Taco Shop

7894 Florin Rd.
Sacramento, CA 95828

(916) 428-4066

After vacationing on the east coast this summer, I returned with an intense craving for tacos. Taco Bell doesn’t even register as Mexican when you’re used to culinary legends like Chando’s.

I also realized that, for me, tacos require meat. The vegetarian taco at La Venadita makes an excellent attempt at Cal-Mex cuisine, but when I want a classic street taco, only meat will do.

Bravos Tacos on Florin Road, occupying a barely disguised former McDonald’s, filled that need resoundingly. Open since January, the taqueria manages to knock out a variety of succulent, well-spiced proteins in an overwhelming number of dishes—and it joins only a few other places in the region serving 24 hours a day.

Don’t go for vegetarian choices like fries and quesadillas, though. The kitchen mastery seems to be focused on meat alone. Choose wisely, and Bravos is worthy of destination dining.

One of the most revelatory things we tried was the adobada burrito ($6.50). Ordered &#;agrave; la carte, it’s pure meat, guacamole and pico de gallo. The cold guacamole puree chills one side of the burrito, while the steaming spiced meat heats the other for an oddly appealing dichotomy. It’s similar to Chando’s style of burrito, with its lack of rice and beans, but goes a step further by forgoing lettuce as well.

The term “adobada” often gets confused with “al pastor,” which is traditionally spit-roasted rather than oven-roasted. Bravos’ version boasts sweetness from fruit juice, plus caramelized bits from the well-seared exterior. Mixed with pico, the meat has an intense, addictive quality to it.

The tacos make ideal meat transporters, too. While you can order mini street tacos for $2.75 each, the larger soft tacos at $3.50 are the better deal since one or two provide enough food for a meal. They come on doubled tortillas with a mountain of meat, that smooth guacamole and finely minced onion.

The carnitas arrived shredded and moist, while the pollo asada showed appealing flecks of herbs. We found the carne asada the least interesting, but only in comparison to the other choices. You need less salsa and sour cream than at other restaurants, since the meats uniformly avoid dryness.

You can also get your tacos fried as taquitos ($3.50 for three) with cheese and meat. They’re good examples of their kind, without too much grease, but fairly unexceptional.

Another example of the Bravos meat-centricity is the posole ($8.99/quart). It’s available every day and seems more like a stew than soup, with half of the bowl comprising moist tangles of pork. The rich, red broth shows hours of slow cooking in its layered flavor. With cabbage, onion, herbs, spices and three tostadas, one order easily feeds two people.

The downsides to Bravos temper is its mastery of meats. While the interior shows bright paint and care with décor, it’s still a former fast-food joint with locked bathrooms. On our visits, the only server took counter orders and drive-in requests while also delivering food and drinks to tables. When it was slow—oddly, on a Friday night—this was fine, but when more than eight customers needed help, service lagged considerably.

Ho-hum dishes like cheese fries ($3.25) and a kids bean and cheese burrito ($4 with drink), barely registered on the meh scale. There’s no beer on hand, although the aguas fresca packed flavor.

As one of my pet peeves, the incredibly flimsy napkins irritated me. For a place with such juicy meats, Bravos would surely save money and trees with more absorbent paper goods.

Nevertheless, the adobada and posole rank as some of the best I’ve had anywhere and deserve more attention—just overlook the litter-strewn parking lot and less-worthy menu items.