Near the intersection of Howe Avenue and Alta Arden Expressway, there’s a place called Taqueria Garibaldi, where there’s usually a soccer game on the TV, a well-stocked salsa bar and, almost always, a decent crowd.
In some ways, it’s easy to see why. One of Taqueria Garibaldi’s biggest pulls is its choice of meats—and there are plenty of options. The chorizo is red, crispy and greasy in all the best ways that chorizo should be. The lengua (tongue) is soft and dreamily reminiscent of only the most ethereal bits of beef. The fish is fine and flaky, so don’t be afraid of it (more on that in a bit). Cabeza and pork are herculean in flavor options worthy of note, too.
The tacos are small and served taqueria style on two tiny tortillas (flour or corn, your call), with a bit of house salsa that has all the kick of a pissed off Girl Scout who’s just tall enough to nail you right under the kneecap.
However, if you want to customize, there’s also a fully loaded salsa bar. A generous drizzle of lime juice and a slather of other salsas will enliven the tacos significantly. Avoid the escabeche, as somehow the cooks have found a way to strip the flavor out of pickled onions and jalapeños, leaving them as limp and unappealing as a tequila-saturated frat boy.
On weekends, diners can order menudo, a Mexican classic of tripe and beef foot served in a molten red broth flavored with onion, oregano, chilies and lime.
Even if you don’t like tripe, it’s hard to say no to menudo. Sadly, however, this one is easy to resist. This brackish broth is like eating a spoonful of the Pacific Ocean, and neither I nor my husband nor our three dining companions could get past it. There’s a lot of flavor beneath all that salt—which is a bit disappointing, because it could be a dish to travel for.
I’m generally wary of ordering seafood at taquerias due to an unfortunate incident that involved eating some shrimp and later locking myself in a bathroom and sobbing for five hours while terrible things happened. Here, though, you’ll find it not only safe, but also quite satisfying. The ceviche tostada tastes tangy and flavorful, though ditch the unidentifiable sweet-and-sour sauce that accompanies it, and instead, try a salsa with more bite. Taqueria Garibaldi’s menu also boasts an entire deep-fried tilapia, and loading it up with lime juice and pico de gallo makes for a happy eater, indeed.
We tried the torta stuffed with bland tomatoes and barbecued chicken that was barely discernible as either barbecue or chicken. The bun barely held together, so in the end, la torta es terrible.
Be sure to pick up a glass of the homemade horchata, which is sweet and milky with seductive whispers of cinnamon. You will want seconds.
I dream of the restaurant’s chile verde plate. Here, the tomatillo sauce is tangy and salty, with a mild heat that lingers long enough to be extinguished by the delightful refried beans. I’m not sure if there’s a stick of butter in there or just a fistful of lard that makes them so good, but either way, the beans leave me excited. The Mexican rice is nothing to get excited about, however—but Mexican rice rarely ever is.
Taqueria Garibaldi is usually a happening place. Visit during a soccer game, and you’ll find a rowdy joint where the beer tastes better and the salsas seem hotter. Additionally, if you’re looking for a place that’s open until 3 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday and serves pretty decent tacos that are not just a cut above, but whole bolts of cloth above the tacos at most other eateries open at this hour, then Taqueria Garibaldi will do you well.