Restaurant Review

I love living in a city of immigrants.  Whether folks arrive legally or illegally, as refugees or just seeking more opportunity, I know they add to our community.  One amazing way they make Tacoma better is with a bevy of inexpensive restaurants with amazing food.  Variety is the spice of life, and that maxim has no higher calling than describing the joy you can find in immigrant run restaurants.  I especially appreciate food that sticks to traditional method of preparation.  I’ve been on a long term quest for the best tacos in Tacoma.  And by best taco, I mean what you get at a taco stand in Mexico – freshly made corn tortilla, meat, minced onion and cilantro, red and green salsa in squeeze bottles to add on your own.  My favorite Mexican stand is this place in a little village north of Zihuatenejo that opens up each night after dusk.  They only do tacos, and they know what they are about.  Domestically, I loved the tacos at “Los Reyes Del Taco” (the Taco Kings), over on East McKinley.  Sadly, they closed a few years back, but that place rocked.  English was occasionally spoken there, so it was pretty much up to my rather rudimentary Spanish to get the meal ordered.  But the tortillas were hand formed and the tacos were spot on.  We used to come all the time when our kids were infants, and if things were a bit slow, the waitress would grab my 9 month old and disappear into the back to play with him, giving my wife and I some peace and quiet (except for the telenovela blaring on the TV, of course) to enjoy our meal.  They had like 9 tables, maybe.  We bumped into one of the waitresses a year or two back at Taste of Tacoma, and it was like seeing a long lost friend.  I also loved El Compadre – I think they only served tacos (in addition to a little Mexican market) – and their carnitas tacos were sublime.  These days, I don’t have a set taco spot.  Taqueria El Sabor (1636 S Mildred – across from TCC) has some great tacos.  I probably go to El Antojo (38th and McKinley Ave E) the most.  Great tacos – they make their own tortillas too.  They started as a taco truck, and now have 4 or 5 proper restaurants up and down I-5.  Tacos Guaymas (2630 S 38th St) is a fun spot – it is a chain as well, but the same folks have been cooking and waiting tables for at least the last 15 years, it seems.  They make big tacos – not proper Mexican street tacos – but they are great.  The shrimp taco is divine, and they have, by far, the best vegetarian taco in town.  You eat it with a fork, but it’s the bomb.  There are a couple Americanized taco joints I like as well.  They serve proper tacos (soft corn tortilla), but fancied up quite a bit.  If you’ve never been to Top of Tacoma (3529 E McKinley) for Taco Tuesday, you’re missing out.  Try the pork belly taco – you won’t regret it.  Brewers Row (3205 N 26th) also has some good tacos – although they always feel like they are trying just a bit too hard to be edgy.  The menu doesn’t list a “fish taco”, it is “ancho chile & cumin dusted grilled fresh pacific rockfish”.  Yes, the grated radish is an amazing garnish, and the fish is sublime, but you can just say fish taco and I’ll buy it just the same.  I mention these last two, which aren’t (to my knowledge) immigrant run restaurants, because their amazing tacos wouldn’t be possible without the influence and competition from the tacos at the more authentic Mexican restaurants.  Immigration bring us all up – and that is the truth.  I try not to pry into people’s lives, but I really enjoy hearing stories of migration, so I do have a bit of habit of steering the conversation that way when folks seem chatty.  Whether people or grandparents or whoever arrive from Amman or Hue or Guadalajara, I’m endlessly fascinated.  My father-in-law has worked with quite a few refuge families in Tacoma over the years, and when you listen to their stories and see how they are rebuilding their lives, I find it hard to argue that we should slow down the flow of immigrants.  Our County’s goal shouldn’t be to stop the “illegals”, but to make it much easier to be legal.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door – I hope our Country can find the strength to do so for far greater numbers than we do now.  Alas.    

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