Short menu serves up satisfaction

TAKEOUT

Mexican restaurant offers authentic fare

March 23, 2005|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Tortilleria & Tacos, one of several Mexican and Central American restaurants in the 1700 block of Eastern Ave., would gladden the hearts of the back-to-simplicity crowd.

Here, instead of agonizing over too many selections, you just have to choose from a short list of tacos and soups.

The carryout is located in a bright storefront decorated with Mexican and Southwestern prints. Two chalkboards hanging from the ceiling list the selections. While we were there, teenage students from a visiting Spanish class tried out their new vocabulary on the friendly servers whose English was developing.

In the rear of the storefront, piles of industrial-size bags of cornmeal awaited the tortilla maker. A customer came in and ordered fresh tortillas by the pound, which were stacked, weighed and wrapped in butcher paper.

We ordered tacos filled with beef, chicken and pork ($2 each) and a serving of posole, ($4), a tangy, tomato-based soup thick with hominy and beef cubes. Each taco was made with two tortillas and brimmed with tiny cubes of marinated meat.

The tacos were sprinkled with chopped onions and cilantro and served with little containers of guacamole, lime quarters and red and green chile sauces too fiery to use in large doses. The tacos and their trimmings were fresh and filling.

Tortilla chips made on the premises were light, apparently salt-free and delectable, even without salsa.

The soup also delivered on the carryout's promise of authentic Mexican food. No culinary tricks here. Just good, simple food.

The list of untried tacos and soup was brief. We passed on the menudo, or tripe soup, as well as tacos with beef tongue. I did have a sample of the carnitas, a satisfying version of pulled pork, which also can be selected to fill a taco. On our next visit, we'll be sure to bring home some carnitas.

The servers seemed to appreciate a customer's spotty Spanish. They also seemed to welcome the opportunity to try out their English. Still, one would-be patron left after a failure of communication.

And, no, it wasn't William Donald Schaefer.

Tortilleria & Tacos

Food: ***

Service: ***1/2

Waiting area: ***

Parking: **

Where: 1716 Eastern Ave., Upper Fells Point

Phone: 410-276-3741

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Mexican soups, fresh tortillas and tacos, $4 or less; no credit cards

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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