Enchiladas Huasteca at Taqueria El Campesino
One of my favorite taquerias, Taqueria El Campesino (7710 Bellaire Blvd. #L, 713-777-8889), has an ostensibly good location, in a mini-mall at the northwest corner of Bellaire and Fondren, right on the way to Chinatown. But that's the thing: it's on the way to Chinatown, which means that every time I drive past it I'm headed to Chinatown. To eat. A good two years passed before I first decided to stop. Now it's become a destination in its own right, but even at that I still usually drive by, albeit with a slight pang of regret.
It's a shame, because Taqueria El Campesino is one of the only places I know offering food from the La Huasteca region in north-central Mexico. This fact is not immediately apparent, as the expansive menu not only rounds up the usual taqueria suspects (tacos, tortas, tostadas, burritos, quesadillas, gorditas, and sopes) but also offers a variety of meat and seafood plates and, for reasons I don't want to know, chicken nuggets and Buffalo wings. I'm sure all of these are well-executed; I've never had a bad meal here.
But what makes this taqueria special are the Huastecan dishes, which incorporate pre-Colombian techniques and ingredients: moles, the gordita-like bocoles, the ridiculously large tamale known as a zacahuil, and house specialties such as the Enchiladas Huasteca, which is what I tried this past weekend. The Enchiladas Huasteca are exceptionally simple: homemade masa tortillas folded over queso fresco and topped with salsa huasteca and a sprinkling of crumbled cheese. But sometimes, as with ingredients this pure, simplicity is its own reward.
Every meal at Taqueria El Campesino begins with freshly made chips and a warm red salsa that looks a bit watery but is soon revealed to be a fiery melding of tomatoes and chiles and not much else. It is fantastic, but if you're the type of person who orders your Chipotle burrito "mild," these aren't the droids you're looking for. The decor is minimal, unless you count a large jukebox playing slow jams in Spanish and a television permanently tuned to Univision. But it's hard to complain about atmosphere when the most expensive item on the menu is $8.50. Service is friendly, but it helps if you speak (or at least understand) some Spanish.
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