Celebrating National Taco Day at Laredo Taqueria

Monday, I celebrated National Taco Day (yeah, I didn't really know that was a "thing" until late in the day) by tucking in at Laredo Taqueria (915 Snover, off Washington Avenue) with three fat tacos and a glass of sweet jamaica.

Laredo Taqueria is one of those last holdouts along Washington Avenue, along with Guadalajara Bakery and what used to be Matamoros Meat Market. The market burned down many years ago, was rebuilt and then bought by El Tiempo, which is what you'll now find if you head to 5526 Washington.

And although Laredo might not have the best tacos in town, I thank God for that place every time I drive past it and every time I eat there. I'm not against progress, but I am against the destruction of a neighborhood's fabric and core businesses by greedy developers. Places like Laredo have managed to stick it out along Washington despite the constant birth of new clubs and chain restaurants.

Laredo's patrons are largely to thank for that. At 1:30 on a Monday afternoon, the place was still packed, as it always is. The line was out the door, winding from the parking lot into the low front room and finally into the raised dining room and steam table area, people happily chatting with each other as they waited. The clientele here is still strongly Hispanic and the restaurant fosters a tightly knit community through an almost maternal attitude and style of service.

And although I was eating late in the day, there's a good reason for going after the "lunch rush" (yes, the line gets ever longer then) at Laredo: carne guisada and pollo en mole in fresh flour tortillas, both of which are only served after 1:30 p.m.

The tacos are only $2 each, but they will feed you for days. Along with an extra chicharron taco (my favorite at Laredo, and the one which I will always order on the side no matter what else I'm eating) and a large agua fresca, the meal was $8. It's probably more than you should spend on lunch there considering the size of the tacos, but I was happy.

The carne guisada is stewed all day long -- as is the pollo en mole -- which is why you have to wait until later in the day to get the stuff. It benefits from a liberal dose of the creamy salsa verde that's served with your food as it can be too mild on its own, but the pollo en mole doesn't need any doctoring. It's intensely chocolatey, with only the vaguest hints of spice. This is not the mole for anyone who dislikes chocolate as the predominant component of the sauce, but it's silky and mild and entirely comforting stuff for those who like their mole on the sweeter side.

When I left at 2:30 yesterday, the line had died down. Barely. I'm guessing the best time to hit Laredo without a wait would be 3:30 or 4 p.m., but don't quote me on that.

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