Chicken salad tacos. Perhaps you're confused. I was, at first. Chicken taco salad? Chicken salad and tacos? Chicken tacos with salad?
Nope, chicken salad (ya know, with chunks of chicken, mayo, seasoning, etc.) as filling for a taco. Sounds weird, but tastes great, I quickly found out, during my most recent trip to Los Tios. I was tempted to show I was in-the-know by ordering one of the "secret" combination platters, but curiosity about the "sizzling summer specials," especially the chicken salad tacos, got the best of me. And, besides, if familiarity breeds contempt, I best lay off the combination platters for a bit lest I get sick of them. (AS IF THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN).
The main reason chicken salad tacos succeed as a summer dish (an entree technically at Los Tios, though I would suggest splitting them as an appetizer) is the combinations of warm carbohydrates and cool protein, buttery crunch and creamy softness. Those juxtapositions are missing from most other tacos, even those with ostensibly summery ingredients like fish, because the fillings and tortillas share near-equal temperatures and similar degrees of smooshiness. Los Tios cleverly capitalizes a taco's potential for violent contrast by using deep-fried shells to house tender white meat chicken pieces liberally coated in a fresh herbal mayonnaise. A side of well-blended guacamole further enhances the pleasant opposition.
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Another summer special uses textural variation to its benefit but in a different way. With layers of refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, grilled chicken, and avocado, the tostada poblana seems at first to utilize only pedestrian albeit appetizing Tex-Mex components. A light sprinkling of queso fresco and intermittent streaks of poblano dressing, however, interrupt the familiar flavor profile by introducing, respectively, velvety dairy bits and acidic spiciness.
The ceviche tostada is the sort of summer dish I actually miss during the winter. Even though there's little I like more than padding myself in the middle of January with heavy monochromatic comfort foods, I do at times long for something more spritely and colorful. At that point, I'll try to remember the pert shrimp and scallops laced with lemon and accented with thick slices of fatty avocado.
Okay, now I'm already missing these seasonal specials. Good thing summer is NOT almost over, despite what the devils at OfficeMax may imply with their horrifically premature display of back-to-school supplies. I still have time for a second round.