Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mini Dish on Dining: Tacubaya

This Is Some Fancy Taco Shop
1788 4th St., Berkeley
Hours: Mon., Wed.–Fri., 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Tues., 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–9 p.m.
PH: 510.525.5160

When in the Fourth Street shopping district in Berkeley, I mostly find myself at the Pasta Shop or getting a lemon bar at Bette’s Diner. And on hot days, I’ll even go for the homemade ice cream at Sketch. But I’ve never stepped foot into Tacubaya, which apparently has been in the Fourth Street neighborhood since 2003.

Tacubaya is the taqueria or taco shop from the people behind Dona Tomas of Oakland. I haven’t even been to Dona Tomas, even though it’s just a few blocks down the street from where I live. I’m basically not a big fan of Mexican cuisine. I don’t have anything against Mexican food. I just haven’t gotten too excited about it’s basic ingredients—tortilla, beans, rice, meat.
But when I was in a need of a quick bite recently, and I didn’t feel like waiting for a table at Café Rouge or O Chame, I found myself in the colorful corner of Tacubaya, right next to the Pasta Shop. It’s an order-at-the-counter-and-get-a-number kind of place, which is what I wanted because I didn’t want to deal with servers. On one side of the taqueria was a wall of Dona Tomas branded products, from cookbooks to T-shirts and lots of hot sauce.

The menu, of course, included a whole bunch of tacos. But they also offer a few soups and salads, and had a new item, ceviche. (I love ceviche, the raw seafood made in various Latin cuisine, but that day’s ceviche was just scallops and I prefer the tender meat of fish over scallops. So I passed on the ceviche.) You’d think that I would order a taco, but being the non-fan of Mexican cuisine, I felt like trying something different so I ordered the Mexican sandwich or Torta al Pastor.
I went over and sat at the counter and watched one of the sous chefs making soft tacos as I waited for my torta. When it arrived, it looked a bit like a flattened hamburger to me. It was made of barbeque pork with avocado chunks on a grilled bolillo. Funny, the menu also said there would be grilled onions and pinto beans, but I didn’t notice any of these unless they were just blended into the sauce.
Overall, I liked the sandwich. But then again, I’m a sucker for slow-roasted pork. It was tasty and filling and just what I needed for a quiet quick bite. Ironically, I was all excited to share my experience of Tacubaya with you all until I started reading a lively discussion on a food discussion board about whether Tacubaya is really an authentic taqueria. Many people criticized the lack of authenticity in flavor and the high prices. (I paid $6.95 for my torta.)

Like I said, I’m no expert on a real taco since I’m not a regular diner of Mexican cuisine. But I thought the quality of the ingredients were good and I enjoyed the festive environment. And it seemed like the people around me were also enjoying themselves. Given the high-priced nature of Fourth Street, I don’t think Tacubaya is out of step with the other eating establishments. It’s a pleasant place to get a casual bite to eat.

Note that I’m not giving out a rating on these mini reviews but I would recommend you trying Tacubaya out if you’re in the area.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You really should check out Dona's one of the best Mexican resturants I've ever tried.. it's very different than you'd expect.