Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Part II: Canadian tacos

There will also be a Part III. Till then...

Yes, there were tacos. If you're hooked on New York's Dos Toros, which was inspired by Bay Area taquerias, how could you not want to see the original. The question was: where?

As I've mentioned before, inspired by a trip to Tucson, discussions of Mexican food have a way of becoming authenticity-offs, with any place named on a forum being bland and overpriced food for white people, unlike whichever other place... which, in turn, someone else declares the very epitome of bland and overpriced food for white people. There's always real Mexican food somewhere else in the U.S. (in a different region, if you're in the Northeast; in a different city or neighborhood in the Southwest), but it's never the place being discussed.

It's like which-bands-are-cool, except for some reason the elusive entity is a national cuisine, and the answer would seemingly be to go to a place where everyone else is Mexican - no equivalent answer for indie bands. But the people having the Mexican-food discussion don't want to do that - they want to have been the first white people to have been to whichever establishment, and to then sneer at the later arrivals. They want the place to be discovered, so that they can complain about it.

This phenomenon exists alongside the more straightforward one of people who are in fact Mexican (or of any other background) thinking food that claims to be their cuisine but differs from what they grew up with has been made all wrong. It also, of course, suggests that even for people not of whichever background, authenticity equals tastiness. Which it does not.

Anyway, having read online, from NJ, about how every single taco place in the Mission is the real deal/a tourist trap, the absolute best/the absolute worst, I ended up going with the one everyone seemed to like, whose greatest crime seemed to be charging extra for guacamole. La Taqueria involved a wait but not a round-the-block line, which was a huge point in its favor. A very good meal - different from Dos Toros, but about as good.

The genuine article?

Then we ended up - without any advance knowledge of the place - at Tacolicious, in the Marina, or Lululemon District, which we saw a couple times because the bus went there. Tacolicious is apparently the Murray Hill of taco places, and I should apparently be ashamed of myself. According to someone on Chowhound, "Their food is overpriced and overrated and about as authentic as any Canadian taco." Inauthentic is an odd charge, though, as there's no pretense of strict authenticity. Much of the menu is fairly straightforwardly Mexican-inspired, and what isn't is very much California Mexican, which is, I'd think, a cuisine in its own right.

Putting lime on a Canadian fried-cod taco.

But there's no denying these were not merely fusion tacos but yuppified oned. They were also tremendously delicious - yuppified, but not haute-ified. Not bland and cream-sauce-filled as all cuisines get past a certain price point. Just yuppie ingredients (I had a local-cod taco that tasted like really great fish-and-chips fish) in otherwise ordinary-but-fresh tortillas. And the best guacamole I, at least, had ever eaten. Is $4 a taco (and a taco means two tortillas) excessive? By taco standards, yes. And it costs more than lunch prepared/consumed at home probably would. But by lunch-on-a-rare-vacation standards, or even just high-quality-ingredients-lunch-standards, not really. (Depends how many tacos you need, but with all those free chips, one might well be enough... not that I don't regret not getting all the fish tacos.) This was by such a long shot the best meal of the trip, a statement that will be all the more dramatic when you get to Part III.

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