28 Puebla Tacos
May 29, 2010
700 N. Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104
Our lunchtime taco meal was a family affair. We rendezvoused at the home of burgeoning taco enthusiast Oliver, who took Suelika out to a nearby luncheoning at Puebla Tacos along with Carmen, myself, and special guests Lauri, Winston and Cecilia, who have all come to visit from foreign lands. We wanted to find a righteous taquería so that our guests from afar could enjoy the authentic taco experience, and Puebla Tacos was a good choice – the food was not outstanding, but it was accurate; the strip mall location next to a 7-11 was appropriate; and the murals on inside walls depicting the Puebla homeland were captivating. Their lightbox sign features one of my favorite Mexicanizing typefaces. Look at how happy are the scale figures in the photograph – they have been enjoying a fine taquería meal.
Tacos are $1.80 each, with the usual choices on offer. I ordered one each of the al pastor, carnitas, and carne asada tacos. They were served as meat only, with toppings available at a salsa bar. When I was handed my paper plate with its three tacos, tortillas folded over so as to conceal and protect the contents, I was taken aback by the unexpected weight. These tacos are hefty, and a good value. The tortillas are the normal kind, but larger in diameter, doubled but not laminated. They looked a little pale to my eye and I expected them to let me down by being underprepared, but they turned out to be quite effective and satisfying, and piping hot to the touch.
After scooping up onion, cilantro, and red and green salsa from the bar, I assembled and ate the big al pastor taco with the mildly hot and cilantroid salsa verde. The al pastor is the saucy kind with a strong, sweet adobado flavor. It was pretty good, but not terribly compelling. This is not the al pastor that is scratched indelibly in my brain next to concepts like awesome and crave.
Next I ate the carne asada taco with the addition of plenty of the dark and brooding red salsa, fairly spicy with a slow burn and nice roasted chile flavor. The carne asada was pretty meh, though. It looked the part and had good texture, but the flavor was bland and slightly sweet. It reminded me of the smell of mothballs. I recommend that you not choose the carne asada.
Last I ate the carnitas taco, with a generous application of the rojo. The carnitas was my favorite – far from the grey moist meatmass I was half expecting, it was among the driest carnitas I have encountered this year, with a real crispiness and textural mouth feedback. It was overly dry, but the best bites of this taco hinted at brilliance. The shreds of crispy fried flesh had a delicate, filigreed fineness. That clutch player Carnitas came through with the game-winning RBI.