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I’m not even four words into this article, and I am already craving Mexican food. Luckily for me, there is a spot in St. Louis to fulfill this culinary desire. If you are a fan of authentic northern Mexican cuisine, or just a lover of a hefty burrito, the Tortillaria in the Central West End is el primo.
The restaurant isn’t located in the main swanky area of Central West End, but along the end of Euclid Ave, closer to the hospital. With parking in the side alley next to the trash cans, this place already has a “locals’ special” feel. In between two other restaurants, the building had a tight feel to it, but the inside had a cozy ambiance that made me feel comfortable. The décor was Pottery Barn meets Mexico with brick walls and metal-studded star lanterns. It was a Saturday during lunch time, but the place was oddly empty with only a group of college boys in the middle of the room. Taking a table on the side, I immediately devoured the hot, fresh chips that awaited me. The house salsa was fine, but my complimentary side of guacamole was definitely worth keeping that card in my wallet for the past five months. It was fresh, with a hint of lime and the perfect amount of cilantro. It was the way guacamole should be.
After reading the menu, I decided on two entrees: the potato and chorizo tacos, and the Carne Asada with a side of “street” corn. First, I ate the tacos. Chorizo is a type of pork sausage that originated in Spain, and gets its famous red color from roasted red peppers. Mexican chorizo is a tiny bit different because it is made with a fattier piece of pork and gets its red coloring from all the chili powder in it. So imagine crunchy pieces of this chorizo, mixed in with creamy red potatoes, topped with the coolness of crème fresca and the peppery bite of cilantro, wrapped in a steaming, homemade corn tortilla. Are you drooling yet?
The carne asada was what one would expect: great beef with well-seasoned onions and peppers. The toppings on the side included black beans cooked properly with pork fat, a handful of lettuce, and some salsa fresca. The same corn tortillas came on the side, which helped make these tacos delicious. The part of this dish, though, that really tickled me was the side of “street” corn. What came on the plate was a small ear of corn that had been cooked until the kernels actually melted in your mouth with a smear of mayonnaise and sprinkled with queso fresco. Queso fresco is a Mexican cheese that is similar to feta because it has a crumbly texture and an acidic, almost salty flavor. I’ve never enjoyed corn on the cob thanks to years of braces, so I got a real kick out of this little ear of corn perfection. The mayonnaise had a fattiness that just worked with the acidic cheese and sweet corn. If I could find a street vendor that made those, I’d have one every day.
The prices were reasonable; the tacos were an excellent deal, at under $5 for two. The actual entrees all fell in the $12.50 range, which was a good deal considering the larger portions and the quality of the food. If you ever find yourself sitting in your dorm room craving chile relleno or an excellent taco, my recommendation would be to find the closest set of wheels and a one-way trip to Tortillaria at 8 South Euclid Avenue in St. Louis.