Taqueria Corona

Dining area and grill

Elizabeth: The first time I went to Taqueria Corona in 1994, I hated it.  I had an enchilada with a side of rice and beans, and to me, it was wrong.  All wrong.  The enchilada was covered in cheese, which was burnt to a crisp like the top of a pizza.  The saffron rice and black beans didn’t taste at all Mexican to me, and I left thinking that my companions were unsophisticated ignoramuses with severe palate disorders.  Oh, the taco snobbery of a college freshman!

The grill and bar

The grill and bar

The next time I went, dragged there for some special event nearly two years later, I reluctantly decided to give it another chance (if just not to be a jerk to my dinner companions).  This time, I ordered chicken soft tacos and some rice and beans.  After the first mouthful of beans and rice, I made a pleasant discovery: they tasted almost (but not exactly) like the black beans and rice I’d had on our university orchestra’s trip to Costa Rica.  And then I bit into the soft taco, with delightfully smoky grilled chicken and a lime-infused pico de gallo on a lightly toasted flour tortilla.  The taco was not quite Mexican, either.  But it was bursting with flavor and remarkably satisfying.

Sometime after that, I discovered that my association of the beans and rice with Central America–rather than Mexico–wasn’t all that off: the restaurant’s owner hails from El Salvador, and that has definitely made it into the mix.  If you are looking for authentic Mexican food, Taqueria Corona is not the place to find it.  If you like good food, you will find it there.

Taqueria Corona

Taqueria Corona

Throughout college, I would eat at Taqueria Corona at least once every two weeks.  At the time, it was incredibly cheap ($7.95 for the Numero Uno, described below), convenient to Loyola, and, over time, became a place I associated with good food and good friends.  Thus, when Ryan and I visited New Orleans, it joined the list of potential taco consumption.

At this point, I’m going to hand the review over to Ryan, who can give you a better impression of the present-day Taqueria Corona, without the hazy filter of nostalgia.

Ryan: We were just about to leave New Orleans and deciding on what to have for luch. We almost went for po-boys (an excellent choice), but then Elizabeth threw out the idea of going to an El Salvadoran taqueria. Well, the choice was clear and we hit Taqueria Corona on Magazine Street just in time–the restaurant stops seating people at 2pm (until they open back up for dinner a few hours later).

I really liked the look of the place. It was a bit tacky and over the top, but sometimes that’s fun. The place was crowded and I knew it was going to be a three-taco meal for me. We ordered chips and pico de gallo, but they never actually brought that out. Oh well.

Tres Tacos

Tres Tacos

I ordered a rib-eye carne asada taco, a pork taco and a tongue taco. Tongue’s an acquired taste and generally I like it a LOT more on a sandwich from a good deli than in a taco, though I’ve had some good tongue tacos before. This one, well, it wasn’t all that. It was, somehow, softer than tongue usually is, too wet and not as flavorful as I’d expected. The pork taco was far better–the tortilla was packed with delicous chunks of slightly spicy pork. Good stuff! But truly, the steak taco stole the show for me. Thick strips of wonderfully marinated steak with some green onion, it was kind of like the steak you get with fajitas. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

My main issue with the tacos–all of them–was the tortilla. Flour tortillas just don’t taste right to me anymore. Kinda gummy and excessive, they took away from all the tacoey goodness. And the salsa was fine, but not really memorable.  Back to you in the studio, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth:  I can see what Ryan is saying about flour tortillas, but I still like them.   The challenge to consume the taco in time before it turns gummy is part of the fun for me; I also prefer burritos to tacos (Shhh!  Don’t tell!).

Numero Uno

Numero Uno

In terms of my order, I got the usual: The Numero Uno, a combination that comes with a small chicken burrito, chicken soft taco, beef flauta, and rice and beans.  It is–and always has been–more food than one should consume at one sitting, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done it before.  The chicken burrito is nothing like what you would find on the West Coast: only black beans, chicken, and a smooth, tomato salsa, it is not pick-up-able, nor is it filled with the extras, such as rice, sour cream, guacamole, or cheese, that you would find in Taqueria Corona’s giant, stand-alone burritos.  Having lived in San Francisco, I can say that the burritos at TC will not win any authenticity contests, but they are (in their smaller form) a flavorful addition to the combo.

Having discussed the chicken soft taco and rice and beans already (They’re still good!), I turn now to the highlight of the meal: the deep-fried, gooey beef and cheese flauta.  Topped with sour cream and guacamole, it’s the comfort food of all comfort foods, even amongst all the carbohydrates and fats already on the plate.  Hard on the outside, gooey on the inside: what could be better?

And on that note, back to you, Ryan!

Ryan: The flauta was the shit! Seriously, if we ever go back, I’m getting two steak tacos and a flauta. Overall, Taqueria Corona was good, but not great.

We posted more photos on Flickr!

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Grilled gator

Grilled gator

We’re celebrating New Year’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by sharing a gallon-sized Chocolate Russian frozen margarita, hanging with family and setting off fireworks. I hope you all have/had a safe and kickass NYE and are ready for the fury of ’09! How it’ll be different from ’08…I’m not sure. But I do know that, if nothing else, it’ll be a total tacostravaganza. And I have one request: I want alligator tacos.

The photo above is a plate of grilled alligator we had at the Cajon restaurant Boutin’s in Baton Rouge [more photos on Flickr]. It was insanely good. The meat itself was, yes, a lot like chicken. Maybe a little chewier with a sharper flavor, though that could have been due to the righteous grill job they gave it there. Having had alligator, I now know I must have alligator tacos. Hell, they could be cajun-grilled like the gator at Boutin’s, but throw on some salsa or pico de gallo, load it all up inside two warm tortillas (I tend to like my tacos with two thin tortillas of high quality.) and let ‘er rip! I’m tellin’ ya, that’ll make for some good tacos!

By gum, if we have to make ’em, we’re having gator tacos in ’09! Happy New Year everyone!

Superior Grill, Baton Rouge, LA

Superior Grill, Baton Rouge, LA

I had very  high expectations of Superior Grill before I even stepped off the plane from New York. Elizabeth had talked this place up so much that I expected Don Mattingly (former New York Yankees first baseman, my favorite player and my former childhood hero) and Jesus to cook and bring the tacos to us themselves. Hell, the family down here has made a tradition of going to Superior Grill for Christmas Eve dinner! It HAD to be good.

Welcome to Superior Grill

Welcome to Superior Grill

The decor, both inside and outside, said, “Hello Ryan, come in and eat our tacos. We want to fill your belly with deliciousness and make you happy. Be not afraid, just feast.” The wait staff was friendly and our table was immediately gifted with a heaping helping of warm, crispy chips and just spicy enough salsa. I’m a bit of a chip fiend, specifically when it comes to curled/folded chips.  I go ga-ga for ’em. The chips here were quite good, not overpowering in taste, obviously built more for dippin’ and enjoying the salsa. Good stuff! And when we devoured most of the chips and two containers of salsa, they quickly brought us a fresh (so hot!) batch of chips and four containers of salsa. Aces!

Meal-wise, we ordered a few things. I got the three taco plate (two steak brisket and one pork taco), Elizabeth got the one  beef taco/one chicken enchilada/one cheese enchilada combo, her sister Juli got the tortilla soup and her boy-toy Steven got the chicken fajita plate. I can’t comment on Juli and Steven’s food, though they seemed happy with their grub. I tasted Elizabeth’s dish and thought the beef taco (hard) was pretty decent, the chicken enchilada was real good and the cheese enchilada was great. My tacos?

Tacos!

Tacos!

Simply put: they rocked. Before adding the salsa, pico de gallo and guacamole to the tacos, I tasted them as they were. The steak brisket tacos perfectly cooked, juicy, extremely flavorful and pretty much made my mouth sing. It was a different cut of meat from what I’m used to in NYC, but hot damn that was excellent. That photo really doesn’t do it justice. The pork taco wasn’t quite as good. The pork was cut into chunks and a little dry despite being served with onions and peppers already in the taco, but it was still a pretty darn good taco nonetheless. By itself, I’m sure the pork taco would have pleased me, but against such a magnificent display of steak taco goodness, it just couldn’t compete.

The plate also came with rice and beans (good but not out of this world), pico de gallo, lettuce and serrano peppers (which I didn’t have, since I don’t like too much spice). The guacamole there was righteous and I suggest getting a side order for any dish you order.

All in all, Superior Grill won my heart and my taste buds with excellent food, great service and some damn fine tacos. When we figure out a proper review scale, we’ll add that in here, but I’d put this place somewhere in the vicinity of awesome.

See all the photos on Taco Por Vida’s Flickr gallery.