Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taco Riendo

So close, and yet so good. Ah, the joys of Taco Riendo, our local go-to for excellent, authentic and amazingly cheap Mexican. A bit off the beaten Girard path at 5th & Thompson, it is well worth the minor adventure into Kensington. They offer a long list of tacos, sopes, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, and larger entree dishes for dine-in or take away, and apparently a newly added outdoor patio for the summer. We'll have to come back around in the warmer months to check that out.

Taco Riendo is BYO, but they do offer a huge assortment of those neon colored Mexican sodas in flavors from apple to orange to grapefruit. They can be sickly sweet, but go down great when trying to put out the flames from some scorching pepper.

chips, pico de gallo and guac
House made chips, fresh from the fryer. Thick, crunchy, and a little salty. Bright green guacamole and pico de gallo salsa bursting with brightness from cilantro and a little lime juice. Excellent.

tres Doraditos (Pollo, Red O Papa)
The tres doraditos - three crispy rolled taquitos filled with your choice of chicken, beef or potato. Topped with lettuce, sour cream and oaxaca cheese - these were recommended by a friend and were stellar. The crispy crunch of the fried tortillas gives way to the luscious chicken and cheese making for a loud and messy meal. You start by trying to dip one of the taquitos into the cup of salsa, chomp noisily away, make some mmmm and moaning sounds, then try to clean up all the bits that have fallen to the plate - you'll not want to let those go to waste.

salmon tacos
One of the specials for the night was salmon tacos. Two large portions of fish, grilled to a beautiful color and topped with cilantro and onion that serve to wake up the fish and round out the flavors. Really tasty. I'd never seen salmon served in taco form before - usually it's mahi-mahi or some other white fish. My only complaint is that the fillets were so large I almost didn't have room for everything else we ordered.  Almost.

beef flank taco with grilled cactus
How often do you see cactus on a menu? That pretty much means I have to order it. A fairly simple dish, tender beef flank, sliced on the bias so it falls apart in your mouth topped with grilled cactus that tasted faintly like the canned green beans my dad used to make for dinner when mom was sick. That's not a compliment or an endorsement of this dish. Not sure if you can get fresh cactus in February, but maybe that could help. Shame since the beef was so good. And to my dad's credit, he's a dramatically improved cook. He's left the beans and stewed tomatoes in the past, which is good for everyone.

Taco De Alambre 
The wifey always orders well. And this night was no exception. The tacos de alambre come with your choice of grilled steak or chicken (or both!), mixed with peppers, onions and more of that delicious oaxaca cheese. Kind of like what we think of as fajitas - but with cheese. These were fantastic. The caramelized onions and just soft peppers compliment the grilled meat perfectly. Wrapped up in those perfect corn tortillas and the now melted cheese. You'll never go back to Chili's again. 

a bottle of Saison Dupont - perfect with spicy food

Thru trial and error, I've found that the best thing to drink with spicy food is a good Belgian saison beer. The slight sweetness of the brew helps to counteract the capsaicin wreaking havoc with your taste buds and sinuses. Water just makes it worse. Milk is the best thing for it, but there's no way I'm bringing a gallon of 2% to a BYO. Nope, beer is the answer. As usual. Saison Dupont is a fantastic farmhouse ale, sold in a 750ml bottle and available at Total Wine in Delaware. Pick a few up for your next outing. You'll be the envy of every guy in there drinking chardonnay. 

Taco De Lengua Con Cilantro Y Cebolla
What's the weirdest thing on the menu? Beef tongue tacos? I'll have that. Obviously. While I admire the fact that Taco Riendo is not shying away from the random bits of animal normally discarded, I wasn't exactly thrilled with these. The beef was very bland - since it's steamed (I assume to help tenderize it) it doesn't pick up much flavor. The salsa verde, cilantro and onions helped but there's no getting over the fact that the beef was near flavorless. But for $2.50, it was worth a shot.

Taco De Pescado
Last but not least, the taco de pescado - a grilled fish taco topped with rice, some more cilantro and onions (you'll notice a theme here). The grilled mahi was super tasty, as always. And the addition of the rice helps make the taco seem more substantial. We've had nights where we just ate these. They are that good. 

Fun fact - did you know that in Spanish "pescado" means a fish that will be eaten (dead) and "pez" means a fish that is still alive. In English, we do that for animals (cow/beef, pig/pork) but not fish. Weird. 

One of the things I love most about Taco Riendo is the number of different dishes and tastes you get to try at any one time. Tacos are small and cheap, so you never feel bad about ordering two or even three different kinds. If you're dining with friends, especially adventurous ones, you'll likely get thru a good portion of the menu. If you stick to the taco menu, the most expensive thing on there is $5.50. You can have a blowout meal (with your own booze) for less than $20 a person. What's Spanish for "I love this place!"?

Food Baby Rating: Twins!


Taco Riendo
1301 North 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 235-2294
Open daily 9am to 9pm (10pm on weekends)

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