Fast food fakers stand no chance in the taqueria game
Perla Luna & Noah Sonnenburg
The Santa Clara
February 7, 2019
American voters have made horrifying decisions before. But nothing compares to the absolute travesty of voting the bowel shattering Taco Bell as America’s favorite Mexican restaurant, as a poll recently announced in The Harris.
Rather than idly let a chain of cheap, gristly garbage be deemed America’s favorite, The Santa Clara is taking a bold stance against oily, dorito-wrapped crimes against nature. We’re here to support the wealth of heritage, history and flavors found in the gentle, starchy embrace of the handmade tortillas made in every family-owned taqueria and carniceria across our state.
Sure, who among us hasn’t found heaven in Crunchwrap Supreme at some low point or another. We get it. Our problem lies in rewarding Taco Bell for its bland version of Mexican cuisine—whose business model it had to steal in the first place.
Gustavo Arellano, author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” breaks this down in David Chang’s show “Ugly Delicious.” The way he frames it, Glenn Bell—founder of Taco Bell—was facing fierce burger competition from a nearby McDonald’s. So Glenn did the most reasonable thing he could think of: He took the recipes of an immigrant family and built himself a billion dollar empire.
Bell would visit Mitla Cafe—the oldest Mexican restaurant in the United States—every day after working his burger stand across the street and pick apart their tacos until he learned how to adapt that to a fast food format. Truly an American icon.
It would be one thing if America’s #1 Mexican restaurant was one owned by a Mexican owner, or was founded by someone of Mexican descent. Here, in keeping with the American ideal of a cultural melting pot, it would be best that this king among restaurants would be the success story of a person showcasing their culture to the whole nation. Instead, we get Taco Bell.
But the hole-in-the-wall taqueria is a dining experience that is thankfully far from extinction. With the results of the Harris Poll weighing on our minds, The Santa Clara headed to Taqueria Eduardo in a simple act of gastronomic solidarity.
Tucked into the humblest, blandest building on all of San Jose’s Race Street, Taqueria Eduardo is an unexpectedly vibrant spot which touts the most brightly colored menu the world has ever seen—always a sign that a great meal awaits. After adjusting your eyes to its yellowy vibrance, the menu beckons you with offerings that could make even the pickiest eater salivate with excitement.
We both agreed to keep things simple and both go for tacos. We opted for a variety: one shrimp taco, one fish taco, one carnitas and two carne asada tacos (a staple food). Armed with Jarritos and horchata, we made our way to a table in the dining area and awaited our meal.
The walls of the seating are decked with cheesy, stereotypically “authentic” accoutrements—gourds on a string, potted plants and images of spices ground in a molcajete. It’s perfect.
Let’s mention that the music was a step beyond ideal. Juanes and Alejandro Fernandez? Can it possible get any better than that? Ambiance is key, people.
The horchata was decidedly watery but it wasn’t overpoweringly cinnamony like at Tacomania. The shrimp taco was preferred over the over-breaded fish one, but both were good. The salsas were okay, nothing to write home about but the red salsa was definitely stronger than the green one. It was actually spicy.
While the pescatarian options left something to be desired, the earth-dwelling options were exceptional. The carne asada was done just right. Chopped to a point of near invisibility, the beef was seared masterfully with a flavor that makes you question why you even would consider eating at La Parilla.
But the carnitas taco takes the cake. It’s humble and diminutive just like its chalupa compatriots, but it outpaces them in every respect. The meat was flavorful and full of moisture. Still, it retained a distinct crispiness. The crunch of the meat felt like a tasteful socarrat enveloping paella. Beyond amazing.
It’s experiences and places like this which make you question why you would ever go to Taco Bell. And more importantly, why you would support the theft of culture when you can celebrate one that lives on despite its corporate competition.
Contact The Santa Clara at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.