Our first Mr. Music review!
I took a trip to El Paisano last Weds with my friends. I’ve been going to El Paisano regularly for over a decade now. I usually don’t go to any single restaurant that often, but I really love this place! It was the first place that really opened my eyes to what are commonly known as “street tacos”. No matter how many I try, El Paisano consistently remains my favorite place for them. Now I won’t say I’ve tried every place around; there are hundreds of them, but I’ve been to dozens. My friends and I meet on Wednesdays for a night out and make El Paisano at least 3 times a month. Tacos are a pretty simple; you’ve got a tortilla, some meat, toppings and the sauce. All of them are important, but for me the sauce is the key! Of course the meat is very important too, but the sauce can propel a “really good” taco to “OMG!”.
At El Paisano there are 3 types of tortillas: maiz which is a factory bought corn tortilla dipped in manteca (pig lard) for $0.99, then there is harina or flour for $1.15 and if you don’t mind paying a bit more you can get handmade corn tortillas (maiz heche a mano) for $2.00. I love them all, but usually opt for the harina because I don’t want so much lard and don’t want to shell out 2 bucks a pop for heche a mano when you can get an order of 4 fresh made corn tortillas for $1.00. I order mine “con todo” (with everything) which basically means I want fresh diced onion and cilantro on my taco with a slice of lime on the side. I think most taco stands offer this these days but El Paisano also includes some nicely caramelized fried onions as well. There are 3 basic meat choices: pollo, fajita, or al pastor (chicken, beef, or pork). To me, the al pastor is by far the tastiest and although I don’t think the pork is cooked on a spit as is done traditionally, the meat is very nicely seasoned. The chicken and fajita are also very good, but at El Paisano it is ALL about the sauce! They serve 3 varieties here; two in squirt bottles and one that comes hot off the grill in a mocajete. In the bottles are a green sauce which is a very creamy sauce made with green chilies that seem to be something like Hatch chilies (not tomatillo) and a red which is a brutal mixture of dried red chilies teeming with seeds, water, cumin and a dash of salt. Both are delish and can vary from medium to blazing but the real star is the steaming salsa in the mortar. I’m not sure what the exact recipe is (if I did, I’d bathe in it regularly!) but I’m pretty sure they take tomatoes, jalapenos, jalapenos, some sort of chicken stock and oh, some more jalapenos and grill them until they completely break down. This stuff is what dreams are made of! My friends and I shovel this stuff in with basket after basket of chips and reminds me of a shark feeding frenzy; then we smother our tacos with it glopping on as much as we can on each bite. When we are so full, salsa is leaking from our belly buttons, we hunt for cups to take the rest home for our scrambled eggs in the morning (or sometimes pay for a pint to go)! I’ve also tried their gorditas which are awesome, their guacamole which is so simple its beautiful and their rice and beans which are solid. They have a big place (on Lombardy just East of Denton Drive) with 2 sides. To the East is the old, run down side with decrepit bathrooms and on the West is a cleaner, cozier place with very clean bathrooms, table cloths, etc. I go to the West with my wife and kids and to the East (where we know all the waitresses) with my buddies. The food is just as wonderful on either side. If you want to eat outside in front of the original metal shack they started in, you can do that too because it still sits in front of their building.