The Taco Stand

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If you judged me by what I cook, my tattoos and the food I talk about most you could probably come to the conclusion that my first love for food is BBQ.  In reality, if I could have any choice any food for any meal I could easily come up with four or give different Mexican joints I would go to.  I say joint because your typical Mexican restaurant isn’t my idea of good Mexican food.  Large menus with tons of options are great but when I think of GREAT Mexican food I think of small places with a few chairs, usually shared with a grocery store and a basic menu with the items that they have perfected from their hometown.  No sizzling trays of fajitas being walked past your table every five minutes, no jumbo margaritas, just the essentials with your choice of meats.  I recently came across a joint in Allen Park called The Taco Stand Taqueria, which could not be any more of the epitome of what I love about Mexican food.  No bullshit, just a one page menu and great Mexican food.

I’m always on the lookout for little Mexican joints and had seen The Taco Stand on a few different lists that suggested it met all criteria of greatness.  It took seeing a share from Mr. Chris Baker to really push me over the edge and get over there the next day.  When you pull up to the Taco Stand, it’s not one hundred percent clear on exactly what you do to get your food.  There are a few benches with screen windows in front of them and you eventually find yourself in front of a screen door that leads you to a small space where you can order your food.  The entire kitchen is opened up in this area so you can see exactly what is going on.  I could see a guy prepping pork fresh for other customers’ orders and goddamn was this exciting for me.

The menu is as basic as you can get — tacos and quesadillas with your choice of five different meat varieties, two burritos, tortas, Carne Asada fries and few sides.  That, boys and girls, is what a taco stand menu should look like.  Choose what meat you want and what delivery device you would like to surround it.  None of this fajitas sixteen different ways, bullshit.

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Now being the fat man that I am, I had my eyes on the tortas but I had to get a couple of tacos.  If I posted something about a place called “Taco Stand” and didn’t get any tacos, I would fully expect all of you to close this site out and never return.  I started with two Asada tacos that were everything a great taco should be — a delicious, slightly crispy corn tortilla filled with seasoned meat and topped with fresh cilantro and onions.

Now before I continue this post, I have to go on a little side rant here.  Recently, I have discovered what I believe to be the greatness of the taco and I have been able to put it into words.  For the longest time, I believed what made a great taco was the meat. Deliciously crispy, yet juicy carnitas.. Pastor seasoned perfectly with a little fruityness.. That has to be the obvious reason for a delicious taco, right?  Wrong, I say.  The greatness of a taco is defined by the reason for its delicious changing.  After I eat a taco, sometimes I am thinking about how great the onions were.  Sometimes I’m thinking about how well the fresh cilantro tied everything together.  Sometimes I’m thinking about how great and crispy the tortilla was and how it acted as the perfect delivery device.  Other times, yes, I’m thinking about how great the meat filler was.  In reality, all of these ingredients shine together and create the perfect food combination.  If you really think about it, great tacos are like the 2004 Detroit Pistons championship team — A perfect combination of players with a different player stepping up every night.

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Now the tacos here are great.  But the tortas.  Holy shit, the tortas.  If you’re unfamiliar with the torta world, it basically takes what you would get with a taco and turns it up to an eleven.  A torta is basically a Mexican submarine that can house the same ingredients of a taco but because it’s supported by two pieces of bread all kinds of ridiculousness is possible.  I would explain more on the greatness of tortas, but someone has already done that for me in a post entitled The Torta is the Best Mother Fucking Sandwich Ever.  This torta is Al Pastor, onions, cilantro and avocado, This was one of the better sandwiches I have ever had.  Normally tortas can be messy and require a fork to pick up the remains off your plate but I was able to eat this entire thing in the front eat of my car with no issues. Seriously, get the torta.

Here’s another beautiful thing – This entire meal cost $9.00.

The Taco Stand is located at 5038 Allen Road in Allen Park.  You should go there.

La Torre Taqueria

On this installment of “John Eats at a Place, Takes Pictures of it and Writes About it On the Interwebs”, I’m going to teach you a lesson.  There is no charge for this lesson.  All I ask is you continue to read my stuff and share it on your favorite social network.  Ready? OK, let’s go.

Say you’re driving down the road looking for a Mexican restaurant and you’re going to pick it only by the way they present themselves.  This would be a weird way to find something to eat.  Let’s change that.  Imagine you’re a Yelp reviewer and you’re looking for someplace that you can critique and really act like you know what you’re talking about based on years of culinary experience and education.  Since your mission in life is to write about restaurants and guide the owners to culinary greatness, you need to find a place that really really needs your help.  Say you drive by a Mexican joint that looks like this:

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The appropriate action is to continue driving.  The more appropriate action is to speed up so you pass it faster.  The most appropriate action is to give this restaurant the middle finger for confusing people about Mexican food, speed up and drive right by.  The only reason places like this should exist is to give you an example when talking about how much better a good Mexican restaurant is.   Side note, I can never be too mad at Tios Mexican Cafe because they have served bullshit food to the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor for years and also provided me with a ton of material to write about.  Its newest contribution to absolutely destroying Mexican food is “Chili Queso Fries”.

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Ladies and gentleman, that is an absolute disgrace.  The fact that someone actually prepared that and though it would be a good idea to trade it for money terrifies me.  BUT ANYWAYS, there is a point to all of this madness.  This isn’t just another post where John rants about how shitty Tios Mexican Cafe is.  There actually is a lesson here.  Imagine you’re driving down that same street.  You’ve slowed down and you’re looking for a more appropriate place to eat than Tios Mexican Cafe.  You come across the following sign:

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This all but guarantees you a quality Mexican dining experience. Ignore the fact that it’s surrounded by a liquor store and an adult novelties shop.  Between those two businesses resides an authentic family owned restaurant that is simply trying to provide you a quality meal for an affordable price.  It’s been a long road to get here (if you actually are reading this), but I give you.. La Torre Taqueria.

When you walk in you are greeted by a man and a woman who I can only assume are the owners.  They are incredibly friendly and make a point to welcome every customer that walks in the door.  You are faced with a large chalkboard menu above a counter that takes carry out orders and five or six tables for eating in.  There is one small cooking area that is in plain view so you can watch the owners grill your food, heat up the tortillas and prepare everything right in front of you.  Not only is this a fun experience, but you can see the simple processes that make Mexican food so great.

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You are given two sauces after you order.  I’m not saying these are life changing but I want to completely change my life after eating them.  I would drink this stuff.  They are incredible.  After my meal, I could taste the green sauce during my entire 45 minute drive home.  I literally started looking up verde hot sauce recipes while I was in the restaurant with the dream of recreating it.

Their tacos are also borderline life changing.  The Pastor is pretty standard – marinated pork with a little fruityness that cuts the spice.  The Carnitas are on another level — not quite as crispy as I’m used to but the flavor is crazy.  The cilantro and onion were so fresh and flavorful that they hung out right with the pork flavor and made the taco complete. When you add the hot sauce, you’re looking at one of the better start to finish taco experiences I have had.

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The summary of this lesson is always judge a book by its cover when it comes to Mexican food. If you see a Mexican “cafe” or anything named something that white people associate with Mexican culture – sombreros, mariachis, ect – stay away.  If you see a no bullshit sign out front with the word “taqueria” in the name, get in there.

The most important thing — La Torre Taqueria is delicious.  Go there.  it’s on 1525 Washtenaw Ave in Ypsilanti.

Dos Hermanos Market

As you approach Dos Hermanos Market for the first time your thought process is probably something like “I don’t know where the entrance to this place is and it doesn’t look like I should be here”.  Yes, Dos Hermanos Market is a bit tricky to enter because the door is actually in the back of the building next to a few parking spaces. Yes, you have to walk through a Mexican grocery store, through a butcher shop that features pig legs and other pork delicacies.  Once you get through the grocery and the butcher, there is a small opening to a room with a few tables.  Wait, I need to stop.  I’m trying to paint a visual for you so you truly understand the experience but I’m just not that good of a writer.

Thankfully, I have Michael H., who is an ELITE Yelp reviewer with 93 reviews, to assist me with this.

When we came here, we saw lots of work trucks in the lot; so, this place had that going for it. And he said that, if you were looking for an ethnic cuisine which was authentic, you look for a place which has lots of customers from that ethnicity eating there. When we went in, we saw that the Mexican American customers outnumbered the non-Latino customers. So, this place had the the vote of the local Mexican American population as a good place to eat it seemed.

Thanks for the assist, Michael H.  Keep up the good work.

You might be curious that both Mexican restaurants I have written about double as grocery stores.  You might also be curious that both places do not feature large sombreros, chimichangas, some mention of a Cantina or Mexican Cafe, waiters wearing Mariachi costumes or giant margaritas.  That’s because the best Mexican restaurants typically feature at least two shelves with various Mexican grocery items and don’t have time to hang up items that most white people associate with Mexican culture.  What they DO have are menus thar feature the classics – tacos, tortas, menudo and mole.  If you go into a Mexican joint and the majority of those items aren’t listed on the menu, flip the table over and run out.  The other indicator that you’re in a Mexican joint catering to white people is you have to pay for chips and salsa.  Not cool, gringo joints.

Anyways, Dos Herman is is legit as they come. The taco menu features the classics – carnitas, Al Pastor, chorizo and barbacoa – but also offers beef head and beef tongue.  If you’ve never had tongue(Lengua) on a taco before, give it a shot.  They actually have a pretty large menu for a joint this small, with a full breakfast and dinner menu.  Taco Tuesdays are special here, with $1 Al Pastor tacos.  I don’t even know how that’s possible.

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So for real, take a journey and search for the door.  Navigate through the grocery store, pass the pig legs on the butcher shop and get yourself a simple, cheap, delicious meal.  If you want to go all out, order the Lengua tacos and thank me for recommending it.

Dos Hermanos is at 34707 Ford Rd in Westland.

Taqueria Alameda

This isn’t so much of a post, but rather a small collection of words I’m trying to fill up space with when really all I want to do is get you to go to my favorite Mexican spot in the Westland area — Taqueria Alameda.

It’s what every Mexican joint should be, a small authentic family owned taqueria next to a laundry mat that serves the simple staples of Mexican cuisine: tacos, burritos quesadillas and tamales. Nothing flashy, just some damn good food at a damn good price.  I can have four tacos and a cup of horchata for ten bucks.  Perfect.

I will say that some of the “expert, professional food reviewers” on Yelp are tearing into this place saying that the flavor is inadequate and the service is poor.  I’m here to say stop using Yelp as a source for your food choices. The food is great and you’re going to have to wait a few minutes for your food because one person is cooking all of the food that goes out and that person is the guy that owns the place. If you walk into a Mexican joint that doubles as a grocery store and sits next to a laundry mat, please don’t expect five star service.

I feel like the point of this post was to tell you how good this place is, but I’m getting off topic and ranting about my hatred for Yelp so I’ll finish this here with a statement and a picture.

This place serves tacos, the kind topped with onion and cilantro, wrapped in a corn tortilla.  You can get them gringo style, but why would you do that?  Go here.  It’s authentic and how often do you get to eat tacos in the middle of a little grocery store?   Try the al pastor and carnitas.

This place is at 906 S Wayne in Westland. Check it out.

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