leave your inhibitions at the door
A few months ago I was excited to hear a new Mexican joint – Chela’s – opened up here in Ann Arbor. I’m almost out of burritos I haven’t tried yet and I dreaded the thought of leaving our little island to find new ones in Michigan. I’ll cut to the chase – the burrito sucked but the tacos were pretty good.
I estimate that through the years I’ve had about 28,381 burritos and I think almost all those places had tacos. But I’ve always been preoccupied by burritos and rarely strayed from those. In the past year, however, I’ve been to two places that served tacos, but NO BURRITOS. A travesty, no?
I once heard a comedian say that all Mexican dishes are combinations of the same things – meat, cheese, beans, tortillas. I used to think he was mostly right, but over the years I’ve come to find out they’re not really the same. And true tacos are not what you see usually see – a u-shaped, fried corn tortilla with ground beef, lettuce, cheese. Authentic ones consist of a layer or two of heated corn tortillas, meat, cilantro, and onions. Over the years, taquerias have perfected what meat’s good in a taco versus what’s good in a burrito. I like the flavor combination better in a burrito, but the different varieties available in tacos made for great sampling. My favorites are steak, chorizo (spicy sausage), carnitas (fried pork), and lengua (tongue). Some places have fish, and those are good on occasion. (Make sure to check out The Sicilian’s recipe.) About the only ones I don’t have are chicken – just too boring.
These guys are as authentic as you can get and are have the best tacos locally. Up until very recently, they only occupied the back half of their space. The front had two office desks with computers where all four Ann Arbor Mexicans could either buy phone cards or wire money to their abuelas in Mexico. They’ve replaced those desks with a few booths but traces of authenticity linger.
They have fifteen different kind of tacos, but I’m too lazy to list them. Thankfully, they’re have a website. I don’t know how they do it, but they heat the homemade tortillas in a way that they’re simultaneously crispy and soft. It just doesn’t make sense to me why they don’t go ahead put burritos on the menu.
Also worth a try is the pozole -
This is the fairly new place in Ann Arbor. They don’t have all the meat choices that TMaz does and the tortillas aren’t as good. However they’re still worth a try so you can experience what a real taco tastes like.
For the record, here’s the burrito review.
Restaurant Description: Small, fast food place. I saw another is in the works in town. Stick with the tacos.
Price = $6
Atmosphere = 2. Homey, but bland.
Taste = 2. Meat was a bit gristly.
Heft = 1. You gotta do better than that.
Messiness = 2. Not big enough to get messy.
Intangibles = 3. Canned black beans really sucked, but saved by the toasted shell and the super hot sauce.
Total Score = 10