The lunchtime crowd was in full force the Thursday we visited, with a line snaking around the counter. Some people—casual milquetoast white males in casual milquetoast golf shirts—were smug and into soft drinks and impossible amounts of food; the core element, though, the one that grows as the day wears on, drink Rockstars or Tecate (and sometimes both intermittently). Though the backdrop music to this noontime pandemonium is mariachi, nobody is drinking horchata, though it is available—and that’s because most everybody speaks either English or pidgin. Horchata, some of them think, is the wookie in Star Wars. There’s also some indiscreet silicon in the house, blonde hair, French manicures, and a chorus of heads on the swivel. There’s something liberating in all of this.
In keeping with the namesake, we ordered tacos. Wanting to prove we aren’t totally unoriginal, we also ordered taquitos. The dude I am with is recovering from strep throat, which taints everything. His fevers have subsided, which (he tells me) means he’s “less infectious” or maybe even not at all. We are sharing food, but I am making sure to grab mine first, to avoid everything including eye contact. All of this is independent of Chronic Tacos, but the context of this meal goes into the transcendent quality of the food. Why? Because once I started to eat, I forgot about all that infectious/could die hooey. There was also something liberating in such abandon.
Taquitos are always a source of entertainment, and essentially taste the same everywhere. Watching people eat taquitos is revealing. Some of them look like they are holding a cigar, some a flute, and still others with dainty pinched fingers that take a quick bite and drop it back in the basket. These are the repressed sexual types; they are infrequent at Chronic Tacos. We ate them like garbage disposals, like a bong circle devouring a late-night frozie. A precariously placed tub of sour cream threatened everything, but I managed to sidestep it. It’s all about the guac, baby, like dipping a quill. As aforementioned, these tasted like everytaquito just about everyplace. And that’s good.
The tacos, on the other hand, deserve a moment. We ordered two kinds—the carne asada (steak) and the carnitas (slow-cooked pork), and each fell open like a stuffed billfold when set down. We had ours on corn tortillas—the default if you don’t specify—and damn if these didn’t live up to the marquee. The carnitas, specifically, held their juices and were splitting with flavor. The carne asada tacos carried the taste of a long-marinade, flame-licked with a few hints of charred (like a diacritic over a Mexican character). Somehow the meats in both were softened considerably by the corn tortillas and, not being a standard Mexican palate, I think that’s because corn and meat go together. This also accounts for why the Hungarians invented goulash. No need to go into historical accounts here, though, as Americans just need to know there was salt involved. It was, but it wasn’t the chief ingredient—patience was.
And what’s that old saying about patience? Oh yeah—if you have it, the Rolls-Royces will come.
Chronic Tacos, 160 E. Ontario Ave., Corona, (951) 278-2643; www.eatchronictacos.com. MC, V