As Good As It Gets
By Nancy Powell
How appropriate that this family-owned and -operated hole-in-the-wall that caters to a predominantly Mexican clientele would be located on Hole Avenue in a simple, yet colorful storefront hemmed in by a check cashing store on one side and the Health Department on the other. The smell of bleach pierces the nostrils as Spanish-language television booms in one corner of the dining room and a preteen boy (presumably part of the kitchen family) targets napkin holders, tables, anything that rests against the tangerine-colored wall with his laser pointer, customers included. Nearby, a cadre of college boys busily pecks away at the remaining layers of an order of nachos, salsa cups reloaded ten times over for the journey, licking their fingers spotless with each diminishing bite.
Mijos Tacos used to be located closer to the busier downtown area on Magnolia Avenue, but moved to this quieter neighborhood two years ago after having to give up a prime piece of real estate. Besides serving standard Tex Mex fare (burritos, tacos, quesadillas and all), Mijos Tacos’ primary claim to fame in the area is its dirt cheap eats. Service at Mijos Tacos is quiet but efficient. You order at the counter and have the food delivered directly to the table by a matronly server. Nothing transcends the $10 barrier, and a three taco (a little heftier and meatier than most street taquerias) plate with a bottomless drink costs a whopping $4.99, the two fish taco plate a whole dollar more, huaraches for $3.99, tostada mixta (shrimp and fish) for $3.99, mojarra frita with salad, rice and beans for an underwhelming $7.99 and homemade menudo reserved for weekend connoisseurs. Mijos Tacos even forges its own homemade candies and select pastries. That’s about as good as it gets.
The three taco plate, one of the Mijos Tacos’ most popular items, arrives with a choice of meats dressed simply in cilantro and onions, the hit-or-miss al pastor by far winning the street taco popularity contest. It’s stringy, chewy and doused unevenly in a roasted pepper salsa that turns up the lingual heat in all the right places. The chunky pieces of nicely spiced asada plays like music to the ears. Then arrives the barbacoa, with its mouthful of fat and not so subtle flare of heat bursting throughout, enough to open up the tear ducts without the aid of salsa. It doesn’t make sense to continue on to the next taco until you douse the flames with ice cold, milky horchata awash in cinnamon flakes that swim lazily on its surface. Just in case you’re adventurous (unlike the current eater), lengua, buche, cabeza, tripas, chorizo and chicken round out the list of possible meat possibilities for this plate. In fact, unless there are nachos involved, there is no need to raid the salsa bar unless you’re a glutton for punishment or just plain curious at how much freebie pico de gallo and marinated carrots you could offload in the time it takes for the food to arrive.
Mijos Tacos, 10201 Hole Ave, Riverside; (951) 353-0402. M, V.