Can’t Top the Stop
By Matt Tapia
Pity the poor taco-truck taco. For years, this Mexican quick bite simply didn’t get any respect; relegated to the culinary ghetto, it never got an even break. Afforded the same consideration and regard as those bacon-wrapped numbers sold at the curb to club-goers and canned mystery meat, the taco-truck taco was something you didn’t want to eat unless you absolutely had to.
Then the game changed. Enter Roy Choi and his Kogi Korean BBQ fleet (and its many clones) which suddenly made fast-food ordered from a vehicle trendy, new and actually tasty. The bar was raised and getting your grub from food trucks became this post-Abstract-Expressionist thing . . . an actual experience.
But amidst the fusion food trucks, the crêpe trucks, the Cajun trucks and dim sum trucks, the taco sort of got lost in the shuffle.
Stop by The Original Taco Stop in Corona and the taco gets the respect it deserves—minus the restaurant-on-wheels aesthetic. It’s part of this minimalist restaurant’s bread-and-butter menu that also includes the old standards such as burritos as well as tortas and the usual accoutrements like horchata. Here, the taco is treated the way it should always be; adorned with cilantro, liberally sprinkled with onions, doused in salsa and wrapped up snugly inside one of those street taco-sized tortillas. They’re two bucks each, and two will fill your gullet nicely without the heartburn or regret.
Buyer beware: If you’re dropping by this place around lunchtime (something I’ve caught myself trying to avoid), expect a long line and a long wait. Luckily, there’s a television set inside to keep you entertained as you wait for 15 to 20 minutes to pass (not kidding) for your order to get filled. It’ll entertain you as long as you consider Univision entertainment (I don’t).
Normally, a long line and a lone wait is a turn-off. Yes, the food could be good—duh, that’s why there’s a line!—but sometimes it’s just a sign that a low-budget place is understaffed, under-funded . . . and let’s face it, under-flavored.
But not always. Sometimes the obvious, is, well obvious. There’s a long line at The Original Taco Stop because their food, while not reinventing the rueda, is simple, savory and back-to-basics Mexican comfort food. Heck, they’ve even got birria (goat meat stew) on the menu!
As you enter the Stop, you’ll notice several things. First, you’ll hear a dude in the back hacking away periodically at some flank steak in preparation of the next order. That’s how they do lunch here, folks. Secondly, there are no servers here. Man up, step up to the counter and order your meal all by yourself.
Thirdly, you’ll see a pretty impressive salsa bar loaded with the traditional condiments: jalapeños, pickled carrots and (surprise, surprise) radishes bobbing gently in a plastic bin filled with water.
And the salsa, oh that salsa. There are no labels here to tell you how spicy the salsa is or isn’t. No “mild.” No “medium.” No “hot.” Just spicy goodness that’s awesomely the salty and vinegary side.
And then there are the aforementioned tacos. I’ve grown addicted to their carne asada versions and I’ve also sampled their lengua (read: beef tongue) ones as well. Delish.
These are plump fat tacos (order them with “everything”—you won’t be disappointed) that are moist and warm from the grill. These are God’s Tacos, my friends. OK, maybe that’s too much hyperbole, but can you guess these have found a way into my heart?
See you at the salsa bar.
The Original Taco Stop, 161 N. McKinley St., Corona, (951) 340-9088. MC, V.