Courtesy Taco Street

Taco Street Delivers Authentic Mexican to the Rainier Valley

The hole in the wall trades trendy for traditional, to satisfying results.

One of the best things about Taco Street (7136 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. #102, 659-0583) is its salsa bar. Fashioned to look like an old wagon, it contains an array of ultra-fresh salsas, including a milder verde, a spicy red chipotle, and an even fierier orange- and habanero-based one. There’s also a smooth avocado salsa, pickled onions with an intriguing flavor of thyme, diced white onions with cilantro, sliced cucumbers, and lime quarters. Use them copiously on the tacos, of which there are eight to choose from, including carne asada, shrimp, and even tripe for the more adventurous, wrapped in your choice of yellow or white corn tortillas (I preferred the former, with its pervasive taste of corn).

As for the tacos, the barbacoa is hands-down my favorite; the traditionally slow-roasted pulled beef is dripping with juices—and flavor. Unlike some versions, it doesn’t turn into a mushy mess. Carnitas (braised and shredded pork) is decent though a little on the dry side, as is the chicken. Still, with so many fabulous condiments, that’s easy to overlook. A massive burrito was packed full of meat and beans—heartier than most, without rice, lettuce, tomato, and other typical fillers. Burritos, like the tacos, come with a choice of meat. I’d go with pastor or carnitas as the barbacoa might seep through.

There are also a few plates to choose from, accompanied by yellow rice and black beans, both of which surpass expectations. The rice isn’t bland and overcooked but flavorful and fluffy, and the beans are slightly soupy (in a good way) and taste like they’ve been cooked with lots of care and seasoning. While the carne asada (slices of beef) are on point, it was the shrimp that all four of us vied for; the large shrimp juxtaposed against tender mushrooms, served in a garlic sauce that teased rather than overwhelmed our taste buds. Totally stuffed, I took a tamale home for lunch the next day, and while eating them fresh is always the best way to go, it was still delicious. Since tamales are less about what’s inside than about the outer corn masa, and these are no exception, I just went with chicken. As for beverages, there’s beer; housemade refrescos, like hibiscus; and horchata, the creamy Mexican rice drink. What I didn’t try: breakfast, which is served all day and includes items like chilaquiles with eggs, supposedly excellent.

Taco Street truly is a hole in the wall, located in a small Rainier Valley strip mall. Yet the Perez family, who herald from Chihuahua, Mexico, have done a nice job of making it feel cheery—from the bright yellow walls and thriving green plants to the salsa wagon and the wall art of the restaurant’s name fashioned out of metal to resemble a license plate.

Though you order at the counter, a friendly staffer brings the food to your table and checks in with you often, a nice touch. You can feel the warm vibe that comes from a family-operated business. And while there are certainly trendier, more “designed” Mexican restaurants to choose from around town, this one stands up to most of them when it comes to the food. Seattleites are always looking for good new Mexican restaurants, and while this one has a somewhat limited menu, there’s still enough variety beyond tacos to keep you coming back for more.

nsprinkle@seattleweekly.com

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