Cafe Car: Dine on Tacos and Somalian Smoothies on International Blvd.

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Photos by Matthew Piel
A weekly column in which we ride the light rail to random stops, hop off, and wander around until something strikes our culinary fancy, treating the train like our own personal café car.

The Stop: Tukwila International Boulevard

The Vibe: "Well we could eat at McDonald's," my dining companion immediately noticed as we disembarked. The blocks adjacent to the light rail don't lack for chain restaurants, so our wandering took us slightly farther this time around. But soon it became very clear how the road got its name.

In one small building three long blocks north of the station you can stock your Bollywood DVD collection, fill your pantry with salsa and Mexican cheeses, check e-mail and get a haircut (?) at a Somalian internet cafe, and eat your fill at the semi-permanent taco truck just outside. With so many potential cravings to satisfy all attached to one tiny parking lot, we could hardly pick just one locale for food.

The Café(s): Taqueria El Taco Maestro and Shabelle Internet Cafe (14822 International Blvd., Shabelle: 241-9108). Time to get comfortable ordering food from people who don't speak English.

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After seeing what looked like a sign advertising smoothies at the cafe/barber shop, we decided to hold that for dessert and start with a plate of tacos. At $1 each, I was tempted to try one of every kind of meat on the menu, but between pathetic Spanish (mine) and broken English (the cashier's) I ended up with one chicken and the rest carne asada.

No complaints though, the carne asada is spicy and tender. And the chicken (warning: it had a couple bone bits in it) tastes like it soaked up all the grease it was cooked in. Each taco consists of two tortillas piled with enough meat to make $1 seem like a screamin' deal. And best of all, your plate comes with a perfectly roasted jalapeno to give the food some extra kick.

I'm also not much for soda, but can't resist Mexican pop because it come in flavors like tamarind.

The whole meal came in under $7 and we devoured it at the wooden tables under a corrugated metal shelter.

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After finishing dinner, we wandered over to the internet café, where it turns out you can buy everything from enormous jars of olive oil and bags of rice, to clothing and chadors, the long head covering worn by many Muslim Somali women. At the door, a woman stopped us to ask if we needed help.

"I was wondering about the smoothies," I said. She gave me a confused look and after a couple more attempts at understanding each other, she walked to the back where a few men were watching television.

Another guy emerged from a side room and asked, in better English, if he could help. I mentioned the smoothies and he held up a cup containing liquefied mango that he had been sipping. "Like this?" he asked.

The options were strawberry or mango and his looked so delicious my café car companion and I both went with that. Into a blender went the fruit, milk, and a long pour of sugar. As summer desserts go, it's hard to imagine anything more ideal than sweet mango smoothies. And we contentedly sipped ours on the walk back to the light rail station.

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