Far East Mexican Grill: Where Tacos Are Serious Business

It's as if someone crashed a taco truck into the kitchen of one of the U District's tiny, surprisingly tidy restaurants and decided to open shop. Then this someone tossed in a dab of Korean flavor and called the place--as denoted by a sign with an Asian guy sporting a sombrero (I'm basing his Asian-ness on his cartoonish figure's nearly offensive lines-for-eyes)--the Far East Mexican Grill (4311 University Way N.E.).

For a restaurant with a dining area that's barely the size of one of the UW's smallest, dankest dorm rooms, it gets pretty swamped during lunch hours. Around noon on most days, students emerge from their fusty ends of the Ave and stand in a line that sometimes snakes out the restaurant's door. They're waiting for a taste of Far East's Mexi-rean (or, as I like to call it, "Kor-exican") tacos, which are $1.50 or $2.00 a pop, depending on the filling.

And the filling is what makes the tacos. The employees, who all sport charmingly proud attitudes toward the restaurant, brag that everything in the food should be able to "stand on its own," unlike that of Chipotle, which compared to Far East's grub, seems so un-lovingly made.

The fish tacos are made of tilapia that's fried in a light tempura batter and then drizzled with the restaurant's secret sauce, reminiscent of a zesty aioli. The chicken and pork tacos, the most popular items on the menu, are slow-cooked for about a day and are then shredded and plopped onto tiny corn tortillas. And you can't forget about the tacos made with cow tongue. Apparently, Far East buys one or two fresh cow tongues a day (the conversation about the tongues went something like this: "You buy actual cow tongues every day? How big--oh my God, they're huge!"), which are cut into tiny little pieces and then cooked with butter and minimal seasonings "so that you can taste the natural flavors." If you've never had lengua before, try one of the tongue tacos; I promise that it's not actually like French-kissing a cow. But then again, I've never actually kissed a cow, so . . .

Another impressive but simple menu item is Far East's fresh corn chips, made from scratch daily. The chips are paired with a fiery salsa made of three different sauces, fresh garlic, and tomatoes--so rich you'll be craving it just a few hours later.

Next time you venture off onto the streets in search of your favorite taco truck, consider stopping at Far East Mexican Grill. You'll find this East-meets-West junction tucked under a cozy armpit of the Ave, right beneath the sign that has this writer's favorite sombrero-wearing cartoon figure.

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