What The Hell Are You Eating?

Las Brasas September 2, 2008

Filed under: tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 5:30 pm
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One thing I’ve noticed since I began my quest to find Tucson’s best taco is the sheer magnitude of places to find one.  From friends and family to roach coaches to well established restaurants there are myriad choices.  I’ve had many since I started searching that I didn’t even bother noting or even mentioning to friends or on this site.  I’ve come to find that though there are many tacos in Tucson there may be even fewer than I thought that deserve consideration.

So it is with great joy that I reviews Las Brasas, one of the few that merit high praise thus far.  Las Brasas is located at 2928 E 22nd Street between Tucson and Country Club.  It is fairly inconspicuous, tucked away in a recessed strip mall with a furniture store but I hope to sing its praise loudly enough for more to notice.  The decor inside is not complicated.  There are pictures on the wall depicting both Native Americans and turn of the century Mexicans plus a few “artifacts” like a tomahawk and some kind of bow and arrow.  The tables in the two small rooms are made of large sections of wood.  Two giant slabs make up each table.  The chairs are nice as well, constructed entirely of blocky hunks of wood.  It was old timey and rustic, two indicators, when present in a restaurant, that undoubtedly mean you will be eating meat.

Las Brasas delivers on that promise.  As you approach the counter to order, you can see, hear, smell, feel, almost taste the meat cooking on an open mesquite grill not five feet away.  One could almost be distracted from ordering were one of the cooks to throw a nice piece of flank steak on the grill.  Most, if not all, the meals are under ten dollars.  They had the standard combination plates, burros, tortas, red and green chile plates as well as tacos.  I was after tacos.

Las Brasas offers Carne Asada, Pollo Asada, Cabeza, Chicharron, Birria, Barbacoa, and Adobado (pork) and you can order a taco, burro or torta with any of them.  Because of my insane search to find the best taco in Tucson I always go taco.  The first night I ordered a carne asada, chicharron, adobado, and a cabeza.  All tacos are 1.58 and with my Sonoran dog and pop, I came out around ten bucks.  The Sonoran dog was not the best I’ve ever had, I’m still leaning toward BK’s on that one but my research is hardly extensive.  It seemed to be missing something.  I think the actual wiener might have been too skinny, marking a second instance wherein wiener girth is important.  Anyway, the tacos.  The cabeza was passable, though I’m learning that it isn’t my favorite meat in the world.  The adobado was less like al pastor and more like carne asada with lean cuts of pork, it was good but overshadowed by both the carne asada and the chicharron.  The carne asada was soft and tender.  It had the added benefit of being grilled instead of fried up with lard and such.  After the first bite I got the feeling that I could eat many multiple carne asada tacos, multiple times a week.  I’m guessing if I was really hungry, after a hike or something, I could drop ten to fifteen no problem.  They were of some other higher quality than most carne asadas I’ve ever tasted.  Yet somehow I preferred the chicharron.  Most chicharron that I’ve encountered is sort of stiff and crunchy, I have always kind of got the feeling like it was something I wasn’t supposed to be eating.  However, at Las Brasas, the chicharron tacos were full of semi fatty pieces of pork grilled then crisped on the outside giving it the most wonderful taste and texture you could possibly want out of a bite of meat.  It’s somewhere between bacon and really good pork chops.  They have a much stronger flavor than the carne asada. I wouldn’t dare eat them in the number or frequency in which I would consume the carne asada but I can’t imagine going to Las Brasas without picking one up.

Cal had a pollo asado and a barbacoa taco.  He said he’d had better barbacoa but the chicken taco was delicious.  He got a combo plate that came with rice and beans.  On a second occasion I did the same.  We were both disappointed with the rice in particular, it is sort of soaking in some kind of broth and really soupy.  Conceptually, I didn’t get it.  It didn’t really taste very good either.  Cal echoed my statement adding that he’d had better beans.  I liked the beans however, especially when mixed with pickled onions from the condiment bar that also features, cabbage, onion and cilantro, a couple of different kinds of fresh salsa and bottled hot sauces.  Henry had the green chile plate which he went after with the enthusiasm of a non roster invitee to training camp.

A second trip with Sean on the weekend showed Las Brasas as a busier restaurant than it seemed when I was there earlier in the week.  There were people popping in picking up large family orders for the duration of our dinner and I could tell there were a lot of regular customers.  I’ll be counting myself among them for many years to come.  I give Las Brasas 9 of the best carne asada tacos I’ve ever eaten.

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Current Taco Standings August 28, 2008

Filed under: tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 7:49 pm
Tags:

1.  Valarie’s Potato Taco

2.  Las Brasas’ Chicharron Taco

3.  Juanito’s Carne Asada

4.  Juanito’s Al Pastor

5.  Las Brasas’ Carne Asada

Sorry Pico De Gallo, you were bumped, no hard feelings but you’ve joined the ranks of the other tacos at Las Brasas, Juanito’s and Martin’s Chicken Mole

 

Taco Update

Filed under: tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 7:45 pm
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Things just got interesting folks.  Cal, Henry and I went to Las Brasas last week and each received a culinary reach around.  I’ll add a full review after I go back this weekend but right now I just want to talk tacos.  I had a carne asada, adobado (a kind of al pastor-ish pork), cabeza and a chicharron taco.  The adobado and cabeza were good, nothing too special, but the carne asada and the chicharron blew me away.  The carne asada was grilled on a mesquite grill then chopped and tucked into a fresh flour tortilla.  It was gristleless, tender, and cooked to what, yes, perfection.  If it were socially acceptable to drape their carne asada around my neck like a lei, I’d wear it to your next Hawaiian themed party.  Believe that.  However, the chicharron taco was unlike anything I’d ever eaten stuffed inside a flour tortilla.  It was perfect semi-fatty, crispy pieces of pork charred and loved like a grandchild.  I could’ve eaten fourteen of them.  The only previous experience with a chicharron taco was at El Sur and I know now they were decidedly sub standard, those tacos were hard ropey pieces of fatty pork.  These tacos were transcendent.  I’m serious, if I had the choice of going back in time and meeting someone totally awesome like Paul Robeson or Tesla or eating only one of these tacos for the rest of my life, I’d go taco.

That doesn’t mean they supplant Valarie’s potato tacos though, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t eat one of those ever again.  Part of their appeal is that they’re only available on Valarie’s whim.  Which I suppose is really just clever marketing on her part.

 

Current Taco Standings August 2, 2008

Filed under: tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 3:18 pm
Tags:

1.  Valarie’s Potato Taco

2.  Juanito’s Carne Asada

3.  Juanito’s Al Pastor

4.  Juanito’s Carnitas

5.  Pico De Gallo’s Birria

Honorable Mention:  My own chicken taco fell out of favor since I tried to replicate it a couple more times and failed.  Martin’s Chicken Mole, Juanito’s other tacos.

 

Taco Update

Filed under: tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 3:14 pm
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Valarie and I went to Juanito’s last night to get some tacos.  I knew their tacos were good I just hadn’t been there since I started looking for the taco. Juanito’s didn’t disappoint.  In fact, they’ve never disappointed me for as long as I’ve been going there.  Sometimes you can eat too much and then your body is disappointed with you but not with Juanito’s.  I tried each of their tacos, a carne asada, a pollo, a cabeza, a carnitas, and an al pastor.  It was hard to tell which was the better taco.  The cabeza was good, it had the kind of texture that you can either chew or let melt in your mouth.  The big difference with Juanito’s cabeza is you can tell it’s cabeza and not just birria, a big plus.  The pollo was good too, I’m not sure it’s as good as Martin’s chicken mole taco however.  Then al pastor, carnitas, and carne asada tacos almost transcend taco-dom.   These three are equally fantastic.  They are the kind of taco that you eat and instantly think, I could eat twelve of these.  As it stands right now, I feel safe in stating that I’ve yet to eat better carne asada, carnitas or al pastor in all of Tucson.  That’s tough talk, I know, but see if you don’t agree.

 

Current Taco Standings July 18, 2008

Filed under: tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 5:50 pm

1. Valarie’s Potato Taco

2.  Pico De Gallo’s Birria Taco

3.  My Chicken Taco (No Fooling, I’ll make it for you)

4.  Martin’s Chicken Mole Taco

5.  Chile Con Sol’s Carne Asada Taco

I have many, many places left to go.

 

Chile con Sol

Filed under: Mexican,tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 5:44 pm
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Chile Con Sol is located on sixth street just west of Campbell in what used to be a crappy sub shop next to a laundromat across from the U of A. Sort of an auspicious location for a decent restaurant, most places so close to campus cater to drunk students. While I’m sure Chile Con Sol does its fair share of business in that department it does so with a little more attention to detail.

It’s an awkwardly shaped building with a small dining area toward the rear of the restaurant. I went there for lunch the other day. Alone save my New Yorker. I decided to give three tacos their shot at making it to my best taco in town list. I went with a red chile, carne asada, and a shrimp. My very sweet waitress told me the shrimp tacos were the best with the enthusiasm of a Ron Paul supporter before they realized he was crazy.

The interior design and atmosphere of Chile Con Sol is relaxing and subdued. The walls are a really soft magenta that plays well with the tile floor. There was one television behind the bar playing ESPN on mute. It was the exact right amount of interference for a lonely lunch patron with an interesting article about how Haruki Murakami became Haruki Murakami.

The tacos were good. Not best in town good, but good enough to crave again. The shrimp wasn’t the best, mainly because it came with melted, gooey cheese all over it. I’m a fan of cheese in most contexts but not in a shrimp taco. The red chile con carne was soft and juicy like a little meat sponge. The carne asada was the winner here. It was salty and delicious with no rubbery fat pieces. My only real complaint was the amount of lettuce festooned about the tacos. Is that really necessary? Lettuce is almost always a distraction, especially on an otherwise decent taco.

I’m going to give Chile Con Carne a solid seven and a half gooey shrimps, with a possibility of an amended score should I try something besides tacos.