Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tacos Al Carbon

I keep hearing that hard shell tacos are not authentic Mexican fare. As sensitive as I tend to be toward such purism.....I still love 'em. It reminds me of my first job, for the fast food chain Taco Viva back in the mid '80s, before Taco Bell pushed East and saturated the country. It was actually not a bad gig as far as these things go. I remember the large plastic cambrios filled with the corn shells stacked on top of each other. Constantly crumbling into jagged shards, rendered unusable (good excuse to eat them!). My duties included stirring the ground beef and making guacamole in the kitchen, which was usually hazy, cloaked in a cloud of marijuana smoke. I can state honestly that I never accepted the reefer back then, but my uniform certainly reeked of it, a real concern when my father would pick me up at 2 A.M. (I mainly closed on weekends).

Taco Bell was an acceptable replacement for several years, when I was less than discerning, but I can't touch it now. Taco Viva had fresh ingredients; I don't think I want to glimpse the behind-the-scenes at TB, lest I want to "run for the border." My first real Mexican food was from the much missed Maya Azteca restaurant, which was on the corner of Congress Avenue and Forest Hill Boulevard in West Palm Beach, FL for about 20 years. It was owned by the parents of friends from church. The Reyes family had owned restaurants in Mexico and northern California years earlier. By the '90s, I was a fixture at Maya, sometimes helping the family close the place on a Friday night before heading downtown with the guys. The taco shells they served were different. They were bent, an odd curvature. The corn tasted better than any shells I had before. I also developed a taste for mole sauce there. I really miss that place (and the entire Reyes family).

Over the past several years I've been hearing about a taco truck in Lake Worth. The business' name: Tacos Al Carbon. A childhood friend I'd reconnected with raved about the place every time I spoke with him. He has a trustworthy palate - he turned me on to Dexter Holland's (lead singer of The Offspring) hot sauce, Gringo Bandito. The truck was very popular, enough so for a small building to be erected on the Lake Worth Road space. Then, 3 additional locations sprang up. Last weekend, my wife and I gave it a try.

The dining room is dumpy. But you're not there for the ambience.  Flourescent lights and their sickly office glow illuminate plastic parrots hanging from the ceiling and wall murals of fruit and a map of Mexico. The floor is sticky and dirty. It's usually crowded, and open 24 hours, though going after midnight may involve more excitement than I'm currently interested in. Continuous Mariachi music pipes in.

But it's all about the food. For my maiden voyage, I stuck with tacos. Six of them (4 would've been plenty). I had two shredded beef, two chicken, and two pork, smothered in cheese, lettuce, tomato. I sampled both of the green sauces our waiter brought: the light one is mild, the darker will tingle the innards of your cheeks. Outstanding. I did have the hard shell options (soft are available). Their corn shells also looked different and had a thicker texture than I've seen. A real delight. I washed it down with a Negra Modelo beer, just as I had at Maya Azteca years before.  The food seems authentic at Tacos Al Carbon, but then I haven't sampled places in Mexico or Texas. I think I went to a place like this in L.A. on my first visit there in the '90s, but I don't remember much.

I will be paying Tacos al Carbon many more visits.


Tacos Al Carbon
4420 Lake Worth Road
Lake Worth, FL  33461
(561) 432-8474

www.tacosalcarbon.com

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