Budget Beat: America's Taco Shop

America's carne asada tacos: Finely chopped everything.

By Jay Bennett

My new favorite place to get a cheap, quick, but good lunch is America's Taco Shop, on Seventh Street north of McDowell. The new taquería, which has been open for about a month, joins a pretty amazing stretch along Seventh that includes Lisa G, Coronado Café, La Piccola Cucina, and That's a Wrap! Like those establishments, America's is in a converted old house, so its got lots of charm, especially at night, when the cozy front porch is illuminated by strings of colored lights.

America's (named for proprietor America Corrales) boasts the "greatest carne asada in the Valley," and I have to say that they may be onto something with that proclamation.

Carne asada burrito: A near-perfect creation.

Most everything on the small menu employs the grilled steak, which, indeed, is excellent. Perfectly seasoned, grilled, and — unlike at a lot of places — chopped into very small pieces. The smaller-than-usual chunks make for easy eating and better flavor distribution of the asada's seasoning and spices.

I love the menu. It's refreshingly simple: carne asada taco, carne asada burrito, bean and cheese burrito, one kind of torta, two quesadillas (one meat, one veggie), and something called a Vampiro, which is a grilled tortilla, cheese, guacamole, asada, lettuce and onions. And then, for side dishes, there's unlimited chips and salsa, ceviche (Friday and Saturday only), America's corn, and America's homemade flan. That's it! What more do you want?

I've tried everything but the torta and Vampiro. You know, it's all really good, with the burrito being the star of the show. Filled with the aforementioned asada, guacamole, pico de gallo, grilled onions, all in a tasty, grilled flour tortilla, it's probably my new favorite burrito in town.

America's corn: Pour some of that chili sauce on there!

I'll give a quick rundown on some of the other highlights. The unlimited chips and salsa are pretty addictive. The chips seem homemade and the salsa is the best kind: tomatoey, with a bit of spice — not screaming hot. And it tastes like it's been made that day. The ceviche is a real taste treat, as well, with lots of diced Mexican shrimp, and served with unlimited chips to scoop up the ceviche and eat it as though it were salsa. Finally, America's corn is a fun appetizer. It's like the elotes you'd buy from a street vendor: a big ear of white sweet corn on a stick, slathered in tasty cotija cheese, chili, and lime. It's a kind of a sweet-and-spicy must-have.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the horchata, served in a big ol' 32-ounce cup. There's also jamaica and tamarindo aguas frescas.

I must say that America's is still working out a few kinks. For instance, the service is a bit dicey. I've been there five times already, and each time I've been slightly disappointed by some aspect of the service. Mostly, it has to do with drink service. After ordering at the counter, I've had to wait way too long for, or worse, ask repeatedly for, my horchata.

America's says its liquor license is pending. When it's secured, they'll serve some Mexican beers and a margarita. I look forward to that day because they've got a pretty sweet deal on the menu that's just waiting for that license to be approved. It's called "America's Favorite for 2," which includes two tacos, two burritos, unlimited chips and salsa, and six 7-ounce Coronas, all for $20. Please, Mr. Liquor License Approver Guy, make it quick!

America's Taco Shop 2041 North Seventh Street 602-682-5627

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