Cafe Reviews

Rico's Taco: Party in the Back

The northwest corner of 16th Street and McDowell is like a Mexican mullet — La Hacienda Carniceria lunch business in the front, an outdoor fiesta in the back. The host of the party side? Rico's Tacos.

The celebration starts every day at 4 p.m., when La Hacienda closes its doors and Rico's Tacos comes to life — the outdoor patio attracting the evening's clientele with the aroma of grilled meat. It's a humble joint in a humble 'hood, with a handful of locals kickin' back and biting into small, doubled-up corn tortillas under a rooftop festooned with artificial plants and covering a few scattered tables, a small TV, and a spray-painted rendition of Walt Disney's The Three Caballeros on the back wall.

It takes cojones to do one thing and do it well and this taquería is tight, mis amigos. Order from the taquero (who doesn't speak English) or the cashier (who speaks enough of it) and take advantage of Rico's four for $5 taco special. For the conventional types, there's carne asada (marinated and grilled flank steak) and pastor (a Mexican adaptation of Middle Eastern spit-grilled meat, made with thin slices of marinated pork). For the more adventurous taco tasters, including yours truly, there's lengua (beef tongue), buche (pig stomach), tripa (pork intestines), and tacos de cabeza, which literally means "head tacos" — more specifically, a cow's.

Mi favorito es el taco de tripa. No se ría. Es mejor que el Double Down.

Garnished with chopped onions and cilantro, Rico's tacos are triumphs of taste — flavorful pockets of goodness served up fresh and fast until 11 p.m. Wanna up the delicioso factor? Customize 'em courtesy of the do-it-yourself extras bar featuring salsa casera (a cooked, red, bring-the-heat salsa made with dried chiles), tomatillo-based green salsa, a looser guacamole-type salsa perfect for dribbling, limones, radishes, shredded cabbage, and roasted jalapeños.

¿Quieres más? Cooler temps mean Rico's patio is perfect for its two tummy-warming, non-taco treats: frijoles charros (pinto beans stewed with meat, celery, tomatoes, onion, and jalapeños in a crazy-good soup-like concoction that has a kick) and chocolatey champurrado, a kind of warm, thick cocoa drink Fry Girl could drink by the bucketful.

Nighttime fast food in an outdoor setting that doesn't include metal umbrellas and molded, plastic seating? Follow your nariz to Rico's Tacos and wrap up your evening eats, patio-style.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld