Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Five-dollar* lunches: $1.75 tacos easily worth $2 at Taqueria Moran

Posted By on 10.31.12 at 03:37 PM

Cheap tacos ... and free accoutrements at Taqueria Moran
  • Gwynedd Stuart
  • Cheap tacos ... and free accoutrements at Taqueria Moran
Chicago newcomer and blogger Gwynedd Stuart loves to eat out, but she also happens to be a poor person because she's a Chicago newcomer and a blogger. In this weekly feature she seeks out affordable midday meals that don't exceed five bucks (*actually seven, with tax and tip).

Along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor—particularly in Logan Square—there's almost a glut of Mexican restaurants. I say "almost" because I'm not sure whether there can really be too many establishments that sell refried beans and lots of things that are covered in cheese and cilantro. But it would take a dedicated lover of cilantro-covered things to sample food from every Mexican place along Milwaukee from, say, Pulaski to Western. I am not that person.

I am, however, a person who's happy to fall for the ol' 99 cents trick. By which I mean that I won't spend $30 for that rickety piece of shit I just saw in an infomercial—but $29.99? Well, that's reasonable. This tried-and-true psychological sales strategy translates well to the restaurant industry. Two-dollar tacos? Yeah, that's great, but show me a $1.99 taco and we'll talk.

Taqueria Moran is even better at this trick. In fact, when they play it, it's not even a trick anymore, they're just giving customers a really good deal: $1.75 tacos. Good ones.

Located on California, directly across from the Blue Line stop next door to Logan Bar & Grill, Taqueria Moran has its share of pricier dishes: a $14.95 seafood soup, an $11.95 fajita dinner, which are both ample, no doubt. But the menu is huge and there's plenty of items from which to make a good five-dollar lunch, especially taking into account the traditional Mexican restaurant accoutrements. As soon as you sit down, you're greeted with a basket of chips, a molcajete bowl of chunky pico de gallo, and another of briny and spicy pickled carrots with whole garlic cloves and jalapeños. At the risk of encouraging people to be cheapskates (more than I already do) you could probably order a single taco, a water, and just fill up on the chips and carrots. But that's no fun.

I tried three of the tacos on the menu: the picadillo (ground beef), adobado (pork), and the pollo (duh). They give you the option of topping them with either lettuce and tomato or cilantro and onion. I went with the later combination on all three in the name of authenticity, even though I really like tomatoes on tacos. Because I was raised on Old El Paso taco kits, ground beef tacos are my favorite. Chicken I can usually do without because so many restaurants have a real hard time retaining the meat's moisture. Taqueria Moran's chicken taco was a standout. The filling was juicy and plenty flavorful—more flavorful and more moist than the ground beef filling, which was a nice surprise. The adobado filling consisted of diced pork in what tasted almost like a sticky, Korean-style marinade. (Mexican-Korean fusion was big when I lived in Atlanta, which was fun.)

A torta much bigger than a fork, take my word.
I can't imagine what sort of monster my waitress thought I was. Not only did I order a beer because I didn't realize it was only 11:30 in the morning (do as I say, not as I do, in terms of five-dollar lunching and not being a gross sot), but in addition to the three tacos, I also ordered one of their tortas (all $4.50, except for the tongue version, which is $5.25 and I personally have no use for anyway). I chose the beef milanesa. And it was enormous. I'm a real fan of placing objects in pictures for perspective even though I feel like it still doesn't translate (see fork in photo at left). A truly huge bocadillo (and fluffy and delicious) filled with a thin, breaded and fried piece of steak, as well as mayo, lettuce, tomato, and ripe avocado. My only gripe would be that it appeared that the milanesa had been cooked in advance and reheated, which does a number on a piece of meat that's already been pounded nearly out of existence. Still, really tasty. And huge. Now I'm just repeating myself.

2226 N. California Ave., 773-235-2663

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