Restaurants & Bars

Comida Hidalguense at El Tlacoyo in Tempe

Melanie Wong | Dec 27, 201110:46 PM    

John’s nickel tour of chow-worthy landmarks near my hotel included a drive by El Tlacoyo and encouragement to shoehorn some of the tacos into my eating itinerary. Glad he did as I would never have found this spot tucked behind a convenience store. And even if I had, the chairs on top of the tables and dim lighting made it look for all intents and purposes, closed.

But I did return the next day, the only customer in the place on Saturday night, and got excited when I studied the weekend specials section of the menu. On Saturdays and Sundays, El Tlacoyo offers barbequed lamb, menudo, tulancingueñas, chicken red and green chili, lamb consome, and lamb mixiotes.

I ordered two of the weekend specials, barbacoa de borrego in taco format and tuluncingueñas, shown here with accompaniments. The red salsa and especially the green one were excellent. And the family that runs the place is sweet as can be. The mom came out of the kitchen to check on me. She seemed concerned that the food might be too spicy for me. Yes, that green salsa exceeded my heat tolerance. But this was so tasty, I couldn’t stop eating it.

Barbacoa de Borrego (barbecued lamb) taco, $4 – Served with onion, cilantro, limes and salsa, the soft taco on doubled corn tortillas featured a mound of lamb hunks. The lamb was somewhat desiccated and stringy around the edges, as if it had been portioned out early on and got dried out. Despite the texture issues, the core was tender and juicy, delicious with the accompaniments and the green salsa. I asked what made this barbacoa estilo hidalguense and different from other regions. The daughter helped translate the answer into English for me. The lamb is wrapped in maguey leaves lending a subtle flavor, then buried in the ground to slow-cook overnight. They said that few places still cook in a pit, using electric ovens instead.

The daughter who waited on me said that the lamb soup (consome) also had garbanzo beans in it. I’m sorry I didn’t taste it. That’s the usual way I order barbacoa, with soup rather than on a plate, and here it would have solved the dryness issue. Hopefully some one else will and tell us about it.

Tulancingueñas, $6 – Another Hidalgo specialty, said to be named after the state’s second largest city, Tulancingo de Bravo. A slice of deli ham, American cheese, tomato, onion and chipotle griddled between flour tortillas, this was essentially a ham quesadilla. Yet, the sweetness of the onion and the smoky heat of the chipotle turned this into something more interesting. The tortilla had a thin layer of chipotle paste and inside, three whole chipotle peppers. Again, my mouth was flaming but it hurt so good. The price seems too steep for what you get though.

El Tlacoyo
2535 E University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

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