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Restaurants & Bars 13

Taqueria El Asadero - Good Meat

Harry V. | Jan 30, 200303:45 PM

I don’t recall many mentions of this place. Taqueria El Asadero, on Montrose just west of Lincoln, is in many respects just another small, shabby storefront taqueria - shabbier and uglier than most, perhaps, with dark linoleum floors, dark wood-veneer-paneled walls, and blood-orange plastic booths. But the meats here are very good, of respectable quality and carefully prepared (they have what appears to be a genuine charcoal grill in addition to the expected griddle), with results that are definitely a cut above standard.

For one thing, the meats are much less fatty and greasy than is customary in taquerias - there will be no sluices running down your arm from these tacos, no pregnant grease sac waiting to burst in the nether end of your burrito. Folks who treasure the punch of that strong savor of hearty, coarse fat so common in taqueria fare may perhaps regret the tidiness, cleanliness and good manners of the meats at Taqueria El Asadero. Happily, the lack of excess fat does not diminish their excellence; the flavors are lucid but not colorless, clean but not sanitized; the textures moist but not sodden.

Best of them all, I think, is the barbacoa - mildly seasoned, quite lean, yet glistening, tender, luscious, and rich - suggestive of a surreally good pot roast, or perhaps of what confit of beef might be like. The steak/carne asada and the pork al pastor are each as good as the barbacoa, though perhaps not quite as distinctive.

Sadly, Taqueria El Asadero is very far from the taqueria of one’s dreams. Tortillas, store-bought, are unremarkable. Only one salsa is provided, a green one tasting largely of oil and jalapeno, woefully deficient in tomatillo, garlic, etc. The small space is very loud, with a television, a jukebox and several video games used alternately or in tandem to produce din. A variety of obnoxious signs are posted, hectoring the customer to pay before sitting down, and so forth. The range of the menu is concise and familiar, containing nothing exotic enough to grant customers the opportunity of congratulating themselves on their esoteric selections. Burritos are smallish by the standards of the genre, and not particularly a bargain ($5). And the men’s bathroom is simply appalling (I doubt the women’s is any nicer.) At least the service is assured, although a bit peremptory.

Despite it all, I’ve been to Taqueria El Asadero several times in recent weeks and will keep going back. Perhaps it is nothing special compared to a dozen places in Pilsen, La Villita, or other parts of the city; but I can’t think of another north side taqueria that serves better meat.

A couple of ordering thoughts: the standard garnishes are American, so you’ll have to specify if you want your antojitos adorned in the Mexican style. And, strangely, burritos served to in-house customers are cut in half by the chef, greatly reducing the chance for the ingredients to marry with each other in the moments between preparation and consumption. Consider asking them to leave your burrito whole.

Taqueria El Asadero
2213 W. Montrose Ave.
10am-10pm every day

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