The 23 year-old Chicharroneria Orozco has for years inhabited a drafty adobe on Isleta. But this summer it set up shop in new digs on the north side of Bridge, just west of the river, in the same building that the underwhelming Siete Mares used to occupy.
The interior remains much the same. Ranchera music is still blasting, and English is only spoken on the rare occasion that a gringo like myself stumbles in. But the service is more friendly and the place is a lot cleaner, even if the men’s bathroom still does not have a toilet seat.
The ordering routine is similarly stripped-down: Just choose the type of greasy meat you want to build tacos with, at about 10 bucks for a pound. Most of the options are pork, and the chefs are clearly adept at frying it to a golden shade of crisp, as evidenced by the long, heated display case featuring trotters, tails, chunks of flesh and skin. Of all the offerings, only the beef liver and onions and colitas de pavo don’t come from a pig.
Colita is the word for the pygostyle, that fleshy piece of fat that holds the tail feathers—the part bulging above the butt of a plucked bird. Also known as the “pope’s nose,” this offal delicacy is all-too-often ignored. But not at Chicharroneria Orozco, where they are crispified into that same perfect shade of golden as the restaurant’s many species of chicharrónes.
Like all of the menu items, an order of turkey backsides (as colitas de pavo could be graciously translated) is preceded at your table by chips, also golden in color. Next to the chips is a veritable ocean-sized bowl of jalapeño-hot fresh salsa.
Then a plate of chopped turkey tails arrives, flanked by a stack of fresh 4-inch corn tortillas, a mixture of chopped fresh onion and cilantro, limes, and a side of meaty beans, smoky with chicharrón.
Each mastication of the tacos built from these fried turkey coccyges brings a different texture: smooth meat, dripping fat, gangly gristle, soft bone, deep-fried crunch. Four grown men could easily share the same $10 order, each consuming approximately enough grease to drive a biodiesel van all the way to Santa Fe. It’s delicacies like these that make the South Valley a culinary frontier.