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 V.25 No.36 | September 8 - 14, 2016 

Restaurant Review

El Paisa, Take Me Home

Feed your need for Mexican

When I came to the Land of Enchantment four years ago, the first thing I fell in love with was the food. You won't find New Mexican cuisine anywhere else, and once I'd had it, I couldn't get enough. But every once and again, I'd feel a very specific twinge around my middle. Like a recovering addict, the bags beneath the eyes might be gone, the bruises might be healing and all the visible parts might look like they're back to a healthy glow, but deep down there is a hunger that never quite goes away.

I'm talking about the hunger for real Mexican food, people—which for some reason is next to impossible to find in the most Hispanic state in the union, with 179.5 miles of border land. It's enough to make a man go crazy! Sometimes I just want to start shaking people in the street, shout in their faces, “Do you even know what tacos de trompo is? You're all horrible people!”

Criminy. Sorry about that. See what I mean? Sometimes the beast just takes over, and the next thing you know, you've alienated all your friends and barricaded yourself in your unfurnished apartment with a pile of cheese-stuffed poblano chile rellenos, flautas and a dwindling sense of self worth.

I ordered with little trouble, though making sure not to roll my Rs with too much gusto (like one of those rich, old, white ladies who pronounce their stylist's name as, “Frrrrrrrranco”).

I thought all that was behind me. I'd turned over a new leaf, moved to where the air is clean, the skies are open and the proximity to nature really allows for healing. I could forget all about those dark days in the clutches of “Mexican fever” and get back to just trying to live my life.

Then a buddy of mine took me to El Paisa Taqueria—one of those beautiful hole-in-the-wall places where they only accept cash, and half the people don't speak English. I ordered with little trouble, though making sure not to roll my Rs with too much gusto (like one of those rich, old, white ladies who pronounce their stylist's name as, “Frrrrrrrranco”). For liquid refreshment, they were serving a number of aguas frescas, one of my very favorite Mexican treats. My buddy grabbed a medium home-made lemonade and I nabbed a horchata ($2), a sweet rice and cinnamon (and sometimes milk) drink which came just how I like it: poured with a ladle into a Styrofoam cup from a chilled jug in a cooler next to the register.

Tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor

We sat at a table directly under a stream of cold coming from an air conditioning vent. I looked out the window at Bridge and listened to a chattering crowd that had suddenly materialized around us. “All this Spanish is making me homesick,” I said. “Hey. Now that I think about it, I barely ever hear Spanish around here. What's the deal with that?”

My friend scratched his mustache. “When I was a kid, I'd get into fights all the time because my friends and I spoke Spanish.” He fiddled with his straw. “I didn't want my daughter to learn it, because I didn't want her to have the life I had.”

But I didn't have the time to reply, as our food decided to showed up right at that moment, wrapped in foil and smelling so good it dispersed any bum thoughts. I dived head-first into a barbacoa taco ($1.25), a beautiful serving of fatty and tender meat sitting on a corn tortilla with cilantro and onions on the side. The flavor transported me back home. I could hear the sound of accordions warming up in the back of my head.

Torta al pastor
Torta al pastor

My buddy was already halfway through a torta al pastor ($4) before I could sneak in for a bite. The tortas are served with avocado, tomato and choice of meat on a buttery grilled bun. Pastor is marinated pork grilled on a spit, and is thought to be a derivative of the shawarma, introduced to Mexico by way of Lebanese immigrants. El Paisa's pastor was juicy, salty and delicious.

I hadn't finished my taco yet, but I'd ordered a torta asada ($4), too, and the three bites I was allowed of my friend's sandwich spurred me to jump ahead in the meal. The carne asada—charred chunks of beef, seared to an appetizing dark and crunchy wonder—was absolutely perfect, and I have to admit that I ended up spending my wick eating the whole thing.

Torta asada
Torta asada

But being the conscientious and thorough reporter that I am, I dared to consume at least a few nibbles of the last item on the table: a wonderfully disgusting, beany sodium-factory of a chicharon burrito ($4). Yeah, that's right. I like that kind of thing. How about you save your judgments for someone who cares? If I want to eat a friggin’, goldarned heart attack laced with green chile, then I'm going to damn well do it! Gak! Gerflufem!

(Oh, jeez. It happened again. I am so sorry about that. Let's make a deal. I'll try to get my base drives under control by visiting El Paisa at least once a week, and you promise to let me cut in line if you see me coming.)

One burrito bite. Two. My homie was watching me as he slowly chewed his sandwich. “Bro. You ok?”

Quedense quietos,” I answered, “I'm trying to have a moment, here.” I must've said something stupid, because he shook his head, pursed his lips and went back to his sandwich.

El Paisa Taqueria

820 Bridge SW
(505) 452-8997
Hours: Daily 7am-12am
Vibe: Lively and fun
Alibi recommends: Tacos barbacoa, tortas al pastor

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