Urban Taqueria starts a political conversation
When I have a weekly sit-down with my therapist, a small portion of our time is spent discussing what I plan to write in the week ahead, my goals for where my writing will be going. This is partly to do with my struggles with imposter syndrome, and otherwise as a way to get my thoughts out in a healthy way. What does come up often though is that there’s a respite in these pages. In a world full of dark news, we get to sit and enjoy the idea of food, a communal gathering of many pieces all gathered together to make something you can stop and relax with. While not always the case, I avoid politics in the food section for many reasons, one of which is to give everyone a break. I’ve seen the news stories and had done my best not to get involved, but Urban Taqueria has come up far too many times in peoples’ recommendations for me to ignore, so here we are.
I’ll get this out of the way now. Everything there was phenomenal, and I understand the appeal of their naming structure for their food, but ordering a taco that makes me think of a porn star is still an experience I can’t quite wrap my head around. I hope in the future that this changes, because they’re truly, earnestly extraordinary in every other capacity.
Located on the ground floor of the One Central ABQ building, Urban Taqueria is a shiny new addition to the shiny, new building. With large glass windows and a view of Central Avenue and First Street, it’s a place I could see myself relaxing and watching the hustle and bustle of the city. For my run in for lunch, I grabbed the Executive Privilege combo ($12.99) which comes with any three tacos plus your choice of two sides. In respect to the fair and honest coverage I aim to produce, I ordered a Republican, a Democrat and a Fake News.
The Republican features pork al pastor, which was incredibly tender. You can customize to your heart's content. They have a wide range of salsas at the bar, plus you can roll with corn or flour as your tortilla of choice. Follow that up with mixed cabbage, cilantro, pickled onions, diced tomatoes, cotija cheese and a side of limes, and you’re facing down a solid street taco by any metric. Tacos are easy to do okay, but very hard to do amazingly, and these passed the test of being done amazingly. Dare I say, it’s the most enjoyable Republican I’ve had in the last three years and reminiscent of Jeb! A hopeful, warm and pleasant taco, it’s remarkable because it just exists as it is and doesn’t parade around pretending to be something else. It holds to tradition, and that is where it finds its strength.
Conversely, we have the Democrat. With ground beef, chipotle mayo and all the goodies I mentioned above, it leans in a different direction. The spice of the mayo lets the beef do the talking. This is the US House of Representatives in taco form (not to be confused with their taco The House, made with carne asada and bacon.) It’s got a little fire, a little boldness. It’s not afraid to stand up and speak for itself. The chipotle mayo is bold and a touch stand-offish. It has the articles in hand, ready to make sure you see and taste them, clear as day.
Finally came the Fake News, the “Thanks, Obama” of the Trump administration. Made with chipotle chicken and more of a chipotle mayo, it’s another spicy take. Much like the term “fake news,” it feels uncomfortably familiar on your tongue, a mesh of heat and coolness that leaves your lips tingling. Is it a little much? Somewhat, but so is the proliferation of the term that gives it a name, another suitable fit.
All this is well and good. They also serve beer and wine, the perfect fit for a street taco munch-down. But then, as I was finishing my order, something else caught my eye: Death By Taco for $14.99. No, it’s not an all-you-can-eat taco line-up, though that is something a genius should look into making possible. It’s another three taco line-up, with two sides. The difference is you don’t get to pick your three, they pick them for you and they’re hotter than you can possibly imagine. For example, my first bite of the Steak Taco, which comes with added chili, grilled onions and a roasted-tomatillo salsa made my eyes rocket open in shock. Someone who was watching me eat it asked if it was hot. I accidentally yelled my affirmation as I hunted for my drink and my eyes welled with tears. I love spicy foods, and this was extraordinary, not just by a Scoville metric, but because it was genuinely delicious behind that heat wall. The second taco, a Grilled Cod with habanero mayonnaise, continued the trend. Less fiery than the steak, it still gave an enormous kick, with the cod being light and flaky to complement the fire mayo added to it. Finally, the last one was a tandoori chicken, with piri-piri, raita and tamarind salsa. I knew none of these words, but I went in eager and was rewarded with a slap of heat that shut down my afternoon. If you’re looking for a viral food challenge, these three tacos will absolutely suffice.
Urban Taqueria is deserving of the praise they have received. A mesh of tradition with Modernism allows them to exist in that sweet spot that hipsters love to blog about (hello pot, I’m a kettle) while still appealing to casual diners. Add to it that gorgeous new building and a hope for a brighter future Downtown, and you’ve got a winner for a new eateriy. Even if the names are off-putting, I promise that the food is not.
1 Central Ave. NW
Hours: Mon-Fri: 10am to 9pm Sat-Sun: 11am to 9pm
Vibe: Modern street tacos
Alibi Recommends: Death By Taco to get rocked by heat