El Pulgarcito Mexican food at its best

Sarah Fulton, managing editor

Pulling into the parking lot of the strip mall, my first impression of El Pulgarcito, 5921 Merriam Drive, was “oh, this is sketchy.” The baby blue outer wall, rusting lawn chairs and hand-painted sign made me wonder why I had chosen to come here in the first place.

Once inside, I was overwhelmed. The salmon-colored walls contrasted badly with the wood tables. The lime green kitchen was fully visible through a cutout in the wall and the customer gained full view of a rusty old wall fan with its screen hanging off, barely still connected. The stacks of both paper and plastic cups were fully visible next to the soda fountain. The waitress sat on a stool watching what can only be described as The Real Housewives of Mexico. A little girl ran laps around the entire restaurant, not at all phased by the new customers.

I took a seat near the door partly to get out of the little girl’s way and partly because I did not wish to venture further into the restaurant.

As soon I sat down a new waitress appeared, handed me a menu and rattled off a list of specialties that I barely caught. At first the menu was scary, the pictures of the dishes looked nothing like what I would order at Jose Peppers. I did not want an fish with its head still on or fish soup. Luckily when I turned to the back of the menu there was an entire list of “gringo” friendly foods like tacos and chimichangas. I ordered the cheese enchiladas platter, that included three enchiladas with rice and refried beans, and a taco salad.

I then watched as the waitress walked the 10 feet from my table to the kitchen window, where a woman in a black t-shirt and a hairnet took the order and began preparing the food.

About 10 minutes later the food arrived and looked delicious. The enchiladas were decently sized and covered in a lovely deep red sauce that had a slight kick. They cut easily apart revealing a thick cheese filling, that at times had an odd texture, but overall had a very satisfying flavor. The beans were not much to look at, but had the traditional flavor with an unidentifiable twist that made them worth eating. The rice was mixed with assorted vegetable pieces and had a yellow seasoning on it that gave it a semisweet, but unmemorable taste.

The taco salad came in a freshly fried tortilla shell and seemed small at first. The vegetables were fresh and abundant. The meat had a sort of slimy texture that was initially repelling, but did not matter after I discovered how amazing it was. The shell itself ripped apart easily and was addicting. It was like nothing I had ever tasted. It was not dry and crispy like a hard taco shell and was sweeter than the average soft taco shell. I suspect they covered a soft shell in butter and then fried it in deliciousness. My only complaints were that it was small and could have used more cheese.

Once I was done I asked for the check and ordered three soft shredded beef tacos to go for my family, or at least that is who I intended them for. They came in the traditional take-home styrofoam and I opened it to just take a peek. To my surprise the tacos were tiny, basically baby tacos, and did not come with cheese or tomatoes. The meat was plentiful and let off an aroma that lead me to just take a little bite, just to taste test. That tiny bite was magnificent. The meat exploded with flavor, both sweet and juicy. While what I thought was plain lettuce somehow turned out to be spicy and the perfect complement to the sweetness of the meat.

The whole combination inspired what I now call the taco dance, an adaption of the Chicken Dance done with taco in hand. It was hands down the best taco I have ever had in my entire life.

In the end, El Pulgarcito was sketchy, but in all the best ways. There may have been newspaper holding up a leg of the table, but it does not matter once you get the amazing food.



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