Illustration by Tyler Barber
Photos by Alexander Tu
Halfway between Tampico Heights and The Bloody Nickel there lies a taco oasis at the edge of a food desert. Slightly north of downtown, in the shade of a windowless wooden nightclub, is Taqueria Abasolo — a taqueria cum karaoke jukebox cantina. It is a tan brick building, its windows adorned with hand painted illustrations of the many delights that await you inside.
Leon casino, Upon entry, dispersed among the usual taqueria kitsch are family-like photographs of groups of dangerous-looking men brandishing fully automatic weapons alongside Chinese restaurant totems, a large, sloppily-painted yet endearing mural of a mountain landscape, and various posters, including a Bud Light poster of what appears to be a man who is embracing a woman and staring at her breasts, but is probably a couple dancing salsa or merengue or cumbia or tango.
Early openings, late closings and close proximity to the warehouses where artists work and reside have made this eatery popular with the NoDo avant garde. Random weirdos interspersed with indigenous interlopers. Although it is across from Alcohólicos Anónimos, the micheladas are served in frosty mugs and look well seasoned; there is usually a vaquero in a drunken stupor nodding off and drooling into a plate of tacos somewhere as well. If you are female or look like someone with a vagina on karaoke night, expect to get harassed by drunken day laborers — it’s all part of the fun. At all other times, the jukebox is on full blast, so bring earplugs if you are sensitive of hearing…and don’t bother trying to talk to each other.
Although the atmosphere and decor are unparalleled, the real attraction here is the food, and I’m not talking about the aggressively mediocre (yet famous) cheeseburger, or the passable tacos and enchiladas. Being a red blooded Texan, the Burrito California used to be the only thing I ever ordered, wrapped in a large, hand-made flour tortilla and filled with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and your choice of meaty animal parts (or nopales if you’re vegan or feeling chubby). Chips are accompanied by one of the best creamy, spicy green sauces in the city, which can be used to slather over everything you order. The crispy tacos — crunchy, just-fried shells filled with ground beef and potato piccadillo, lettuce, tomato, and yellow cheese — make Taco Bell seem like an elaborate insult. A somewhat questionable but tasty seafood coctel of oysters, octopus, and shrimp is also good enough to swallow, but the real standout here is the molcajete.
The triumphant arrival of Los Molcajete is an event akin to a sizzling platter of pepper steak or a pupu platter. A large heated mortar of basalt forged from the fires of hell is filled with fajita, nopales, and gooey white mexican cheese swimming in a bubbling broth of chiles and spices. When asked for flour or corn tortillas with this dish, the only answer is corn. Clouds of masa floated down from heaven and salted with the tears of Guadalupe Herself. If you want to make tacos, order a side of cilantro, onions, and avocado. I tend towards just eating it straight from the bowl, tearing shreds of tortilla clouds and dipping it into the glorious chile broth.
Nap time may follow. If so, just order a michelada, put in your ear plugs, pull down your sombrero, and lean back, ‘mano.
by Guest Author