Fewer hipsters, just as much flavor
By Brandy King
Photo: The pork tamales at Taquiera Las Tapatias in Riverside
Taqueria Mixteca is wonderful. We all know that by now. There are days, however, when it’s so popular that the service isn’t tops, it’s overrun with college kids talking about how “totally amazing” every bite is and you find yourself wishing there were more options.
While maybe not plentiful, there are other taquerias in Dayton – you just have to look harder. This might be a good time to mention if you’re one of those people that pronounce “chipotle” wrong, it might not hurt you to look up the pronunciation on “taqueria” before you embarrass yourself again.
We met some friends at Taquiera Las Tapatias in Riverside right around dinnertime on a Saturday night, and it was dead. I almost wondered if we were making a huge mistake, but the hostess who greeted us was friendly and the place looked clean, which began to assuage my reservations. We were seated, ordered some drinks and dug into the complimentary chips and salsas. There were two bowls – one hot, one mild – and the server brought additional house-made hot sauce and salsa verde, all of which were excellent. I’m actually taking my husband’s word on the hot sauce, as I was way too sissy to try it. The chips were a little on the stale, cold side, but considering we plowed through two baskets of them, it obviously didn’t leave anyone’s feelings too hurt.
The menu was just the right size for a taqueria. It’s presented in Spanish and English, but when boiled down, is basically the front and back of one page. I’m still puzzled by the occurrence of hot dog as a meat in no fewer than three menu items, but none of us were curious enough to try it.
I’d heard their fresh tortillas were excellent and I wanted to keep it basic, so I chose the beef shoulder taco and a gordita with their chicken in chipotle sauce. The rest of the table ordered a combination of tamales, tongue tacos and a pork leg torta. The tacos are about two bucks apiece and come with an ample amount of meat, cilantro, chopped onion and a lime wedge. I expected the beef shoulder to be a lot more tender. Some bites were as soft and flavorful as I’d hoped for, but a few were sinewy and tough – so, I may not have gotten the best spoonful. The gordita was actually much better than I was expecting, and thankfully not of the bready, Taco Bell variety. The easiest way to explain it is an authentic gordita is the Mexican equivalent of a pita pocket. A round corn tortilla, cooked crispy and filled with whatever you choose. I could easily have eaten triple what I ordered in this dish alone. The pork tamales were outstanding and very well spiced. Next time, I might just try all the different meats in gorditas.
As for beverages, they have fountain soda and plenty of real sugar sodas, including Jarritos. And boozehounds, rejoice! They do have a liquor license. I didn’t even finish the “I sure hope they have marga-” before I saw a huge sign that said, “Now serving liquor!” The ‘ritas weren’t weak, but were strong on the mix as well. They had a few desserts listed on the menu, but since the menus leave the table when you order your meal, that makes ordering dessert difficult. A mistake made by several eateries that always irks me.
Service was a bit on the slow side. There was only one guy working the whole room, which eventually filled three other tables besides us. I think that server was also working some kitchen duties, so if they expect to start bringing in more of a crowd, they might want to sort that out. I will admit, however, I usually don’t expect top notch service at the tinier, family owned establishments.
The prices were right where they should be. For both of our dinners, a cocktail and a soda, we got out of there for around $20. Sides like beans and rice are mostly a la carte, but they’re all very inexpensive. If you got a couple tacos, rice, beans and a soda, you’d barely be at $10. As for authenticity, that tends to be in the eye of the beholder, but any place with tripe stew seems plenty authentic to me.
Sometimes you need to form your own opinion instead of taking the word of a few Yelpers. We were all really pleased with the food and will definitely be back to try some different things. When we do return, I’d sure like to see their dining room as crowded as the trendier joint in town.
Taquiera Las Tapatias is located at 5526 Airway Road in Riverside. For more information, please call 937.256.2131.
Reach DCP freelance writer Brandy King at BrandyKing@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit her blog, foodvsface.com. Caricature by Jay King.