How you say ‘taco’ in English…

by Brian Clarey

Carne asada tacos at Carnicerita al Mercadito No. 2 are the real frickin’ deal. (photo by Brian Clarey)

I am not in the habit of basing the weekly Chow story on the gastronomic musings of Greensboro’s corps of conservative bloggers.

But here we are. It was Dr. Joe Guarino who finally convinced me to try the fare at Donut World just a few weeks ago, and for this week’s piece I decided to write about a dish I now realize I learned about on the blog of onetime Guilford County GOP executive director the and current member of the War Memorial Commission Tony Wilkins. To be fair, Wilkins admits to learning of this dish from another blogger, Ed Cone, who, his wardrobe notwithstanding, is not generally considered to be a conservative.

The dish in question: tacos asada, one of a handful of authentic Mexican dishes available at Carniceria al Mercadito’s two Greensboro locations.

The mercadito on High Point Road, where I took my lunch, serves many functions. It is, as its name suggests, a carniceria, or butcher shop, with a crew of be-aproned young men cutting meat and fish behind a lavishly stocked glass counter. It is a panadería, or bakery, with cases of fresh-baked sweet breads, pastries and other offerings. And it is a market, with several aisles overflowing with groceries, specializing in Latin and pan-Asian goods.

It is also a taquería, with a small stand of lunch booths and a crew of bustling Latinas working the hot grill.

The fare is simple and traditional: tacos, tortas, quesadillas and gorditas, available with marinated pork (al pastor), tongue (lengua), chicken (pollo), chorizo sausage, pork rinds (chicharon), marinated steak (asada) or tripa, which, if you don’t know what it is, you probably shouldn’t get it.

Tripa is a principal ingredient in menudo, a traditional Mexican soup also available here, along with caldo cameron, a spicy shrimp soup, and sopa maricos, a seafood stew. There is also roasted chicken, slowcooked barbacoa and a spicy shrimp cocktail.

I include the Spanish here because it is likely it will come in handy at this place — which is populated not only by Greensboro bloggers but also by Latinos of every stripe: families, crews of laborers, senior citi zens and lunch-hour professionals.

Another word to the wise: If you are easily spooked by places with low health department inspection ratings, this may not be your place. A 92 may look good on a spelling test, but for some restaurant-goers, it’s a deal breaker.

But for me it’s the tacos asada, all the way, which adds diced, fresh tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce and wonderful crumbly cheese to fresh cilantro and chopped onion.

A word of warning: If your idea of a taco is meat and cheese on a big, folded Frito, you may not recognize the basket of plenty before you, four handmade, soft tortillas overflowing with the goods, served with a roasted jalapeño and small onion.

I eat them at the tables beneath a platoon of piñatas: Dora the Explorer, yes, but also Batman, Pooh Bear, Spongebob, Spider-Man, Hello Kitty and a line of princesses. I douse them with two kinds of taco sauces, red and green, and apply a stripe of the mild avocado sauce that keeps the heat in check. I chase them down with a bottle of tamarind Jarritos soda, made with natural flavors and actual sugar. And it is the best meal I’ve had in a while.

Part of it is the carne asada itself, which comes from the butcher counter a few yards down: fresh, artfully marinated and spiced, these are the only tacos I’ve had in a year where I can actually taste the beef. Part of it is the authenticity, a far cry from Taco Bell or even other Mexican restaurants in town. And surely part of it is the atmosphere, as conducive to taco eating as any.

I love these tacos. And as soon as I file this story, health department be damned, I’m going back for more.

wanna go?

Carniceria al Mercadito No. 2 3821-A High Point Road 103 Muirs Chapel Road Greensboro 336.855.5722