Seeking real tacos at Guadalajara

by Brian Clarey

Life is too short to eat bad tacos.

That epiphany came to me a couple years ago, not long after I discovered the mercadito and the taco trucks and YES! Weekly staff favorite Villa del Mar, places where traditional, authentic tacos shamed their Americanized counterparts at inferior Mexican restaurants all over the Triad.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for real tacos, wrapped in housemade tortillas, made with meat fresh from the carnicería, chopped onions, a little cilantro and a squeeze of lime. And when I noticed the pastel rise of Taquería Guadalajara #2, looking like a little slice of Mexico on the side of Peters Creek Parkway, I pulled right in.

There are Mexican restaurants in the Triad that cater almost exclusively to the American palate, and then there are Mexican restaurants where actual Latinos go to eat. Guadalajara is a little bit of both — the lunchtime crowd chattered away in both Spanish and English, and the menu has some items that I would consider “gringo friendly.”

But the place is known for its tortas, those magnificent overstuffed sandwiches, and giant burritos. Sometimes I eat that stuff, but anyone who regularly goes to lunch with me knows I have a voracious appetite for tacos — one day I ate nine of them off a taco truck, though they were the small ones and only cost a buck apiece.

Guadalajara’s taco menu is, for a traditionalist like me, everything I could hope for: alongside more mainstream fillings like carne asada, boiled or grilled chicken, chorizo, pork and shrimp sit the hardcore Latino stuff like tripe, beef head and tongue, deep-fried pork and green sausage. And while my quest for authenticity in Mexican food has landed my mouth in some pretty strange circumstances, I have yet to develop a taste for tripe. Or tongue.

I placed an order for four barbacoa tacos. Barbacoa is like Mexican sloppy Joe: loose, chopped beef stewed in a spicy, tomato-based sauce. In the meantime, my server brought the requisite basket of tortilla chips. As a measure of difference between Guadalajara and other less worthy Mexican joints, the chips game with fresh pico de gallo and not one but two types of hot sauce, a green jalapeño blend and a deep red sauce with a crushed pepper-seed suspension. All of them are hot — not hot by Triad standards but real hot, south-of-the-border hot, taking-a-sip-of-water-makes-it-worse hot. I consider mine to be a seasoned palate, but I had to use the hot sauces sparingly.

And then came the barbacoa, ensconced in abuela-grade tortillas, with fresh chopped onions, deep-green cilantro and a lime that had just been cut, all served on the side.

One order gets you four tacos at Guadalajara, and admittedly the tortillas are small — I assume the menu’s “super taco,” with crema, avocado and cheese, comes on a larger tortilla — but the regular-sized tacos are overstuffed with meat, way more than at the $1 taco truck. And even though I can eat tacos for miles, I was satisfied after polishing off the four.

There’s more to the place than the tacos, of course: fajitas, quesadillas, seafood dishes and especialidades including a low-dollar lunch item each day. Interior walls wear a coat of cheery yellow paint, with artwork evocative of our neighbor to the south. And in the back, there’s a really nice-looking bar.

But I’m a man on a mission. And if the plan is never to eat crappy tacos again, then I have to snap up the good ones wherever I find them.


Taquería Guadalajara #2; 980 Peters Creek Pkwy., Winston-Salem; 336.724.9299