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El Borracho arrives in Tacoma

El Borracho takes over the space previously held by Marrow on Sixth Ave. Photo credit: Christian Carvajal

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The Weekly Volcano did a poor job of hiding the fact that Marrow, a vegetarian- and carnivore-friendly restaurant on Tacoma's Sixth Avenue, was a staff favorite. When it closed last year, we were gutted, then anxious to see who'd move in to that plum real estate. The answer arrived last week in the form of El Borracho, a Seattle-based mini-chain of tequila-worshipping taquerias. El Borracho is street Spanish for "The Alkie," and that reflects the bar's costarring role with the kitchen. Indeed, the place is open till two every night.

Expect a full review down the road. In the meantime, take it from this writer, a born Los Angeleno who grew up around proud, Mexican restauranteurs: El Borracho is righteous. As with the menu at Marrow, the taqueria's list of fillings is replete with both traditional and exotic protein choices plus delicious vegetarian options. They're so judiciously spiced you'll have little reason to sample the bouquet of sauces in the iced salsa bar -- but you should. One bite of the lamb evoked family weekend afternoons, cooking what we called chicharrónes (a word that seems to change definition all over the Latin world) with salsa verde over open fires. The cochinita pibil (roast piglet) is a standout, and the manager swears by the duck, but the potato-poblano option is so good you could renounce animal protein altogether. Each taco is available as a larger burrito. Note the fluffy, house-made corn tortillas, then wish you had a live-in Mexican aunt who could make them all day. Each taco is less than five bucks; "El Cheapo" margaritas from the tap are just four.

"Growin' up in L.A.," said co-owner and executive chef Adam Pomerleau, "I remember goin' to Olvera Street; I remember my favorite taquerias, my favorite little spots where we always used to go. A taco is just second-nature. It's such good street food. It's the best. It's such a vessel for all the different flavors -- myriads of spices and sweetness they put together in Mexican culture." Pomerleau is Anglo but worked in restaurants all over Los Angeles. He went to Le Cordon Bleu and has a culinary degree, but his real training in Mexican cuisine was "cookin' with my line cooks ... learnin' how to make tamales with them and their families, learnin' their recipes. I learned how to cook from them and just thought it was an underserved niche in Seattle." The Emerald City has two locations, one in Ballard, the other in Pike Place Market. "It's really a homage to Mexican street food," said Pomerleau. "I just kinda wanted to add some more obscure meats."

Asked for advice on how to dive into more refined tequilas after undergraduate Cuervo shots, Pomerleau began, "It kinda depends on your palate," then launches into a two-minute discourse -- añejos, blancos, the list goes on. We don't have room for that here, so you'll just have to benefit from his connoisseurship in person at El Borracho.

El Borracho, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, 2727 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.314.5286

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