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Tagueria El Antojo

Good Mexican on McKinley hill

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When the weather outside is frightful, I soothe my freezing bones with south of the border tastes. Tagueria El Antojo in Tacoma’s McKinley neighborhood fits the bill beautifully. The mostly authentic Mexican restaurant resides in the same spot where their taco truck once sat — a newly built modern mini-strip building, which holds promise for the area bringing new and much needed businesses to the slow-to-revitalize McKinley area.

Since opening in February, it’s not surprisingly that Antojo has a rapidly developing group of loyal fans. What draws them back, again and again? The exceptional pricing — not one item is over $11 — and the fresh ingredients have everything to do with it.

Smiling, friendly staff is but a bonus.

People in the know crave the camarones a la diablo ($9.99), a spicy plate of sautéed shrimp swimming in a chili sauce accompanied by rice and cheesy refried beans.

They also rave about the taco combos ($6.29). Choices of adobadaa (spicy pork), birris (shredded beef), carnitas (fried pork), cabeza (roasted cow head meat), and lengua (tongue) mixed with onion, fresh cilantro and tomatilla sauce wrapped with flour tortillas (the price includes a soda). This is a hearty, yet not heavy meal.

At peak hours, the casual restaurant may feel a bit crowded. Families and groups of friends fill up the plentiful seating. Conversations abound. Smiles are shared, and as first bites are taken from large plates of steaming aromatic food, napkins are needed. Juices from tacos, burritos, tortas and fresh salsa are greedily licked from fingers.

An added touch is the free salsa bar. Three salsas with varying temperatures beckon. Mild green for beginners, medium reddish brown with a kick and deep red for those that have no fear. Pickled carrots, chili marinated onion and radish act as accompaniment for any dish. Tangy lime juice-doused shredded slaw was a bit spicy, but also instantly addictive. I heaped it on top of an order of mulitas ($3.79), a fantastic small plate with seasoned beef, melted cheese, fresh chopped onion, tomato cilantro salsa and guacamole laid between two grilled flour tortillas. The whole roasted jalapeno and grilled white onion that came on the plate were a tasty treat.

[Tagueria El Antojo, 3801 McKinley Ave., Tacoma, 253.475.0375]

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