On a trip to Chicago to see Young Fresh Fellows when I was a teenager I marveled at the number of storefront Mexican restaurants where you just ordered through a window and then exchanged cash for food through the same window.
There were no seats, no entry to the restaurant and nowhere to eat except for hunkered down on the curb or sitting Indian leg style on the sidewalk.
Little did I know I was eating the fruit of the labors of enganchistas, labor recruiters, who worked in Northern Mexico and the American Southwest to recruit Mexican workers to Illinois in the 1910s.
This largely male diaspora settled primarily on Chicago’s west side and in the Calumet areas, formed colonias and worked long hard shifts in the steel industry and meat packing business til they could afford to move their women folk north to the promised land.
This is why some of the best Mexican food in the US is available in Chicago.
Taco Mex on Manor Road takes a page from the Chicago Mexican playbook and serves delectable tacos from a tiny storefront window in a small plaza on Austin’s east side.
I’ve eaten here for years and always had good food so when I came up with my Bean and Cheese taco series for www.chowpapi.com I made a mental note to revisit and see what the current state of affairs at Taco Mex is.
The taco arrives on doubled up, store bought corn tortillas. While I daydream fiercely about how good Blanca or Jessica’s tortillas they make from scratch at home are, I dig in.
It’s a good taco. The pintos are the perfect mix of whole beans, creamed beans and what I call bean stock. A bean-y, creamy broth that transports the flavors of the beans in a liquid medium.
Portion size is hefty with plentiful cheese [I ate like a starving man without noting the color] and a emulsified green sauce packing some good heat.
Known on the street as Magic Taco Box, Taco Mex is the only Chicago style Mexican storefront restaurant of it’s kind in town. With food this good something tells me that a proper brick and mortar restaurant is in these ladies’ near future.
2611 Manor Rd
About the Stars:
4 **** Extraordinary, life changing
3 *** Excellent
2 * Very good
1 * Good
0 * Mediocre to Acceptable
Quality, price, service and ambiance are all taken into account when rating.