Taqueria el Sabor del Parque in Highlandtown faces Patterson Park, a bright little corner of light looking out onto Linwood St. with the requisite 10 tables, Univision flat screen, 27 kinds of tacos, and a startingly clean bathroom. I went in solo last week before a show at the Creative Alliance and ordered myself al pastor and chorizo tacos, which came with a four-corner caddy of blended and chopped salsas. Without asking, I was told: everything is spicy. Cue swooning.
The evolution, or death, of taste buds is amazing. The first time I ate Mexican food was my freshman year of college at a TexMex joint in Dupont Circle. It was the first time I realized that rice and beans and cheese could be rearranged in infinite combinations of joy, and I was sold. Years later, I worked a few blocks from Philadelphia’s Italian market, and found out from Taqueria la Veracruzana that real tacos have no cheese. I was impoverished, but three tacos al pastor with pineapple and cilantro only cost $6.
In Allentown, I got enlightened at the bodega-style La Placita. It was the first place in the Lehigh Valley where someone advised me to get the MORE spicy option, warming my picante heart. We jammed on spicy pork with cactus, green enchiladas, and mango Jarritos. Everyone got indigestion every time we went, but who cares?
I don’t normally encourage food worship, but tacos are heaven. Taco joints are also a revitalization of something America used to have in corner delis and pizza places. A place where you might actually see a neighbor, and a restaurant informal enough to talk to them. You can also practice your Spanish, while juggling your tripe, pork belly, tongue, or just plain carne asada, and getting covered in tomatillo salsa.
Provecho. Es muy picante.