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Where: Casa De Tacos
Address: 8051 Market St., Boardman
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; and closed Sunday
If you’re lucky, you might find a treasure in your own backyard. If you’re smart, you won’t need a neighbor to point it out to you. As you have probably already guessed, neither of us is a card-carrying member of Mensa, so we were indeed fortunate when someone suggested we visit Casa De Tacos, a stone’s-throw from our office in Boardman.
The recommendation indicated that if we wanted to try some authentic Mexican food, this was the place. Now understand, the last time the two of us shared a “Mexican” meal was about 10 years ago after a party. Our meal was obtained by drive-through at 1:30 a.m. – a sack full of all the soft tacos and burritos that $14 can buy. So the takeaways here are that (1) we are certainly no experts on Mexican cuisine, (2) we eat like swine, and (3) we were eager to try the food at this restaurant.
Jerry and Norma Stevens opened their Boardman establishment about six years ago. Jerry, a native of North Hollywood, wanted to move his family to a more family-oriented and affordable place to live. His wife, Norma, originally from Jalisco, Mexico, uses her family recipes as the backbone of their ample menu. Their idea was to create a takeout-style taqueria similar to those found back on the West Coast.
When you first walk into this place, you may be unimpressed. The plain white walls and the handful of tables might lead you to believe the food matches the Spartan d cor. We’ll tell you right now: The food is outstanding, and this place is a diamond in the rough.
Our meal began with house-made tortilla chips accompanied by three salsas: a vibrant pico de gallo, a mild roja, and a medium-spice roasted tomato and jalapeno. A nice way to awaken our taste buds for the feast that would follow.
We next were treated to a trio of soft tacos. The fish taco consisted of grilled tilapia topped with lettuce, cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream in a fresh corn tortilla. Light and delicious. The carne asada taco, comprising tender marinated steak, onions, cilantro, cheese and a mild red sauce, was a tasty complement to the milder fish taco. One of our favorite samples was the chorizo taco. Chorizo is a sausage made with ground pork and traditional Mexican spices such as oregano, cumin and ground chilies.
The next dish was a bowl of chicken tortilla soup. Norma uses guajillo and ancho chilies to spice this dish. Guajillo is made from dried mirasol peppers, and ancho comes from dried poblano peppers. Both provide a mild, slightly sweet heat. The soup contains tender pieces of white meat chicken, cheese and tortilla chips in a creamy tomato broth that infused with smokiness from the chilies, cumin and coriander creates an incredible flavor profile. Topped with finely chopped onion and cilantro, this was one of the best dishes we’ve had since starting Signature Dishes. The soup is served primarily in the cooler months, September to about April, but because of increasing requests from regulars, it is being featured at other times throughout the year.
As a special treat, Norma made us jalapeno and cheese tamales. A tamale is a classic Mexican dish made from masa, a corn based dough that is wrapped in a corn husk and then steamed. This dish has a soft texture, and when paired with sour cream and their homemade Brava and Habanero hot sauces, was a delight to eat.
Our Mexican feast continued with a Machaca Chicken enchilada. It comprises white meat chicken, green peppers, and onions wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with (you guessed it) house made enchilada sauce. The basis of her sauce is the chile de arbol, which has more spice than the ancho or guajillo. The tanginess of this sauce complemented the savory filling quite well.
Casa De Tacos’ version of refried beans is worth mentioning because it was much lighter and creamier than we expected. The truth is, all the food was better than anticipated and we ate more food than this space allows us to describe.
ABOUT Signature Dishes
Mike and Mark are on the lookout for the biggest, hottest and tastiest dishes in the Valley. Email them at BrothersInFood@gmail.com.