Taqueria el Poblano – Arlington

June 2006 Cheap Eats

Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, and Salvadoran flavors mix at these taquerias, which have gone beyond serving cheap, tasty food to become friendly neighborhood gathering spots. On weekends the Del Ray patio is taken over by twentysomethings soothing hangovers with huevos rancheros, while the bigger Arlington outlet is the stop of choice for the Little League crowd.

The menu is the same at both. Lightly salted tortilla chips and salsa show up on every table along with smoky red salsa. Tacos are the thing here, but a few appetizers–pork-flecked frijoles charros, a plate of tiny charred onions called cebollitas, and lime-shot guacamole–are worth pausing for.

Tacos are sold singularly, so it's easy to try a bunch. The traditional tacos al pastor, which come out only after 5:30, pile thin shavings of adobo pork with cilantro, pineapple, and red-chili sauce. We love the grilled-shrimp soft taco, with its sweet-tart red-onion escabéche and avocado drizzle, and the LA-style crispy taco, filled with adobo pork.

If there's anything to complain about–besides surcharges for extra salsa–it's the kitchen's lack of consistency. Fried mahi-mahi and duck carnitas tacos are sometimes winners, sometimes dried out. The lime-marinated skirt steak on the tacos al carbon can be overcooked, or just right.