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Phoenix’s Not-So

Taco Heaven

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Carne Burro, just one of many menu items available at Taqueria Los Yaquis in Phoenix.
In A Quest For Tacos Like Those Found On The Streets Of Mexico, One Need Go No Further Than A Trailer Just South Of Downtown Phoenix


By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Aug. 22, 2012 — As a native Arizonan, Mexican food is an integral part of the culture I grew up in. It is a unique and wonderful genre of food that, when done right, is culinary heaven.

However, it is a rustic art form.

Too many times, I have seen trendy joints pop up and ‘over-do’ Mexican food. These places try to mix cultures, tastes and sensibilities and it just doesn't work. While a goat-cheese enchilada with a zucchini drizzle may sound delightful in theory, it is too complicated for its own good.

Conversely, there are also a plethora of Mexican joints that do the food injustice by erring on the side of simplicity. Without naming names, we all know of the restaurants that deep fry a taco shell, shove in some cheap ingredients, pair it with a can of refried beans, and call it a ‘taco plate.’

In my mind, neither place is doing right. When I am craving some good Mexican food, my heart — and my taste buds — hearken back to the taco shops in Tijuana, where I experienced the closest thing to culinary bliss I can remember back in my teenage years.

For years, I have searched the Valley for a place that could bring that taste to me locally.

And I finally found it in the form of the Taqueria Los Yaquis food truck (or trailer, to be more accurate).

The trailer, which is located outside of Charlie's nightclub at 727 W. Camelback Road in Phoenix, is a unique dining experience to say the least. But when it comes to the food, the folks at the Taqueria know what they are doing.

The place, with its outdoor picnic table setup, is in no way fancy. But when it comes to the food, Los Yaquis is definitely not simple or bland.

Taqueria Los Yaquis specializes in carne asada.  There are other items on the menu, but the carne asada is the main draw.

The savory Mexican meat dish, which features flavorful onions and tomatoes, can be enjoyed in few different ways.

The most popular item on the menu has to be the carne asada street tacos. The delectable tacos, served with guacamole and sour cream, are tiny, but at a dollar apiece, you are more than able to indulge yourself. The cooks really know what they are doing and the tacos tell it all.

The meat is crispy on the outside, while remaining juicy and full of flavor on the inside. The guacamole, sour cream, and homemade tortillas each do their part to compliment that flavor.

For those with a bigger stomach, the Taqueria offers the carne asada burrito or the behemoth carne asada quesadilla.

The burrito will satisfy those with a meat tooth, as the burrito-sized tortilla is almost exclusively stuffed full of savory carne.

The quesadilla, on the other hand, is a cheesy meaty mess that I have never been able to finish in one sitting. The mass of guac, onions, meat, and cheese is simply too large. However, it is also too delicious. On more than one occasion, I have nearly made myself sick by pushing by gastronomical limits with this thing.

In addition to a standard soda selection, patrons are welcome to enjoy some authentic horchata with their carne. The cinnamon rice milk is top notch and perfect sweet compliment to most of the dishes on the menu.

You may be asking yourself, if the place is this good, why haven't I heard of it?

It is a great question and the answer is not all that simple.

First, Taqueria Los Yaquis is only open Thursday, 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.; and Sunday 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. — and those hours vary slightly. Once in a while the truck will be open a bit early and sometimes it is open late.

In order to beat the rush, I suggest arriving promptly at 8 p.m., because in a half hour or so the line of locals will be 12 people deep. It is not uncommon to wait about 20 minutes to get your order in at Los Yaquis if you arrive later in the evening. But even then, it is worth it.

Secondly, some people are turned off by Taqueria Los Yaquis appearance and location. Taco trucks often get a bad rap — and rightfully so in many cases — but this place is the exception.

The inside of the restaurant's trailer, which can easily be seen through its large front windows, looks pristine. It looks clean and professional, just like you would expect at any building-based restaurant. To prove it, Los Yaquis proudly displays their "A" Maricopa County Food Safety Rating in the window.

The large front windows also give patrons a nice view of the wizards making the carne asada. One look lets you know that these people are professionals through and through. Just watch the guy speedily cutting the carne into ultra-thin slices while missing his fingers and taking time to glance up at the telenovela that is playing on the in-trailer television.

It is actually quite impressive. As is the carne asada, itself.

So, the next time you are craving authentic Mexican food you can write off the overdone fancy joints and their boring tasteless counterparts. And you can choose Taqueria Los Yaquis.

It is not fancy, and it is not bland. It is just delicious.

Wayne Schutsky is a freelance writer living in Phoenix. Follow him @TheManofLetters.
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