Restaurant review: Taqueria Guadalajara is bold, authentic and inexpensive

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Recently opened Taqueria Guadalajara doesn’t have a kitschy Day of the Dead motif or a rock-and-roll soundtrack. It doesn’t offer craft beers, neo-margaritas or any alcohol at all. In fact, Taqueria Guadalajara’s “bells and whistles” are limited to a clean dining room with fanciful tables and chairs depicting village scenes in eye-popping, colorful bas reliefs.

But the main reasons you wouldn’t mistake Taqueria Guadalajara for another ripple in the spilling-over pool of nouveau taco peddlers is because Guadalajara’s tacos are served reliably hot in authentic soft corn tortillas, they are delicious, and they cost only $1.50.

In a nutshell, Guadalajara is a modest but bright and cute brick-and-mortar setting for very good taco truck food — and more — sold at taco truck prices.

Laminated menus at the counter offer accurate color photographs of Guadalajara’s fare, but few descriptions. With its proficient cooking and low prices though, your risk is minimal.

If you want chips and salsa ($2), you’ll get fresh if routine salsa and just-fried corn tortilla triangles. And you’ll get a lot.

Obviously tacos are a major draw. They arrive spiked with hot sauce and garnished with onions and cilantro. As with most items, they’re partnered with a little bowl holding richness-cutting pickled vegetables, pickled chilies, sliced limes and radishes.

Tacos are selected by filling, and every one I sampled was bursting with flavor. The asada — juicy and tender seared beef cubes — is an excellent and crowd-pleasing choice. I also enjoyed the carnitas (slow-cooked pork), which, unlike versions from many taco purveyors, were properly crisped on the exterior. The chicken and al pastor (spicy pork) were likewise seared, tender, juicy and flavorful.

Still, my overall favorite meat was Guadalajara’s lengua — beef tongue. Oh relax. Because in skillful hands like the cooks’ at Guadalajara, lengua resembles unctuous beef stew cubes with a terrific brisket flavor. If you’ve never had it, this is a good place to try it.

Guadalajara offers other treats sold by choice of meat, such as Mulitas ($2). Similar to a grilled cheese sandwich, only made with tortillas and Mexican cheese and tricked-out with zesty salsa, Guadalajara’s mulitas are an outrageous deal.

Ditto for the irresistible Sopitos ($2). These are crunchy little masa discs topped with pinto beans, a meat choice, pico de gallo, crema, lettuce and cotija cheese. Tuck most of those same ingredients into a toasted soft sub-type roll, add sliced avocado, and it equals a torta ($7).

Guadalajara also offers entree salads, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas and formidable platters like its Pollo Platillo ($10). While lots of restaurants serve a similar half-chicken dinner, not many deliver on the kind of crackly and perfectly seasoned skin with moist and tender meat underneath. The falling-off-the-bone bird was served with rich refried beans that were still textured, above-average Mexican rice and warm corn tortillas.

Seafood gets its due, too. There’s a served-whole fish dinner, ceviche and several shrimp preparations. If you enjoy aggressive food as I do, try the Mexican classic called Aguachile ($12).

In essence a large shrimp ceviche salad, aguachile is a fire-and-ice dish that “cooks” slivers of sliced raw shrimp in an alluringly ferocious chilled broth of lime juice steeped with chili peppers and strewn with strips of red onion. Tempering the volatile rush of acid and capsaicin are small blobs of avocado, crescents of refreshing cucumber and the sweet-tasting crustaceans themselves.

Served with crispy fried corn tortillas for scooping and contrast, it’s a bold-tasting feast that won’t weigh you down or leave your wallet feeling light. You can find plenty of food like that at this unassuming new little Mexican eatery.

Photos by Meghan Ralston

Taqueria Guadalajara

2448 Home Acre Dr., Northeast Side