DINING

Tacos Rudos proves a main card draw at Budd Dairy Food Hall

The lucha libre-themed taqueria delivers big flavors, including stellar al pastor

G.A. Benton
The asada taco and fish taco at Tacos Rudos photographed on Thursday, January 6, 2022.`

Occupying a secluded space equipped with its own entrance, seating and TV, Tacos Rudos almost seems like a separate and autonomous eatery inside the Budd Dairy Food Hall. And the pocket-sized Mexican restaurant was among the best taquerias to open in Columbus last year.

In addition to a couple of tables and counter-style seating, Tacos Rudos features a busy little open kitchen with black-and-white tiles where servers press fresh corn tortillas into being and then toast and puff them up on a griddle. Another telltale indicator that Tacos Rudos isn't a run-of-the-mill establishment is a prominent vertical spit, aka “trompo,” where al pastor meat is slowly seared and later sliced. 

Above the counter where orders are taken, beside elevated bottles of glimmering, tropical-colored Jarritos Mexican sodas ($3.25 each), lies a link to this place’s name: masks of the type that might be worn by “rudos” — the predetermined bad guys of the sports-related spectacle called lucha libre, or freestyle professional Mexican wrestling.   

As explained to me by a pleasantly chatty server at this family operated eatery overseen by “chef partner” Ana Cruz of Oaxaca, Mexico, a member of the Cruz family was once a professional rudo in Mexico City. I can safely report that I didn't encounter a single bad guy at Rudos, professional or otherwise. Instead, I encountered consistently good food and service. 

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The small menu delivered big flavors. Only four proteins were available, but each arrived amply packed into a delicious taco worth its relatively hefty price.

The super-juicy, cinnamon-tinged al pastor meat lived up to its spit-roasted promise. In a taco ($4.50), it’s showcased with pineapple playing off spicy and vibrant salsa verde, onions, cilantro and a good house tortilla. The same accessories, minus pineapple, flattered the asada taco ($4.50), which starred diced, almost-tender beef with a persuasive steak-like flavor.

The fish taco and asada taco at Tacos Rudos photographed on Thursday, January 6, 2022.`

Fish taco fans will find a winner here (pescado taco, $5.50): crackly, beer-battered red snapper outfitted with crisp red cabbage, pico de gallo, plus a rich-yet-spicy “serrano cream sauce.” The same bold accouterments, plus queso fresco and cilantro, added extra punch to the pollo taco ($4.50), a zippy and tomatoey standout that featured a tinga-style chicken stew. While rather salty, it induced several later cravings.  

Meats and other core ingredients are reconfigured into various guises — a common practice in taquerias. So that same fine stewed chicken topped notably crisp and light, freshly fried tortilla chips in a moderate-sized but far above average order of nachos ($11) garnished with rich queso sauce and pico de gallo.

The hearty tortas ($12) were distinguished, as well. Expected fillings — chosen meats, mayo, guacamole and red cabbage — joined a surprising layer of crispy, frico-like fried cheese in a flavorful bun griddled to crunchy on its interior but cool on the exterior, at least in my case. 

The Gringa with hibiscus drink at Tacos Rudos photographed on Thursday, January 6, 2022.`

A similar fried-to-brittle cheese treatment added distinction to quesadillas enveloped in floppy, oversized house corn tortillas ($11). A crinkly sheet of toasted cheese likewise added textural pizzazz to the excellent gringa ($9) — an open-faced, quesadilla-like delight whose frico element was abundantly topped with the always-welcome components of Rudos’ al pastor tacos. 

A great partner for such savory items is the refreshingly tart-sweet hibiscus drink ($3.75), a first-rate version of the punch-like iced beverage made with hibiscus flowers that elsewhere in town is called “agua de Jamaica” or just “Jamaica.”

If you’re having the tres leches cake ($6) — and you should — that heaving slab of dairy-saturated, yet structurally sound, light and airy cake with a bonus layer of strawberry jam pairs best with “coffeechata” ($5), another highly recommended beverage. Word-wise, coffeechata is a portmanteau of its ingredients — coffee and horchata (milky, sweetened rice water). Drink-wise, it’s a mood-elevating treat that conjures a cinnamon-scented, happy marriage between Thai iced coffee and iced chai latte.

The torta with chicken at Tacos Rudos photographed on Thursday, January 6, 2022.`

Tacos Rudos

1086 N. 4th St. in the Budd Dairy Food Hall, Italian Village

614-660-8226

budddairyfoodhall.com/vendors/tacos-rudos