Taqueria Los Parados, meaning 'taco joint of the unemployed,' is probably named as such because the prices are affordable for everyone. Most tacos are only $1.19 and many of the more filling options range from just five to seven dollars. Besides the cheap factor, everything is made from scratch and the owner is omnipresent. She's from Guadalajara and has put a lot of love and thought into each dish, salsa, and drink. The horchata, for example, is not made from a mix and is not overly sweet. Many dishes seem to have a little something special that makes you say, 'Wow, why haven't I see this done elsewhere.'
It's hard to pick a favorite dish but I've got some contenders. One is the shrimp taco, which consists of corn tortillas topped with six sauteed shrimp (yes, I counted), crunchy cabbage, pico, and a spicy yet cooling crema ($2.75). The ingredient that really puts this taco over the edge is the toasted cheese crisp buried under the deconstructed slaw. It adds great texture and a punch of flavor that is undeniably unique. I also love the al pastor taco ($1.19). The pork is marinated in spices then cooked on a gyro rotisserie to give it that great caramelized exterior. The unique touch in this dish is the addition of ripe pineapple strips that add a touch of sweetness to complement the pork and diced onions. Finally, you can't go wrong with brocheta. It's a hodgepodge of grilled meat (I had chicken), peppers, onions, bacon, and oozy cheese served with flavorful homemade beans and saffron colored rice. Since it is served with tortillas I'm inclined to liken it to fajitas...times ten.
Truly everything I've had has been delicious. The lengua (tongue) taco was simple and splendid, as was the carne asada. If you've never had tongue I'd recommend trying it here. Even if you don't like it, and I doubt you won't, you've only lost a mere $1.19. The 'torta ahogada' with al pastor was also interesting ($5.75). It consisted of al pastor and their wonderful beans stuffed inside a french baquette that was then dunked in a vat of tomato sauce (hence the meaning, 'wet sandwich"). I'm not sure if I'd order this over other items, but it's certainly not something you see on a lot of menus and was definitely tasty.
Whatever you do, don't forget to visit the salsa bar. Each preparation is carefully balanced with clean flavors. I like to try every combination possible, but if you shy away from heat then use modestly. Make sure to get the authentic guacamole sauce. In Mexico guacamole isn't generally prepared chunky but is rather more like a sauce. I love the pourable consistency that allows me to get an avocado taste in every bite without adding a lot of bulk to my meal. This is a place that foodies should support, as it is a little slice of real Mexico smack dab in the middle of our city.
Today's Food Ratings:
Shrimp Taco: 9
Taco Al Pastor: 9.5
Taco Carne Asada: 8.5
Torta Ahogada: 8
Would I go back? I'LL BE GOING OFTEN NOW THAT I'VE DISCOVERED IT. IT TRULY PAINS ME I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT SOONER.
pictures: (above) brocheta de pollo, (below, from top to bottom) shrimp taco, carne asada and al pastor tacos, taco de lengua, horchata and salsas, torta ahogada