What to Expect in a Taqueria

Some tips for gringos on taqueria dining

What to Expect in a Taqueria

photo by Shawn Poynter

If you’re an adventurous diner, then this advice will be old hat. But if Don Pablo’s seems exotic to you, then you might want to take note of the tips below.

• Take cash. While most of the taquerias listed here do take credit and debit cards, a few had machines that seemed to be on the fritz more often than not. It’s also good to have cash on hand to tip your waitress.

• You won’t pay your waitress. Ask her for the bill and then take it up front to the counter. If you are paying with a card and don’t have cash to tip, make sure you ask if you need to add the tip before the card is run—most places do not have receipts that allow you to tip as you sign it, but they will all run the card for extra and give you the cash to leave a tip.

• Don’t expect to get a margarita. Your alcoholic drink choices will likely be beer or a michelada—the Mexican version of a Bloody Mary, served with beer instead of vodka. If you order one, make sure to ask for the specific type of beer you want with it. Oh, and you will be carded.

• Don’t expect an automatic serving of chips and salsa.

• Do expect music and/or televised soccer games to be playing—loudly.

• Don’t expect good service. Sometimes you’ll get it, but sometimes you won’t. If the taqueria is packed, and you’re the only white person in the restaurant, you will not be a priority. Enjoy the chance to have leisurely conversation with your dining companions and tip generously anyway.

• Expect the menu to be in Spanish. If you have no idea what something is, try Googling it on your smart phone (if so equipped). Your server might know some English, but not enough to explain the menu to you.

• Most places don’t have posted hours of operation, but you can generally assume the kitchen is likely open from 11 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m.—possibly later, if there’s a big soccer game on.

ALSO: Types of Tacos

Here are some key words to remember when ordering tacos at your local taqueria.

Asada: grilled beef, usually sirloin or rib

Barbacoa: slow-cooked shredded beef

Buche: fried pig esophagus

Cabeza: grilled muscles from the head of a cow

Cachete: beef cheek

Camaron: shrimp

Carnitas: roasted, shredded pork

Chicharon: pork rinds

Chorizo: sausage

Desebrada: shredded beef

Lengua: beef tongue

Pastor: “shepherd style,” aka slow-roasted pork

Pescado: fish

Pollo: chicken

Rajas: roasted peppers

Suadero: smooth grilled beef brisket

Tripa: crunchy fried small intestines, either from a cow, pig, or sheep

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