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First Look: El Tizoncito Taqueria

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How far would you go for a really great taco? Guess it depends on your definition of "great".

We're of the opinion that taco perfection comes in many guises, whether tucked in the corner of a Tex-Mex combo plate or served through a walk-up window at a certain area truck stop. Tacos, by nature, are cheap, quick and casual, and for those reasons (among others), they're frequent fodder for debate. In this recessionary climate, few have the dough to rank the best dry-aged rib eye in town, but just about everyone with a few dollars and a stomach can get in on the taco game.

And boy howdy, they do. From those little Fuel City beauties to any number of East Dallas gems, we love our local tacos and we love to pick our faves. And for a few miles more, you could be the first to "discover" a new and noteworthy entry in Oak Cliff.

El Tizoncito opened back in April at the corner of Illinois and Westmoreland. The surrounding neighborhood is cute--rickety but cute--though it's definitely a haul. You'll leave the highway far behind and pass by plenty of other tempting taquerias on your way to this new spot, which sits at the edge of a shiny shopping center anchored by a Fiesta supermarket.

The restaurant isn't typical of others of its ilk--El Tizoncito is not a hole in the wall. The restaurant sports a big, bright sign and a clean, well-lit interior with plenty of fast-cazsh touches. From the moment you walk in, it's clear this place was designed for success.

Owner Leo Spencer has a solid background in the food biz in Mexico, so there's no mistaking this place for a homespun Mom-and-Pop. He's a pro and it shows, from the picture-perfect cubed pineapple that accompanies his tacos al pastor to the tidy row of electric drink dispensers filled with tamarind margaritas and milky-white horchata. Order those tacos al pastor and watch as the cook carves your meat to order from a glistening trompo, cradling the shaved pork with a folded tortilla as it falls from the knife. He'll then flip it onto a screaming hot grill, tossing and warming it, before serving it up in a neat little basket along with finely diced onion and pineapple, chopped cilantro and limes.

Alambres de Chuleta are a different animal altogether, a hash-like concoction of pork and cheese and chiles, chopped with the edge of a spatula into an oozing, addictive mass. (We'll get two orders of that next time.) Menudo, the famous hangover helper, is also made with care. Served up in a giant, steaming bowl, the brick-red soup is chock full of chewy tripe in a complex sour-and-funky broth.

We'll be back to try the bistec and barbacoa. Sure, there's great tacos right around the corner, but why not make the drive for a new discovery?

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