No-frills and hole-in-the wall are phrases at risk of becoming as hackneyed as "I love you." However, when you walk into Tacos El Guero, those will be the first words that come to mind. If you've been to New York City and visited any of its Chinatowns, odds are you'll also be reminded of any number of dumpling shacks in Lower Manhattan, Sunset Park or Flushing.
My years in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, afforded me the gift of both dumplings and tacos on either end of the hill from hell. (If you've been to the neighborhood south of stroller-infested Park Slope -- like the friend who I met at El Guero -- then you know what that blasted hill is.) In Brooklyn, the taquerías were usually large, accommodating families feasting on combo platters, fatty, succulent cheek meat, chivo, pastor and lengua, while the establishments selling dumplings were often the size of walk-in closets. It was in Sunset Park that I learned to love lengua tacos. Rarely has a taquería provided me with a floor-dragging lengua. That is, until I stopped into El Guero.
I took a glance at the lengua taco on our plate. I took another glance. It was a smooth, cabeza taco melting in my mouth. Then, it dawned on me: I was about to French kiss a cow's tongue. The meat wasn't shredded. It wasn't minced. It was whole. Oh, no, it was a poorly shaved tongue. Some of the pappilae had been missed. "It's not very good," my taco-tasting companion noted, as I reached for my half. How bad could it be? It's lengua. Lengua rocks. Well, this lengua left my mouth into a napkin lickety-split. The texturally tough meat was made worse by the other overwhelmingly fantastic options at the East Dallas shop.
There's the rub. El Guero does almost everything else so well that when something faulty enters your maw, it's made all the worse. The other bombs were the chorizo and the gringa choriqueso. Since enjoying the choriqueso at El Tizoncito, I wondered where else such a treat could be found. El Guero's version, served as a quesadilla sincronizada, had nary a hint of cheese. It was nothing more than low-grade, grain-pumped, finger-staining pork, mealy, with an aluminum after-taste. The choriqueso and chorizo taco, needless to say, were left unfinished.
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Little trace was left of the other tacos. Aside from the aforementioned options, pastor, bistec, tripa and suadero, the house specialty, are available. The latter will be given to you gratis if it's your first time eating at El Guero. I had mine while waiting for my friend to arrive. It was a holy shit! taco, one that could only be produced by a taquero in possession of an economy of movement, a taquero so focused on his craft that my compliments and those of others went unnoticed.
Kudos also goes out to my dining companion, who was insistent I try the tripa taco, even after I told her every one I've ever had was repulsive. No good can come of intestines. The filling was crispy, knotted from the cooking process, and did what fine food does -- transport the eater to another place, another time, another holy shit! The coquis were singing, the rain was slowly drumming the banana leaves, and my maternal grandfather was coming through my grandmother's house with a whole spit-roasted pig across his shoulders. But, I wasn't back on the island of Puerto Rico ready to feast on the skin of a pig. I was in East Dallas. And happy to be wrong.
Tacos El Guero 4500 Bryan St. 214-923-0394