Throwing Caution and Tacos to the Wind
At Seven Mart Food Stores

It's called safety orange for a reason. The international warning symbol for bad, dangerous, all that is wrong with this cursed world, the color that makes mesh vests a smashing fashion statement, is something with which I'm familiar. My father is a safety engineer. A lifetime of his influence has made me a cautious man -- except when it comes to food. In the arena of eats, I'm apt to throw that attribute to the wind and munch.

On a visit to Oak Cliff, I should have high-tailed in the opposite direction when I noticed the word TACO written in the aforementioned color. Instead, I marched valiantly into the bodega with the street-side to-go window, my reservations restrained by the misguided belief that the more divey the establishment, the better the taco. This is a belief held by many taco lovers, among them many of my friends.

Seven Mart is one such example. Sad men grasping poorly hidden tallboys within wrinkled brown paper bags fed coinage into the video slot machines atop an adhesive floor. The linoleum counter at which I ordered and consumed the tacos was cracked and chipped and could have used some bleach. These things did not make for a superlative experience.

Four dollars later, a plate of tacos -- a pile of sautéed onions and one roasted jalapeno at its center -- was before me.The sautéed onions left a metallic aftertaste that lasted longer than my patronage at Seven Mart. The unctuous yellow corn tortillas wrapped around the meat peeled with each new handling. Each bite became more of a struggle, and made me question if I could stomach another. The pastor was dry and in need of the red and green salsa from slimy squirt bottles. The gelatinous chicharrón was a mess that prevented further exploration of the soft rind. Thankfully, I had sampled it before others.

The fajita was a bag of salt in the form of muscle tissue. A shame, as the Tex-Mex-style of beef can be prized, blue-ribbon vittles worthy of praise from the most ardent sentinel of south-of-the-border authenticity. The carnitas taco was passable enough to justify my visit to Seven Mart but not good enough to justify the two-hour round-trip by public transportation. This taco too was devoid of moisture, but at least it had an appropriate amount of seasoning.

On my walk to the taquería within the bodega, I passed other taquerías praised by many in Dallas. Am I sorry that I waved them off as popular hotspots unsuitable for review in this series? No. I'll visit them -- eventually -- but for now am content in knowing that Seven Mart is to be avoided.

Seven Mart Food Stores 501 W. Davis Street 214- 941-7103

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José Ralat Maldonado

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