Friday, August 28, 2009

FoodTrek: Viva la Taqueria Guadalajara

If you are familiar with the Eastside city of Bellevue in Washington State, you'll hear a lot of recent press about all the new high-end restaurants and bars coming into the downtown area, each one trying to beat out the other for being the coolest kid in school, but sometimes it's not about that intangible and somewhat irksome coolness factor. Sometimes it's just about delicious street food and following the lunchtime crowd to discover that it's quite hip to be square.

Magical Animal and a Slip of the Tongue - photo by Wasabi Prime

Right off the busy snarl of intersections on 148th Avenue, in the Union 76 gas station parking lot in the Overlake neighborhood, Taqueria Guadalajara has set up its truck to feed an ever-growing line of hungry lunchgoers. The crowds are a mix of young and old, white collar professionals and burly construction dudes. There is no particular type of customer, as they really are a food purveyor to the people. Truly everyone comes to this place. There should be a sign put up at the entrance of the parking lot: Abandon all Hunger, Ye Who Enter Here. A line of customers curve alongside the asphalt, doing their best to avoid getting mowed over by cars heading to the gas station. Despite the risk to life and limb, it's worth it, as this magic bus is delicioso.

The food is simple and familiar, having offerings including tacos, quesadillas, tortas and burritos. Pricing ranges from $1.25 per taco, to a whole $5 for the Guadalajara Torta, a hefty grilled sandwich overstuffed with the works. The meaty options range from the everyday chicken, to the more traditional lengua (tongue), for a few cents more. There's the typical array of sodas, but they also offer horchata, a milky, nutty-flavored beverage that's popular in both Mexico and Spain. Lunches are made to order, a mad flurry of activity within the confined taqueria truck, before a savory plate of wonderful is served up. One can eat on the narrow bar table attached to the truck, sitting below the order window, or do what a lot of people do, hover in groups and just eat while standing, enjoying the sun if it happens to be out for a lunchtime visit.

Power to the Hungry People! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

As much as I wanted to eat everything on the menu, I stuck with what my gut said and that afternoon, it was pleading, dos tacos, por favor. I picked two different animals for lunchtime, getting one taco al pastor (pork) and one con lengua, which was most likely beef tongue. I know it's a cut of meat that people don't immediately jump for excitement about, despite the fact that we all admit to eating hot dogs and a good portion of the rest of the animal. It can be a tough cut, but the lengua they served was chopped finely and cooked tender. The pork was especially naughty-good, as it was delectable little fatty chunks, fried crisp from a short waltz on the grill. The tortillas were hand-sized, doubled-up, and tasted of handmade white corn goodness. Probably lard, too, but that's OK. A generous sprinkle of fresh cilantro, sliced radish, a wedge of lime, and lunch was served. I ordered a tamarind flavored bottle of Jarritos, a Mexican soda that comes in a kaleidoscope of colors. I always see them lined up in the stores, thinking the syrupy sweetness wouldn't go with much, other than a severe case of diabetic shock, but the tart tamarind paired nicely with the savory, fresh tacos.

I got a chance to sample off friends' orders as well, and can say the quesadilla was something special and worth another visit. Far more appealing than the aunt from Napoleon Dynamite yelling to her dimwitted nephews: "Go and make yourself a que-sah-dillah!"

If you have a chance to make your way to Taqueria Guadalajara's mobile kitchen of heavenly delights, I highly recommend it, especially before the summer ends. Ignore the hype of hot opening restaurant-newness for just a little while and just enjoy something delicious and uncomplicated, appealing to both body and soul.

Bookmark and Share


  1. What a brave lil soldier you are, tongue indeed! Love the pictures!

  2. I drive past that gas station on my way to work everyday but have never tried it. You make me want to go and try it now!


Commentary encouraged. Fresh baked cookies, super-encouraged. (hit the 'post comment' button twice, sometimes it's buggy)