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Tongue tacos, menudo, birria, pozole in Bham

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  • G200 Jan 6, 2008 06:32 PM
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Having recently moved to Hoover from Atlanta, I find myself frustrated by the lack of real Mexican "fast food". You know, the food you might buy at a street stall. I imagine there is a Latin market with a counter in the back that serves Mexicans and the few gringos who are willing to try something a little more out of the ordinary. How about tongue tacos, pozole verde or rojo. birria. Can someone point me in the right direction?

Thanks. By the way, I'd like to recommend a place called D's Tamales to Go for, you guessed it, tamales. I made the 30 minute trip to Hueytown to buy 3 dozen. They are not Mexican or Central American tamales, but rather the Mississippi-Arkansas tamale. I spoke to the proprietor about his business and his technique. He ties his tamales in bundles of three, although they are wrapped in corn husks. (Many Southern tamales are actually wrapped in a type of paper.) Like Southern tamales, D boils vs. steams his tamales. The masa to filling ratio was ideal, and they were very moist. I wasn't crazy about the chicken, as it has a cajun seasoning. The owner mentioned that he is from Louisiana.

Thanks.

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  1. Welcome to Birmingham. We do not have the availability of cuisiines one might find on Buford Hwy, but the Latin offerings are not bad. It's really the various Asian cuisines where Bham lags ..

    Try the places on Lorna Rd (ie Taqueria Valencia) and perhaps the Mercado at Green Springs and West Valley in the same shopping center as Big Lots.

    Also, the Gordo's on the left on West Valley before you get to Green Springs (coming from town). I am almost positive that I saw lengua there when I stopped by one night.

    The following threads may be of interest.

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/452807

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/452807

    Have not seen menudo, birria, or pozole here yet, but those tend to be specials. I would ask someone at the mercado, they are very accomodating and so nice. I just wish I spoke better Spanish (read: more than ordering Spanish) to bridge the language divide.

    Dax

    1. We have a wealth of Mexican taquerias that serve much of "taco truck" food yo're looking for. Pozole, menudo and the like are usually served Saturdays only at these places. In Hoover, try Taqueria Mexico on Lorna Road (3724, near Best Buy but across the street). Taqueria Mi casita in the Pallisades shopping center off Green Springs Highway serves great examples of just about everything you seek. I haven't tried the taquerias in Pelham, but those would be worth exploring (in the U.S. 31 area).
      Dax is right: Gordos, Super Mercado in the Green Springs/Valley Ave. area have much of what you seek. On weekends, the Super Mercado has a great assortment of prepared foods (including tamales, pork in tomatillo sauce, etc), but house-made tortillas.
      Closer to home is the Mercado on Lorna Road at the big curve, up on the hill turn by the self-serve car wash. It's run by the same people as the Super Mercado (so is Taqueria Mexico) and has much of the same selection. Unfortunately, the only pozole I see there is canned (which isn't as good, even if the brand name is my Mom's first name: Juanita).
      I've got a couple of other places in mind, but need to confirm names and locations.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Big Daddy

        Thanks Guys. I'm heading out with a buddy and our kids tomorrow night for some tacos de lengua (?) We're going to try Taqueria Mexico and Taqueria Valencia. Sounds like Gordos this weekend for some tamales. I'll let you know

        1. re: G200

          The Mercado is the place with the tamales (or has been in the past on the weekends). Definitely get some carnitas by the pound and some of the excellent picante.

          Gordo's is more of a torta and taco place I think, still need to check up on it more.

          1. re: Dax

            I stopped by Gordo's after a 2.5 hour nightmare at the DMV yesterday. When I entereted around 2: PM I was the only person there except for two people at a table and the employees. Very (and I mean very) little english is spoken there. I questioned "¿ tortas" and she replied "no, tacos y huaraches." Well I knew I wasn't in the mood for tacos and I could not remember what on earth a huarache was/is, but I mumbled "¿ carnitas huarache" anyway and she said, "no, Saturday." Double damn. So I just stared blankly until one of the really nice patrons walked over and said, in engish, "do you need help ordering?" I said no, I had stopped in hoping for a torta and they do not have them, said thank you and left.

            So I came across this article on the web:

            http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-06-2...

            I will definitely return to Gordon's on a Saturday soon for some carnitas huaraches.

            PS> GS200 they have tongue tacos. It, along with various other meats, are available por la libra.

            Up next on my horizon, spanish lessons! I should have known I would never put my mangling of the French language to much use (except for my one visit to Montreal where I entertained the local service workers).

        2. re: Big Daddy

          I tried Taqueria Mi Casita on Monday for lunch after you posted this. While I greatly enjoyed the meat of the al pastor taco, the carnitas was a little dry. Still good but not great. I'm not exactly a fan of the very finely chopped onions and cilantro on the side in the condiment tray (seems too dry) but the salsa verde was great. Complimentary chips (from a bag) and salsa (good, mostly mild and thin) are nice. It's cheap and a quick fix, but I did enjoy Taqueria Valencia better. Gordo's is next.

        3. Had tacos at Taqueria Mexico. My dining partner had the Cabrito el Ranchero, while I had 7 tacos, of which I shared a couple w/ my 6 yo twin daughters. I determined that I'm still not a fan of goat, no matter how it's prepared.

          As for the tacos I was pleased. The lengua was tender and tasty, although of all the tacos I had, I thought they were under-seasoned. The carnitas was very moist and flavorful, as was the chorizo. I had tacos al pastor for my first time. Wow! I'm excited to eat more. The flavor defied all of the expectations of restaurant Mexican I've ever had. I have no idea what "al pastor" is, but enjoyed it.

          The salsa was a little disappointing, as it lacked freshness, but in the middle of January I can't be too choosy.

          Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'm going to Gordo's this weekend.

          15 Replies
          1. re: G200

            Talking with a native from NE mexico, al pastor means literally "out to pasture" although in slang it can mean "ranch style". There are a gazillion culinary interpretations of al pastor not only confined to Mexico (greek/middle eastern food = gyron meat), but from what I gather, it generically means meat marinated in a mix of spices for 1-??? hours. The type of spices and marinating style depends, and varies widely, geographically. I've even seen al pastor as beef with some pineapples, but typically see al pastor as marinated pork.

            1. re: Pizza4Life

              Some of the Latin restaurant menus I have seen traslate it as marinated beef (some said cow) but I haven't ever actually been served beef when I order it. It's always pork.

              Speaking of pork, the carnitas at the El Mercado is still delicious but it seems like the last two times I've been, I've been served some really fatty hunks mixed in with my libre de carnitas. I loves me some fat, but this was a bit much (Saturday). The pollo tamale and pork (no idea what kind) tamale were also good with a nice bit of spice. The really nice lady behind the counter even wrote chicken on a slip of paper and put in the bag with the chicken one so I would know the difference (not that it mattered as I crammed both in my gullet once in the car).

              Also grabbed a bahn mi from the Viet restaurant down the street. Good, but they need to use bird chiles rather than jalapenos.

              1. re: Dax

                Dax, I think you've come across a sign that the folks at El Mercado like you.

                I was getting an order once when the guy pulled my pound of carnitas, then began adding more fat to the order with a "for you" in halting English. Now I likes me some pork belly, but it, too, was a little too much for me. I appreciated the gesture.

                Al pastor is marinated, usually with pineapple, for a sweet flavor. But traditonally in Mexico City it's roasted vertically on a spit, much like the beef/lamb amalgam for gyros. It's sliced off for the tacos. Pork is the usual meat.

                I, too, like the banh mi at the Pho place. What a deal, too!

                1. re: Dax

                  Dax,

                  I just had lunch there (Que Huong) today for the second time in a week. I must say that, even at the Buford Hwy Pho places I used to frequent, I was always served jalapenos.

                  Have you tried the Korean restaurant just a few doors down? If so, how was it and what would you suggest I try? I am not very familiar with Korean food, other than bulgogi and kim chi.

                  1. re: G200

                    I guess it depends on the area. Most bahn mi I had while living in Boston were $2.50 to $3.00 (the Que Huong one is $4.50) at the +/- 10 shops I tried over the years. Most of those would use thai bird chiles rather than jalapenos, but a few would use jalapenos. As I lived close to Boston's Chinatown the last 4 years I was there, I would grab one every two weeks. The first place I tried a bahn mi, at some tiny place in Brooklyn when a chowhound friend took me there say 5+ (?) years ago, used bird chiles. Who knows which is more "authentic?"

                    Korean and Vietnamese are my weakest link as far as knowledge beyond the standard Korean bulgogi and Vietnames pho and bahn mi. I need to learn more.

                    1. re: Dax

                      Good point on the depends on the area comment. But when compared to any other sandwich you can get around here, it's a good price.
                      Let's face it: ethnic food in Birmingham never will reach the authenticity or prices that you'd find in Boston, NYC or even on Buford Highway in Atlanta. Things have improved considerably here in the last 5-10 years, but that's partially because it had so far to go.
                      That's one reason we're a four-wok family.

                    2. re: G200

                      The Korean place has changed owners over the last year or so. The old people (a family) made some righteous food. I loved their octopus and their tofu dishes. They also made some pretty taste kimchee and other pickled vegetables.
                      I'm afraid I haven't been since the place changed hands, but I've seen some threads on this and other forums saying it's not nearly as good now.

                    3. re: Dax

                      Dax, the tamales served this past Sunday were some of the best I have ever had from El Mercado! They outdid themselves.

                      1. re: BarbDwyer

                        I agree, they were delicious. I really like the spicy green paste used inside but wish I had waited until I got home so I could also dip them into the picante salsa verde.

                        1. re: Dax

                          Have you tried any of the pickled cactus (I think it's cactus!)concoction with the carrots and onions? I love this. I take it home and add a little splash of extra vinegar, though. Really good stuff.

                          1. re: BarbDwyer

                            I have not. I saw someone walking off with a big bag of it Saturday and was tempted to try it but had no idea what it was. Is it spicy at all? So far I have bought the carnitas, the picante, the barbacoa, the tamales, various veggies, queso fresco, refried beans and the tortillas there. I tasted the pork in chile verde but have not see it since. What else do you recommend there?

                            1. re: Dax

                              I bought a pound of the cactus this weekend at El Mercado. I thought it was quite nice. I'd almost call it a Mexican version of Giardinera. Lots of oregano as well as pickled jalapenos. I asked the staff how it was used, and he told me it is sometimes added to a taco. I enjoyed it on some of my tacos carnitas. I bought a few other items, but ended up passing on the chicharron en salsa verde. That pig skin looked a little too gelatinous. Maybe next time.

                              1. re: G200

                                So the cactus is prepared (IE peeled and cooked)? I'll have to check that out. Man, that is a great market. I started shopping at its sister store in Hoover, then went to the Green Springs location because it was more expansive than the Hoover one (which has since moved and expanded itself).
                                Have you tried their house-made tortillas?
                                My two favorites there remain the carnitas and pork in tomatillo sauce. But I also like to get the marinated (uncooked) pork, and flash-cook it for homemade tacos.

                                1. re: Big Daddy

                                  It seems they do not always have the salsa verde pork. Tortillas are pretty good, made daily and sold by stack (ie you tell them about how big of a stack you want) for cheap. I think a two inch stack was like $2 or something two weekends ago.

                                  1. re: Dax

                                    Una dolar a libra