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Wednesday, September 30,2009

FOOD FINDER

by ALLAN I. ROSS

Food Fight: Tacos


In belated observation of Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16), this week’s Food Fighters had it out over Lansing’s best tacos. Each of the six establishments detailed below was ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, based on value, flavor, service and atmosphere. The restaurants chosen were randomly picked among places that have not previously been reviewed or profiled in this section. And despite the fact that our loyalties were plied with the promise of free chips and salsa, we were tough but fair everywhere we went.


Original Famous Taco: 4.4 out of 10


The authentic mural and colorful tables elevated the dining room a couple of notches above a greasy spoon, but more than one of our judges commented on the “unfriendly,” “impersonal” service. The $1 tacos didn’t resemble tacos so much as sloppy piles of taco ingredients, and the flavor received a majority “meh.” Several of our judges also said the salsa tasted like “tomato paste” or “ketchup.” With comments such as “greasy,” “not worth the $1 we paid,” and “cheese looks/tastes like government goat cheese,” Original Taco came in last.


Original Famous Taco. 3233 W. Saginaw St., Lansing. (517) 321-8226.   www.originalfamoustaco.com.




Fiesta Vallarta: 6.3 out of 10


We don’t know if they were trying to hurry us along because it was the end of the night or if the service is always this fast, but our taco plate ($5.50 for three) came out in about two minutes — no joke. Alas, none of our judges particularly cared for
them. Among the comments: the meat “tasted unseasoned,” they “seemed to
have the wrong type of cheese” (it looked and tasted like mozzarella),
and “weak.” The festive décor and “hilarious photos on the wall”
created a warm, friendly atmosphere, but the tacos remained “utterly
average.”


Fiesta Vallarta. 6724 S. Cedar St, Lansing. (517) 699-3691




The Corner Bar: 6.5 out of 10


The
Corner was the only non-Mexican food restaurant on our jaunt, but its
taco plate ($6.75 for three tacos and a side of refried beans) was
suggested by one of our tasters. The “slightly Americanized taste”
wasn’t a turn-off to our tasters, but the smoky environment was. The
hard shell tacos were more of a hit than the soft shell for their
“satisfying crunch,” and the “full flavor” and “slight spiciness” of
the meat was noted a few times. The chips that come with the dish were
noted as being “slightly stale,” but about the worst thing that was
said was also a good summation of the experience: “Just a taco.”


The Corner Bar. 505 E Shiawassee St., Lansing. (517) 374-3565




Aldaco Restaurant: 7.2 out of 10


Our
waitress kept us in stitches from the moment we sat down, and the tacos
($1.85 for ground beef, $1.95 for chicken, $2.15 for roast beef) were
“bursting with flavor” and had “ball-busting salsa,” even if they were
“a little pricy.” Again, the word “common” popped up in a few of our
judges’ score sheets, but the atmosphere “set the taco eat-in mood
nicely.” And the Mexican buffet that was next to our table had a couple
of us drooling in anticipation of a return trip.


Aldaco Restaurant. 6527 S. Cedar St., Lansing. (517) 272-4600




Pablo’s Panaderia Restaurant & Bakery: 7.9 out of 10


On the three-taco plate ($5.95), we mixed and matched our meats: one chicken, one grilled steak and one ground beef. The
chicken tacos were “nice and juicy with a nice spice to it,” the steak
was “perfectly seasoned” and “surprisingly hefty,” and all three
were “heavy on the cilantro’— a very good thing. The “fast and
knowledgeable” staff gave Pablo’s an “authentic feel,” with one of our
group saying that she “actually felt like I was south of the border.” The
traditional drinks and fresh squeezed juices also had many of our
tasters lauding Pablo’s authenticity. Who knew fresh squeezed orange
juice went so well with tacos? Now we know.


Pablo’s Panaderia Restaurant & Bakery. 311 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing. (517) 372-0887.




El Sombrero: 8.5 out of 10


With
almost every Food Fight, there always seems to be a surprise winner,
and this round’s dark horse is El Sombrero. With $1 tacos all day,
every day, three types of fresh salsa to choose from and a drive-thru
window (!!), El Sombrero was the spot to beat. “Great, not original,
but it’s a hearty taco,” “fresh tasting shell,” “great, fresh, spicy
salsa,” “lots of ingredients” and “pleasantly surprised” were but a few
of the accolades heaped upon this newer place on Lansing’s south side.
We didn’t make it into the dining room, because they had just closed
up, but the owner was nice enough to re-open the kitchen and make three
more tacos just for us from the drive-thru. And we didn’t even have to
say we were with City Pulse — bonus points rewarded.


El Sombrero. 4230 S Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lansing. (517) 272- 3530 . www.elsombreromi.com.




Of
course, this is only a small representation of the best tacos available
in Lansing. By all accounts, El Azteco, Los Tres Amigos, Mexico to Go!
and El Oasis are reputed to have excellent, authentic Mexican food, and
even places you wouldn’t think of (Clara’s, Coach’s Pub & Grill)
are rumored to give some of these others a run for their money.


Epilogue:
We have to assess special demerits to Los Gringos (6030 S. Martin
Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lansing), which was actually on our list to
visit. When we showed up at 8:50 p.m., however, it was closed, despite
the sign in the window saying it was open until 9. Not a great way to
build clientele, amigos.


Know a great taco we missed? Want to join our next food fight? Write us at food@ lansingcitypulse.com.




India palace now Mumbai


The
India Palace restaurant in East Lansing is now named Paddy Rawal’s
Mumbai. Owner Paddy Rawal officially changed names on Sept. 15 during a
grand opening celebration, in which he donated 15 percent of the day’s
proceeds to Habitat for Humanity. Along with recent interior
renovations, Mumbai has new hours and no longer closes between lunch
and dinner. Mumbai’s new hours are Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.;
Friday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday noon-11 p.m.; and Sunday noon-10
p.m. Additionally, Mumbai has a new Web site at www.mumbaicuisine.com.


— Staff

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