Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lynn, MA wins all ethnic food throw downs: Tacos edition

Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin. You've heard it before, and if you haven't, you're probably not from around these parts. Even on the commuter rail, on my way home from work on a Friday night, the conductor will announce the stop as "Lynn, City of Sin." (Of course, this funny man of the railways also announces Salem Depot as "Salem, Home of the Witches.") But what you may not realize, that amid this city that many people avoid due to the bad rep, you will find the most incredible, authentic ethnic food: cheap, carefully prepared, and absolutely delicious.
This time, we're featuring tacos... and the best that I've found in Lynn are at Mexico Lindo on Market Street, right near the train station. For years, I've not understood why the hell people love tacos so much. Yeah, I get it, they're easy to make at home with those crappy hard shell kits. Tacos are a party. Tex Mex is a party. Ooooh! Guac served at the table! Smells like college with those two buck, watered-down margaritas. I am so over ALL of it.
Great tacos are prepared with corn tortillas. They're still flexible, but they have been toasted. They have incredible, homemade roasted salsas. There are few accoutrement: cilantro, previously mentioned salsa, fresh squeezed lime. You can keep your gloopy guacamole and completely unnecessary sour cream. Great tacos are all about a carefully prepared filling made from time tested family recipes. All of the above are true and then some when venturing out to Mexico Lindo.
The Red Salsa
The store front and interior are not why you come here. There's about six tables, and a long counter. There's a picture of Jesus on the wall, because if there's a second coming, he's coming here first. The tacos are just that good. The menu is simple. There are enchiladas, flautas, tostadas, tortas, burritos, and the tacos. When coming to Mexico Lindo, you order the taco plate. You might order an enchilada on the side or check out the specials board, but that's only if you're really hungry. Again, order the taco plate. Do it. Three tacos, beautiful, glowing orange, homemade Mexican rice (nothing like the Uncle Ben's crap that appears regularly at other restaurants boasting great Mexican food), and refried pinto beans. But now the difficult part, which tacos to order? I recommend putting aside any fears of the nasty bits that you may have, and go for the gold with at least one of the following: tripa (tripe - chitterlings cut), lengua (tongue), cabeza (head). After that, I whole-heartedly urge you also order the barbacoa, which is a special they have on Saturdays, and/or the al pastor, which is perfect.
Today, between the bigger half and myself we ordered two taco plates with the following of note: la tripa, la lengua, the al pastor, and la barbacoa. Bonus order: a chicken enchilada.
The Green Salsa
Act 1: Upon arriving at the restaurant, the gracious young lady at the counter will almost immediately bring over a little basket of tortilla chips, nothing special there. But what she brings over next is nothing short of extraordinary. Two different salsas, neither are chunky or gloopy. These are roasted and pureed, smooth, and thin salsas. They are meant to dress your chips, and later your tacos. The two salsas are remarkably different. One is a red salsa, smelling of roasted tomatoes and mild peppers, Mexican spices, and a touch of vinegar for tang. The second is a vibrant green, made with roasted tomatillos, and spicy peppers... possibly poblanos and jalapenos. There is diced onion, and the fresh zing of squeezed lime and shredded cilantro. The green is a bit more spicy than the red, but both are impeccable examples of vibrant roasted salsas, wonderful with the simple tortilla chips for munching prior to the meal, but also essential additions to each small taco when your meal actually arrives.
Act 2: The Tacos.
La Lengua
Lengua: If you see lengua on the menu at Mexico Lindo, this actually means that you're getting a taco made with beef tongue. When the taco arrives, it'll be on a plate of three tacos, but you'll immediately recognize the tongue taco, the meat sliced thin and then into bite-sized pieces, but unmistakable with the little visible taste buds on the end of a few pieces. Don't be alarmed, this meat is tender, it's flavorful in the same way that a nice piece of filet mignon might be. It's savory, and cooked low and slow for the full benefit of a nice clean taco filling. Topped with a little bit of diced raw onion, and cilantro, plus your spoonful of each salsa, the tongue taco is tender, beefy, and sublime.
La Tripa
Tripa: I've been to other taco restaurants where the tripe is a honeycomb cut that has been stewed in tomatoes and spices for hours. While this is delicious, the tripa at this restaurant is similar in style to Southern chitterlings... the small intestine, cleaned very very well, and fried up on a flat top grill with various spices, though the two most prominent seem to be pepper, and cumin. Because they have been cooked properly, these little tubes are chewy, but just enough so to give some real texture to the taco. It's very satisfying to chew on a tripa taco like this, each bite releasing a better essence of grilled meat: fatty, earthily spiced, and then ending with the tang of the green tomatillo salsa. I could easily eat more than one of these cute little tacos. Yes, they're cute.
The Al Pastor
Al pastor taco. This pork has been slow cooked, and traditionally the juice of a pineapple is allowed to drip down onto the meat as it cooks, assisting in the flavoring of each bite via the sweet, tangy acid of the fruit. Although I'm not sure if they actually do this at Mexico Lindo since a vertical tower of meat is not immediately detected (who knows, it could be hidden deep in the kitchen), the flavor is still there. At this restaurant, the meat has been chopped into smaller pieces, and tossed onto the flat top grill, giving the meat that lovely little char that only adds to the enjoyment and different textures of the taco. It's an incredible bite of pork, kissed with a light red color, deep with the flavor of cumin and paprika. A paragon of a traditional taco.
Center: The Barbacoa
Barbacoa: This is a special that the restaurant has on Saturdays, and can be roughly translated to barbecue. This is the Mexican answer to pulled pork. Pork butt has been slow roasted forever and ever, only to produce tender meat, pulled apart into little shredded strings, and piled high within the corn tortilla. This is one of my bigger half's favorite tacos, and again, a good choice if you're looking for an excellent version of a taco, but tend to shy away from the items I have described above. Rich, with the fat having rendered out through the cooking process, all you're left with is clean-tasting, delicious pulled pork within a perfect taco.

The Chicken Enchilada
BONUS ROUND! Enchilada! Each enchilada at Mexico Lindo is only $2.50, so pony up, asshole. They're small, made of the same corn tortillas as your taco, but wrapped tightly around slow cooked, pulled apart chicken, cooked similarly to the barbacoa pork. This little wrap is then simmered for five to ten minutes in a traditional Mexican red sauce, allowing the entire roll to soak in a delicious tomato and chili flavor. When the enchilada is ready, it does not come drenched in the sauce, or covered with melted cheese in something resembling a boat, or piled with guac and sour cream, and your grandma's kitchen sink. The simmered in sauce enchilada is placed on a plate, given a little pile of shredded iceberg lettuce, topped with no more than a teaspoon of sour cream, and sprinkled with a tiny bit of crumbled queso fresco. That's it. It's simple, and it's delicious. The flavor of the sauce is soaked throughout the enchilada, but each bite keeps it's own integrity and does not fall apart. The chicken is delicious, and thoroughly spiced, and the cheese and sour cream add their own notes of salty and creamy tang. It's amazing how something so homemade, and so honest, and so simple with such history, and Mexican national pride can be transformed into such restaurant chain crap over the years. This is the best enchilada I've ever had.
Taqueria Mexico Lindo
So remember, for traditional, authentic Mexican food, it's Mexico Lindo in Lynn. If you can't find it, it's probably because there's a sickly looking tree blocking the sign. So follow your nose instead, and order these tacos immediately.

Mexico Lindo
16 Market Street,
Lynn, MA 01901

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