Condado Tacos

{by: alicia} If we’ve learned anything from the Columbus Food Adventures’ Taco Truck Tour, it’s that we are surrounded by delicious Mexican cuisine. Whether it’s the al pastor from Los Guachos or ANYTHING off the menu at Tacos Hass, I’ve been hard-pressed to find bad Mexican food in the capital city.

Tacos are hotter than ever, and it seems there’s a new spot opening every month. Condado is the latest to catch my eye. Originating in Cleveland under the name Barrio Tacos, its make-your-own concept proved so successful that it expanded right into our neck of the woods.

Also, it’s batshit in the best way possible.

Condado Tacos Columbus

Every inch of wall is decked in art, and there are little touches everywhere you look. Think black and white with pops of color, a Día de los Muertos theme, and a sprinkling of style throughout. The layout is well executed with seating along the walls, counters along the windows, high tops here and there, and two long community tables.

Condado Tacos Columbus

Remember when I said make-your-own concept? It’s as simple as filling out the menu sheet, or selecting one of Condado’s suggested combinations. There’s also an extensive drink menu, so you are totally covered if you’re feeling a marg or cerveza. Also, peep the heads up about the fresh toppings potentially cooling your tacos:

Condado Tacos Columbus

Order them on the side if you aren’t into that jazz!

In case you missed it:

ATTN: TACO LOVERS
Welcome to Condado! When you are here, expect some crunch–even if you order a soft taco…Our vegetables are chopped fresh. We have a strict No Wilted Lettuce or Mushy Tomatoes Policy here at Condado. Our fresh toppings include house made salsa and guacamoles and sometimes those items cool the warm taco fillings. If this is not your thing, just ask your server for the protein on the side.

I appreciate the notion of “building your own” anything, but for nutjobs like me, this can be an intense process. My eating companion, Thom, deftly made his selections while I agonized. Years later, I decided on two different tacos: brisket on a flour tortilla with queso, cilantro + onions, lettuce, and tomatoes; and chicken on a “Goody-Goody” (soft flour tortilla + guac + sour cream with crunch for a $1 up charge) and the same toppings as the brisket plus salsa verde. Exhaustion.

Once that ordeal was over, I commenced with the usual photo snapping. Maybe it’s a blogger thing, but I no longer feel weird when I stroll up to the bar or middle of the room to take pictures. What am I supposed to do when everything in the restaurant is so cray?

Exhibit A:

Condado Tacos Columbus

I was drawn to the bright, shiny lights.

And B:

Condado Tacos Columbus

Our food was out in a flash, so I scurried back to inhale everything in sight.

Condado Tacos Columbus

Thom had also ordered chicken and brisket tacos (copycat) and tacked on a side of black beans and rice. I sampled both and found them to be divisive. Sometimes Mexican restaurants go overboard on seasoning. Maybe that’s what the people want, but I’m not into a heavy-handed salting (ahem, place-that-will-remain-nameless, I’m looking at you). These were a tasty foil to our wonderfully loaded tacos. The toppings were as fresh as promised, and while I enjoyed both of mine, the brisket was so melt-in-your-mouth that I wanted ten more. What followed was a tremendous food coma, but what are Saturdays for if not hours of napping?

Condado is located at 1227 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43201, and open Mon-Fri 4pm -2am and Sat-Sun 12pm-2am. They recently added brunch to the lineup, so check that out on the weekend between noon-3pm.

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Columbus Food Adventures’ Taco Truck Tour

{by: alexis & alicia} We market ourselves as a Columbus lifestyle blog, but between us and you, loyal readers, we have a focus on eating. You may have noticed that Alicia and I will research restaurants, wait in line, and travel to all ends of the Earth for that next great meal. But we’re lucky because honestly, we don’t have to go that far. A few weeks ago, Columbus Food Adventures asked us to attend their taco truck tour and, after several frenzied rounds of “OMG TACOS” via gchat, we happily accepted and picked a date.

columbus food adventures wander and whine

Alicia was far more excited than she looks. Also, check out her donut sweater!

For the record, I was being instructed to do “my best Jordan Catalano lean” and only succeeded in duplicating his indifference–and even that didn’t last very long. I don’t think Jordan ever squee’d at a plate of crispy pork. He probably brooded in a corner, and closed his eyes like it hurt to look at it. Whoops, sorry. Just as Jordan Catalano is great at leaning, I’m great at going off on tangents. BACK TO THE FOOD.

We showed up on time and and ready to eat everything in sight. Now, kids, if you check out the Columbus Food Adventures website, you’re going to get some important details, but you’re not going to get the route. We’re going to follow their lead and share you with our dishes, but not necessarily the stops on the tour. We can’t give away all their secrets! And we wouldn’t want to deprive you of the expertise and camaraderie of the tour guide, Andy Dehus, either!

After piling into the van, Andy whisked us away to stop number one (there were five plus a bonus stop).

We started with a classic taco truck, prepared by a Latino chef for a Latino audience, as was described by Andy. These trucks aren’t trucks in the sense that you can’t drive them all around, like many of the taco trucks you’re familiar with. They’re stationary. Each truck has a specific regional focus, which allows for a bajillion of them to exist in a small area.

taco truck See those sauces lined up in a row? This was a common theme to the trucks we visited–multiple sauces ranging from mild to spicy. Alexis and I are are huge fans of avocado, so we made a beeline for the avo sauce all day despite its lack of heat.

The typical tacos served here are smaller, and made using corn tortillas instead of flour. The first taco we had was filled with chorizo, which, as I stated in another post, is not really my bag. But THIS chorizo. Here. Look!

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The chorizo was removed from its casing and grilled up for us. The accompanying radishes and cucumbers were perfect ways to test the various spicy sauces. Here, we started what became of chorus of “YEP”s, and “UH-HUH”s we yelled through full mouths. HOLY CHORIZO.

Our next stop was at a more locally well-known truck nearby. You may be familiar with Los Guachos brick-and-mortar space in Columbus or Gahanna. Andy ordered us all a gringa, which is now a word that causes conversations at W&W headquarters to devolve into a series of nonsensical yelling and near-fainting. It is that good. A gringa is a flour tortilla with caramelized cheese, a few veggies, and al pastor, which is a pork layered together on a vertical grill and sliced off for serving. BEHOLD THE GRINGA.

gringaI’m having trouble even writing right now with this picture in my eye-line. It was so cheesy, the pork was so flavorful, we both lean toward choosing this as our favorite of the whole tour.

What’s crazy is the combination of flavors that made this dish really sing, like, what do you mean there was pineapple in there? There were also garnishes that took these to another level. See the bowl in the bottom righthand of the next photo? That contained habaneros and onions in soy sauce. We piled this wondrous concoction on top of our gringas and doused them with sauces. The result was an explosion of flavors and spice that made us audibly gasp. 

IMG_2135It was hard to leave the prospect of more gringas behind, but we had more food to eat. Our next truck focused on Oaxacan cuisine, and Andy ordered us all a tlayuda. Well, that’s not exactly true; each tlayuda is ENORMOUS, so we split one amongst four tour-goers, and still had more than enough to eat. This tour won’t allow you to go hungry.

tlayudaIt’s a bit like a pizza, actually. On the bottom you’ll see the tortilla with a spread of black beans which is then covered with lettuce, tomato, avocado, chorizo, and another delicious slice of meat. Eating this one was a bit of a challenge as the tortilla didn’t cut especially well with the plastic fork, but Alicia and I were more than happy to take matters into our own hands and use our teeth like the daintiest of cavemen.

Meanwhile, we got to sip some horchata, which is a sweetened rice milk drink. This was a delightful companion to the spicy tlayuda. While everyone was finishing up, Andy brought around another plate of beef tongue for us to try. He assured us it was excellent as a taco filling, so we didn’t shy away.

Alexis is kind to say that, because I most certainly shied away at first. But, seeing this was a food adventure and all, I plucked up a little courage and was so glad I did. Everything we ate was delicious, and the tongue wasn’t an exception.

beef tongue tacoIf it doesn’t look quite full, it’s because Andy was offering samples to the whole tour. You’ll get more than this!

I went first. Believe it or not, this is my DELICIOUS GIVE ME MORE face.

IMG_20140921_191617Alicia was spurred on by my expression and went for it, too.

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You can actually see my reluctance here.

But after all, we both agree: TONGUE IS DELICIOUS. My only exposure to tongue is my father’s cautionary tale of ordering a tongue sandwich on a European flight. (What person orders tongue on an airplane? Oh, my dad does!) This was tender and flavorful, and the texture was just like any other, non-frightening meat part. Don’t be scared of the tongue, you guys! And here’s a spin on a familiar motto: LISTEN TO YOUR TOUR GUIDE.

Next we moved onto what Andy described as an old faithful taco truck. We were each served an individual gordita, and it’s about a jillion times more delicious than Taco Bell’s version — even I didn’t think that was possible! This time, carnitas were served in a soft pocket of corn cake. It’s griddle-fried, so parts are crispy. It was so good we, um, forgot to take a picture. Here! Feast your eyes upon my half-devoured gordita!

Plus, the avocado sauce here was actually spicy! Bonus points all around!

gorditaSorry about that, readers, we got a little over-excited.

And with good reason! This was our second favorite item of the day (nothing could top gringas). What’s funny is before we received our gorditas, we didn’t think we could possibly eat another bite. Hilarious joke. We inhaled these. Then we had a whispered conversation about whether or not it was bad form to order another one. We decided it was seeing that there was one more stop to be had.

Our fifth stop was for dessert, an icier version of ice cream called nieves (which means snow in Spanish). Andy checked out what flavors were available and recommended the nuez (nut). Seeing that all of his suggestions were on point, we had to listen to him.

These teeny cones were like a revelation: At first bite we thought, oh, sure, is good! And then with each bite our eyes got wider and our commentary grew from quiet “yum-o’s” (sorry this is how we actually talk), to all-caps-worthy yelling.

This was such a refreshing (and delicious) way to end the tour.

IMG_2150Well, at least the eating part of the tour. Right around the corner was a Mexican grocery store called La Plaza Tapatia. This place was a treasure trove of freshly baked goods, a meat department, vats of peppers, an entire CANDY ROOM, and many more amazing things. Seeing that this was a popular spot, Andy took us around the perimeter of the store, pointed a few things out, and gave us 15 minutes to run amok.

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The entire experience was four hours, and it flew by in a blur of eating and discovering delicious things we wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Alexis and I wholeheartedly endorse Columbus Food Adventures, and if tacos aren’t your thing, there are many other types of tours available here. You can even buy tickets as a gift (I’m winking really hard at all of you).

(I’m hoping that note means Alicia is buying me tickets for Christmas.) I can’t say enough good things about our experience. You don’t just get bussed from one delicious, ridiculous snack to the next, you get a bit of history at each site. I mean, that’s why they call it a tour, dopes. I’m flattered that you’re still reading this, all fifteen hundred words, but how bout you stop, and go buy your own tickets. You won’t regret it.

Catching up at Local Cantina


{alexis}

Thursdays are perfect for mini-celebrations: the majority of the work week is behind you, and the weekend is almost within reach. This is why last Thursday, Wander & Whine got together with one of our closest friends (blog favorite Megan returns), and shared some Mexican deliciousness at Local Cantina in Grandview.

We came straight from work and piled into a table by the door. We immediately began poring over the beer menu, thanks to their great happy hour specials: $3 drafts and cheapo margaritas.

local cantina

Once we placed our orders, Alicia and I sidled up to the chips and salsa bar. Yes! A bar! We filled bowls with salsa (yes, one was hot and one more mild), and I dutifully counted my chips (I have to at least PRETEND to watch what I’m eating), and we dug in.

Megan tried to foil my diet plan with the following shared dish of jalepeno poppers. They were HOT (in temperature) so use caution!

 local cantinaThey were full of molten cheese, and an entire jalepeno. The more peppers, the better, in my book. Before long, our food came. Alicia went with the fajitas.

local cantina

The best thing about Mexican food is how bright and colorful the dishes wind up! The veggies look crisp and fresh, and for whatever it’s worth, Alicia didn’t do a whole lot of talking after this was served (a rarity, indeed).

Both Megan and I went for tacos. She chose the cantina fish, the avocado BLT, and another superstar that I never wrote down.

local cantina

Her favorite was the fish, which shouldn’t be surprising, given that the fish tacos are their specialty! I also got a trio of tacos.

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On the far left, you’ll see the grilled fish, the middle is the veggie, and the right is the grilled chicken. I was big into both the fish and the veggie. The fish was light, and the jalepeno slaw was crunchy and tart. The veggie was also pretty great, but any taco with a filling base of guacamole is a clear winner.

It was a lovely evening of toasts, laughs, and, of course, a bit of whining. But that’s what girlfriends are for, no? I would definitely recommend Local Cantina as a casual place to throw back a few beers and linger for a while over a few bowls of salsa. Don’t forget to invite me!

Local Cantina is located at 1423b Grandview Ave. Mon-Fri, 4pm-2:30am; Sat-Sun 11am-2:30am.

Taco Tuesday at the Kitchen

{alexis}

In early spring, I will take a slight improvement in the weather as a chance to get outside and enjoy German Village. It was a slightly warm and brightly sunny day when this popped up on my Instagram.

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I quickly sent this shot off to the husband demanding tacos and beer as our evening activity. I’ve been to the Kitchen once before for brunch, and the large crowd made seating and timing difficult, so I was a little apprehensive at first. But, happily, the line was short and sweet and the chairs plentiful.

We decided on the Ohio, Southern, and New England tacos, plus the New York Quesadilla, and a small pitcher of beer (pro tip: spring for the large pitcher when you go). Armed with our pitcher and two adorable mason jars for drinking, we dropped our order at the kitchen and pulled up stools to a vacant table.

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After not too long, our food was served to us and we dug in. The clear winner was the Southern taco: the collard greens, corn spoon bread, and the barbecue together were summertime bliss, and we fought a little over the last few bites. The lobster was simple, and lovely, and the Ohio was delicious as well.

photo 4-5I was a big fan of the quesadilla as well. Honestly, melt brie in anything and I’m there. The apples and onions were crispy and sweet.

The Kitchen is an interesting place. The crowd was loud and happy, and I was surprised to see families with young kids at almost every table. Next time you’re free on a Tuesday, think about dropping in. The surprise menu and unique space make for a different kind of evening.

The Kitchen is located at 231 E. Livingston. Most events require reservations, but Taco Tuesdays have open seating. 

Tacos Hass

{alicia}

One of the benefits of blogging is shining a spotlight on the places we love and think everyone else should love, too. Case in point, Tacos Hass. It’s my current obsession. I’m not even ashamed to admit that one time, I ate there four times in one week. IT HAPPENS.

I’m this close to becoming the mayor on Foursquare (I know, what year is it), but first I need to overthrow a guy named Carl. At this point, I’m beating a dead horse, but I can’t say enough good things about Hass. It has quickly become my favorite go-to spot. The food is delicious, the owner is super friendly, and they have a liquor license. I insist you try it.

I suppose, first, you have to find it. Hass is located in a strip mall off Sawmill Road (aka Hell on Earth) right by the Sunflower Chinese restaurant (another delicious choice) and connected to the Mexican grocery store La Favorita. Rumor has it they are going to dismantle the grocery side to expand the eating area, which is good news for me. I NEED THIS PLACE TO STICK AROUND.

Sorry for the yelling, but this place invokes my passionate side. So, once you find it, you stroll in to see a counter packed with drink choices, and this doesn’t even include the fountain drinks (Pepsi products, blah). Fortunately for me, they sell glass bottles of Mexican Coke which immediately transports me to Central America where this is a normal occurrence. I can’t be the only one who thinks plastic bottles taint the taste of soda (fine, pop), right?

IMG_9165After you’ve taken in the menu and made your drink choice, it’s time to order tacos. Yes, I know there are other things on the menu, but listen to me: ORDER THE TACOS.

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This is where the comparison to a taco truck in a brick and mortar setting comes in. The food comes together quickly, what with meats sizzling on a wood-fired grill, and while the the tacos are small, they are reasonably priced from $1.75 and up. This gives us a legitimate excuse to try a bunch of different flavors. I am a big fan of the vegetarian cactus taco (taco verde) and the carne asada. Everyone I know says the fish tacos are the best thing on the menu–I’ve yet to try them because I want more excuses to go back, perhaps today, in fact. There are also shrimp and carnitas versions among others. If you are only able to go once, get the tacos and thank me later. Don’t make me yell again.

Other options include quesadillas, chips and amazing guacamole (not on the menu, but they’re there), and burritos–either wrapped or in a bowl. The tacos are flavorful enough on their own (I cannot get enough of the cilantro sauce and overall spice), but I find the burritos a good excuse to douse in the house sauces (red is spicy, green has a milder taste).

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The traditional burrito is grilled, which gets bonus points in my book. Everything gets bonus points in this place!

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But seriously, you can’t go wrong with anything you order (especially the tacos). Take it from me, your future Mayor of Hass…that is, once I topple the current regime. You hear that, “Carl?” I’m coming for you.

Hass is located at 7370 Sawmill Road, 43235. Hours are Mon – Sun: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm.