From a culinary perspective, Tacoma, Washington might conjure up the usual west-coast images of oysters, crab, salmon. But a mini-Mexican hotbed? Who’d have thunk it? Yet when you get east of the city centre, there are a few places that define Mexican authentic: streetfood, casual, inexpensive, friendly. My kind of joints.
Leading the way is Vuelve a la Vida, which translates as “come back to life.” Here, that means returning to Mexican roots, with no Americanized chips and salsa. My asada (steak) taco, served on a corn tortilla with whole beans, is very good. But the standout is the smoking hot tamales, the masa dough enveloping a rich filling of red chile pork. Seriously, you only need two of these bad boys for a filling, $5 lunch.
But my server, Juana, is not done with me, bringing over complimentary samples of Mexican drinks—horchata and jamaica—along with a little plate of shrimp ceviche. Any minute, I’m expecting to be introduced to the family.
About a mile away, Taqueria La Fondita is a food truck that pulls into a gravel parking lot every morning, with smoke soon belching from the tiny kitchen. A steady stream of neighbourhood youth saunters up to the window, ordering junior burritos to go.
I choose a more substantial torta, handing the included Sprite to a surprised kid. The bread isn’t as substantial as some tortas I’ve had, but the tender chicken filling melds nicely with slices of avocado to create a fine, gooey mess, kicked up a notch with some flavourful green chile sauce.