Taco Tuesdays have almost become a tradition for some students, and on our college budget, paying around five dollars for dinner is considered a win (second to free, however). With that said, I headed down to Loco Burrito in Moreno Valley on a chilly Tuesday with my friends Cody and Vincent in hopes of getting some great tasting Mexican food while sparing my wallet.
Turning in, I noticed that the establishment, though quite small, was bustling on the inside. The heavy, yet aromatic smell of Mexican food wafted in the air. Contrasting its dark brick, red exterior, the inside was brightly lit with the warm glow of heat lamps and light reflecting off of the yellow paint. As we opened the door, we were greeted with the noise from a sizable crowd at the counter and the rush of waitresses announcing numbers of completed orders.
At the left side of the restaurant, there was a bar stocked with free salsa, sides such as pickled vegetables and onions and tortilla chips that invited its guests to help themselves. There were also clear giant jugs of horchata, melon and tamarind juice that rested on a bed of ice by the register and the tribal patterned seats. To my excitement, I noticed that they offered a special deal for every day of the week after 3 p.m. featuring shrimp cocktails, burritos, tacos, tortas, ceviche and menudo.
“Get their asada and the beer-battered fish taco,” pressed Cody, “they’re really good.” Taking his advice, I decided to give them a try along with their carnitas street taco. Sadly, the two recommendations were not part of the Taco Tuesday special, but I still ordered them anyway since it was my first time there.
As we grabbed a spot outside due to the massive crowd inside, we made sure to grab a cup of each salsa and two trays of chips to snack on in the meantime. “I love that they fry their chips,” remarked Vincent as he bit down on a chip with a satisfying crunch. I have to admit it was really good — it wasn’t as dry as packaged tortilla chips and it had a crunchier texture. Although I didn’t particularly love any of the salsas, I preferred the pico de gallo over the salsa verde and the darker red one that I couldn’t find a name for.
As the waitress brought our tacos and burrito over, we eagerly prepared for our meal by bringing over multiple trays laden with pickled onions and vegetables, diced white onions, limes and more salsa. After relocating inside away from the cold to properly enjoy our dinner, we dove in.
I began with my beer-battered fish taco, which was stacked with shredded cabbage and pico de gallo. It was softer than I had expected but then again, my tacos were left sitting for a while as we took photos. Other than that, the flavor of the fish taco itself was extremely subtle, with only hints of tartness and needed a small boost of flavor from the salsa. The carnitas on the other hand were juicy, soft and satisfying — dried carnitas ruin the entire taco and thankfully they cooked them perfectly.
I might have anticipated the carne asada a little more than I should have since I didn’t feel completely satisfied with it. Although some people may prefer a charred edge to their asada, I personally don’t. Despite the fact that it wasn’t dry or bad-tasting, the charred edges of the asada pieces didn’t appeal to me, and I’m not sure if the char was intentional.
Vincent’s El Jefe burrito, however, seemed bigger than the average burrito and was a lot more flavorful than our tacos. The brown, chunky stuffing included carne asada, el pastor, rice, cheese and what seemed like a bunch of seasoning or sauce. When paired with pieces of pink pickled onion, it was even more savory and delicious.
The unique mix of the two seasoned meats enhanced the burrito in its own way and with that size, it could easily be two meals for me. Although Vincent’s burrito appealed to me a little more than my tacos did, it was still a satisfying meal nonetheless. With its low prices, clean interior, free chips and delicious food, it’s no wonder this small building can get so crowded at times.