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La Tejana Taqueria is not for folks who want American-style tacos in American-style Mexican restaurants. Located in an aging strip mall on Lindbergh Boulevard between St. Charles Rock Road and Midland, it's part of a group of business that includes a grocery store, and a liquor store. Use the liquor store entrance; there's no customer passage from the tienda to the tacos.
There's a small spaghetti board in the rear, but more current are the sheets of paper taped to the wall with specials and a list of what taco fillings are available that day. We focused almost exclusively on the tacos on this, our first visit. But we know we'll be back.
The tacos probably exceed any we've had on Cherokee Street, but are in the same rustic style. Two soft corn tortillas are topped with a good amount of the chosen filling sprinkled with chopped white onion and cilantro. Be prepared. The tacos drip juice, a small price to pay for such deliciousness. Lime wedges, served alongside, may be the only seasoning needed, and we usually try our tacos as the kitchen serves them before adding sauce. In a reversal from the usual, La Tejana's red sauce was noticeably hotter than the green, with some acidity in the background. The green displayed a mellow note, perhaps from the use of tomatillos as well as chiles.
Chips and salsa offered something new, wedges of deep-fried flour tortillas and a semi-chunky salsa with only moderate spicing. Everything was tasty, just not as exciting as what came next.
The taco fillings? Al pastor (above left), pork in ruddy-colored chunks that were succulent and rich, with small chunks of fresh pineapple, just the way al pastor ought to be. Chorizo sausage, coarsely ground, very moist and intriguingly spiced, almost sweet along with a light degree of heat. Indeed, while all the tacos were brightly flavored and delicious, none of the fillings were hot-spicy. We sampled the table sauces, and they provided heat, but mostly were unnecessary.
Campechanos (above right) were new to us. They're a combination of chorizo and pieces of beef, and it, too, dripped down the hand. The beef added a deeper dimension of flavor and stretched the seasoning of the chorizo. Carnitas were deeply porky, although not crisp, as we had hoped.
The two particularly remarkable tacos were certainly aimed at a more intrepid eater. Two kinds of barbacoa were offered. Barbacoa is not barbecue, it's a sort of steam roasting. We passed on the res, or beef, in favor of borrego, or mutton (below left, top). And this definitely is mutton, stronger in flavor than lamb, but chile'd up just a little, with some cumin and further contributions from whatever kind of leaves the meat was wrapped in for cooking. The other taco that drew burbles of joy was tripa, or tripe (below left, bottom). Its chameleon-like nature is perfectly exhibited here, some of the tripe crisp from deep frying, some a little chewy, some as creamy as chicken liver.
And speaking of tripe, La Tejana serves menudo (above right), the legendary tripe-based soup that supposedly cures hangovers. The strongly flavored and quite spicy broth warmed us as it went down. No hominy, no pork, just lots of tripe, and a generous amount of chopped onion and cilantro for extra flavor and texture. Perhaps not for a novice, but rich and succulent. Warm flour tortillas were a pleasant companion.
Owner Tony Garcia spoke with us when we arrived, describing some of the menu items, and became enthusiastic when we showed a bit of experience with the cuisine and discussed menudo. No problems with English with the server, as long as we spoke at a reasonable pace. And our limited Spanish made her smile.
Next visit: pork in red or green chile sauce, a whole fish, maybe the chicken wings. And certainly more tacos, a lot more tacos.
La Tejana 3149 N. Lindbergh St. Ann 314-291-8500 Lunch and dinner daily. NO WEBSITE
Photos by Kevin A. Roberts
by Joe and Ann Pollack