First things first: if you haven't already read it 80 times in this issue, read it again: My long-promised book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, is finally getting released! April 10 is its publication date, with the first book signing April 12 at the Fullerton Public Library at 7 p.m.—GO, GO, GO!
Mexican food has understandably been on my mind for the past couple of weeks, and one of the questions reporters continually ask is what qualifies as "authentic" Mexican. You can now consider me a heretic: After researching and writing for my book for nearly four years, I've come to the conclusion the authenticity games are as silly as the finances of the Crystal Cathedral. There is no such thing as "authentic" Mexican—Taco Bell is as legitimately Mexican as a lonchera, and anyone who claims Mexis don't bother with yellow cheese obviously never ate at Taqueria Two Guys, which sits in a ramshackle building in deepest, darkest SanTana, a place as resolutely Mexico City as the Angel of Independence and indecipherable slang. Consider the torta cubana, a baroque structure masquerading as a torta, a three-pronged pork assault (grilled hot dogs, thinly cut ham and smoked pork leg) linked by melted yellow cheese—yes, yellow cheese, the scourge of the authenticisas everywhere. Fuck them! That bland, sticky goo unites all those flavors together, plays well off the slab of salty panela and the pickled jalapeños inside. Yellow cheese makes an appearance in nearly all of Two Guys' tortas, and none of the Mexicans who haunt this place, nor the all-Mexi cooking staff, existentially frets about whether he's somehow violating the ways of the Aztecs.
In fact, melted Jack cheese dominates the menu, from fat quesadillas stuffed with meat or veggies to thick tacos to queso fundido placed inside a flour-tortilla-lined bowl so it looks like a taco salad to the wonderful alambres, the chilango version of fajitas: beef strips sautéed alongside onions, pineapple and any variety of meat, all combined with cheese, served alongside flour tortillas and deemed a dinner. It's an onrush of flavors, but don't think the cooks just throw on slop: For such a rascuache place, the people behind Two Guys take care in the cuisine, offering thoughtful presentations, prepping six types of salsas daily and cooking everything to order. The only bad part about the restaurant? The store-bought tortilla chips—TOTALLY inauthentic. But then you get the furious jalapeño salsa and drown your chips in it, and all worries of whether you're eating authentically vanish under the joy that you're eating bueno.
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This column appeared in print as "Cheese It."