A couple of weeks ago, I wondered out loud why a tortas ahogadas place would open in SanTana given Anaheim has a huge population of Jalisco natives. The only logical explanation is that SanTana is basically Mexico, so why not?!
This weekend emerged an even stranger, just as tasty conundrum: Tacos Jerez in Huntington Beach, named after a city in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. It's a straightforward taqueria for the moment, and a good one at that:
burritos, flautas, 89-cent tacos that, while small, make the tortilla
disappear under a mountain of meat, and a bigger one called a taco revolucionario
that's a much-bigger taco featuring the meat in huge chunks instead of
chopped into nubs, just like us jerezanos enjoy them during a carne asada
And herein lies the rub for me and this restaurant.
As I mention seemingly every other article, I'm the son of parents from the massive Jerez diaspora that is spread across Southern California but finds its focal point in Anaheim. Seriously: there are thousands of jerezanos in Anaheim, and at least a thou from my mom's native village of El Cargadero (which pertains to the Jerez municipality) alone. Why on Earth would the Tacos Jerez folks set up shop next to the Slater Slums? Sure, they'll get a lot of Mexis from those apartments as clients, but if they had opened in Anaheim (which lacks a truly good taqueria) and plugged into the expat community, they could've easily given the Taqueria de Anda empire a challenge. As it stands, it's a far trek for Anaheimers with Jerezan roots to visit more than once.
There is one way to guarantee many visits, and I'm hereby issuing a challenge to Tacos Jerez: be, you know, jerezano. Last month, I wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times' food section bemoaning the lack of Zacatecan food in Mexican restaurants. Tacos Jerez, despite the provenance of its owners, doesn't solve this problem at the moment. They get the decorative touches right: the daughter of the owner wears arracadas, the arabesque earrings famous to the region, and the owner's apron has a drawing of the city's hallmark sanctuary for Our Lady of Solitude. But the taqueria's only jerezano culinary flourish is its salsa de chile de arbol–great, but one salsa does not a Jerezan taqueria make. I can only hope that in the coming weeks, they'll unveil a true Zacatecan menu–quesadillas made with the rubbery, gorgeous queso añejo, some alfajores for dessert or even an asado de boda as a weekly special–but all I can do right now is pray to the Santo Niño de Atocha for a miracle.
Forgive me for the petty commentary, but that's what us jerezanos do to each other, alas. I wish Tacos Jerez the best of luck (and I'm probably related to them in some Jessica Alba sort of way) and it's a great taco alternative in Huntington Beach if Tacos El Chavito doesn't show up (which it doesn't on Saturdays, for some bizarre reason). I'll tell every jerezano I know about the spot, and everyone else should go if they're in the area. But start offering Zacatecan dishes (vendan chocolate FerVi, ¿no?), and I will move to the Slater Slums just to eat there daily. Deal?
Tacos Jerez, 17681 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, www.tacosjerez.com