La Taqueria, Syracuse, N.Y.

Source: La Taqueria

My problem with Mexican food goes back to being a food racist bigot (The Wife corrected me. Food racism, she says, implies I don’t want black people making pasta or white people making soul food. She said that my issue is with ethnicities infringing on each others territory: Anglos making Italian or Italians making Mexican. I have to agree.).

One of the best restaurants The Wife and I went to in Las Vegas was a taco stand in North Las Vegas where the chorizo was fresh and the pastor was prepped on an outdoor spit. Naturally, the further north and east you go, the less authentic it gets and I’m okay with that. The problem, though, is what most people think is Mexican is really upscale Taco Bell (And don’t get me started on whatever the hell Tex-Mex is.).

That’s where I found myself today at La Taqueria. I actually resent the name because it’s not a taco stand or Mexican restaurant. It’s a place that imitates Mexican food and does so very well.

Source: La Taqueria

La Taq was the runner-up winner of today’s lunch excursion, earning the title when parking near Pastabilities was unavailable. I made the mistake of venturing to Armory Square on a day when the M.O.S.T. would be packed to the gills. While Franklin and Walton Streets yielded nowhere for my Honda Pilot to park, I was able to find a perfectly illegal space in a loading zone on South Clinton Street in front of La Taq’s flagship location (it opened a second restaurant last year in Cicero).

The menu is your typical lineup — burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos and combo plates — which can be filled with ground beef, steak, shrimp, chicken, carnitas, tofu or grilled veggies. The fillers include the standard fare, with black and pinto beans, white, brown or Spanish rice, and any of the three house salsas (mild, medium or hot). The house queso is made from three cheeses and while the counter staff did not know which three cheeses were involved, it was still notable on my bare burrito and with my side of chips.

The bare burrito.

The bare burrito is La Taq’s answer to the Chipotle burrito bowl or other restaurants’ naked burrito. The shallow black bowl came with a base of rice and beans, and found itself topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa, cheese and queso (I passed on the pickled jalepeños, corn and olives). Toni, my constant lunchtime dining companion, went for an overloaded burrito that was packed so tightly that it was best consumed with a fork and knife.

Where La Taq sets itself apart is its fusion burrito. Instead of salsa, the fusion burrito incorporates a themed ingredient or sauce to blend Mexican with a different flavor: teriyaki, Korean BBQ, jerk, Thai curry, chimichurri or California (fries and creamy chipotle sauce).

La Taq’s handicap is a tricky location that has been the deathbed of two or three past restaurants. But in a wasteland of pizza and sandwiches, La Taqueria offers something different and tasty at lunch.

Lunch, including a batch of chips and queso that I shared and an iced tea, was $11. La Taqueria is located on South Clinton Street at Walton Street. It opens daily at 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner, and remains open until 3 a.m. on the weekends. They also operate a location in Cicero.

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