Being a food writer and blogger in Tucson means that you eat a lot of tacos. You see, I am totally fine with this. Because of that reason I love what I do both in print and online and when a new Mexican place opens up you better believe the Homeskillet crew will be there to sample yon wares of deliciousness.
Here's the thing: Sometimes you can burn out on a style of food. Its easy, especially when you're in the food writing biz. Like, for example, I am totally in love with pastrami sandwiches but if I ate those mofos 3 - 4 days a week on a fairly regular basis I'd change my last meal option if I was to be sent to the electric chair from a #19 from Langers Deli to, oh, I don't care...anything but really.
How are Hot Pockets? Are they tasty?
Fortunately it had been a while since we stepped foot in a proper Mexican food joint so when we were in the neighborhood of Calle Tepa we slammed on the brakes and prepared ourselves for some serious southern border street food.
|The place is colorful, we'll say that much|
In a shopping strip on Broadway just off of Wilmot, wedged between a Panera Bread and Breugger's Bagels, is a lively spot owned by the wife of the guy that opened up the Guadalajara string of restaurants. The pedigree is there, the financial backing is obviously happening...so this place must be awesome.
Checking online reviews, Calle Tepa is pretty much 3 -5 stars across the board. First off, we were hungry. Second, we were now excited because of the internet hype. With over 400 people essentially praising this place we wondered why we hadn't visited it sooner.
Oh yeah. There's like 1,000+ other Mexican food stands here in Tucson.
That's probably why.
|Chips were tasty and the salsas were really good|
When we walked in we were immediately taken with how colorful the space was. The wall to your left is a vibrant mural of their menu with fairly standard fare without being too extensive which is what we like. When restaurants get too bold with their options we tend to get flummoxed, flummoxed we tell you!, and eventually end up ordering something safe just to get it over with.
The last time we were at that Cheesecake place their menu was like a frikkin tome of ancient wisdom and long sagas of battles and mythology...except with elephantine portions of extreme shrimp popper alfredo colon blocker bombs and "salads" that boasted more sodium and fat grams than a dozen burger options from Lindy's.
Way, way too big.
Still, even with the fairly tight menu, we were new and just wanted some staples: A couple of street tacos, mini-chimichangas and some ceviche along with the requisite chips and salsa.
They gave us a number, we took a seat next to a window and we waited while nibbling on their crunchy chips and really flavorful salsas under star shaped lights next to a large family that seemed quite happy to be there.
Hopefully, we would be too.
|Big tacos, little flavor|
For the tacos we got the carne asada, chicken adobada and the chili verde.
These things were big. And if by "street taco" you must mean a 10 lane Los Angeles highway because most street tacos we have come across are lil' bites of savory perfection, ones that easily fit in your hand so you can be on your way without that rumbly in your tumbly.
These, unfortunately, just didn't really do anything for us.
The carne asada was fine but was a bit over cooked and really didn't have any seasoning. The chicken adobada, which is normally a spicy red BBQ sauce, was nice but did not deliver any heat or much flavor. And the chili verde, slow roasted pork in a green sauce of jalapenos, garlic and tomatillos, was just kind of drippy and bland.
I mean, it was late in the afternoon, well after the lunch rush, so maybe they were understaffed and weren't really paying attention to what they were doing as preparation for dinner was the focus at that time.
Okay, well we also had some mini chimis to contend with and a big bowl of ceviche waiting for us.
Let's hope these work out for the better.
|Mini chimis that were not so mini|
Just like the street tacos, the "mini" chimichangas were anything but. More like small-ish deep fried burritos or extra large Mexican eggrolls.
These things we liked, mainly because they were simple and paired well with a selection from the salsa bar. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the fry on the tortillas was crispy and golden. They came equipped with some decent guacamole and we were happy that these guys hit the mark and hit the spot as well.
Sadly, the salsa and the chimis would prove to be the highlight.
Thanks to so many online suggestions on ordering their ceviche, we were really bummed that this dish sank on so many levels.
The fish was chewy and flabby, the broth lacked citrus and spice - it just sort of sat there surrounding the tilapia, tomatoes and onion with no real rhyme or reason. This sucked. Man, we hate to come down on places but unfortunately our experience at Calle Tepa was anything but awesome.
And it helps to be awesome in this current culinary climate here in Tucson. Because we can get tacos, chimis and ceviche almost anywhere, most likely better quality too. There was just nothing about Calle Tepa to make us go "Wow, we seriously need to go back there."
We went. We ate. Eh.
If you guys have eaten there and think we are daft for not loving them then send us a message imploring to give them a second chance. Otherwise there are the other 999+ Mexican food stops here that we need to try and want to come back to.
Also, if we can be honest here for a moment: We're not huge fans of the Guadalajara restaurants.
Sorry about it...
|About the ceviche...you see...um...well...|
Typing, Camera and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
A Bit Past St. Patrick's Day, 2017