#12b. Carniceria y Taqueria Leon
1402 N. Ashland
Tacos al Pastor
3 @ $2.00 each = $6.00 (no extras)
This review is getting out a little later than expected. On Tuesday I had to wait for the Comcast guy to come and fuck my cable up even worse than it was already fucked up, and on Wednesday I had to prepare for a fantasy football draft. Cable television and football are not as important as burritos, but sometimes you have to take time out for the little things.
To be honest, however, I had a few apprehensions about visiting Carniceria Leon. It isn't the most inviting place from the outside, with bars on the windows and signage obscuring the view inside. Carniceria Leon is principally a small supermarket, and there is perhaps some puritanical streak in most Americans that makes them reluctant to consume food on the premises of somewhere where they can also buy the raw ingredients. The deli is one exception to this rule, and a couple of generations ago we had the soda fountain at Woolworth's, but in general this phenomenon is much more common in other cultures.
The Food: None of my apprehensions related to the food. On the contrary, I was expecting some delicious pork, and I thought that the choice of al Pastor probably favored Carniceria Leon from the outset. The first thing you notice when you walk to the back of the market where the lunch counter is located is in fact the al Pastor spit.
This is truly fast food; my taco was prepared almost literally within seconds of my order, accompanied by the usual onions and cilantro. Unfortunately, the results were a little disappointing. The pork was relatively dry, and -- I don't know how to explain this -- very porky tasting, to the point of being slightly gamey. Although the accompanying salsa, a sort of verde-rojo hybrid, was good, the meat was not spiced very aggressively (especially by al Pastor standards), leaving the pork itself to do most of the work. From reading some other accounts, it seems that the quality at Carniceria Leon can differ significantly based on the time of day, and I think I might have caught it at an awkward time (about 4:30 in the afternoon) where the meat wasn't at its freshest.
Two other details. The tacos are also $2 each, which seems to be slightly on the expensive side, but they give you an awfully generous portion of meat; two tacos here are equivalent to three at most other places. Also, Carniceria Leon has bottled, Mexican coke. In the cola bracket, Mexican coke > RC > American coke > Pepsi.
The Experience: If the food was not as good as I was expecting, the experience was perfectly pleasant. The eating area was fairly small, but there were quite a few customers for this time of day, including a couple of families, and you could see the owner walking around the store checking in on everything. The counter guy knew plenty enough English for me to get my order across, and I had no sense of feeling unwelcome.
Carniceria Leon is right down the block from me, and I'll probably give it another chance in a month or two and report on those findings here. For the time being, however, it's about to get eliminated from the bracket.
#12b. Carniceria y Taqueria Leon
Posted by Nate Silver at 5:22 PM