Lazo's Tacos: Round 1 Review

#9. Lazo's Tacos
2009 N. Western
Torta de Milanesa
$3.95 (no extras)

Having been to Arturo's Tacos but never to Lazo's, I had assumed that they were two peas from the same pod. Perhaps not identical twins, exactly, but at least two brothers with a solid sibling rivalry. Indeed, there are some surface similarities. Each has a liquor license, and stays open 24 hours to cater to hungry, hungry hipsters. They have broadly similar -- and similarly broad -- menus. And Lazo's and Arturo's are literally right next door to one another. But that's really where the similarities end: Lazo's and Arturo's are little more than estranged step-cousins that happen to occupy the same block.

The Food: Brought out almost suspiciously fast by my waitress, this was a bland torta that managed to be less than the sum of its parts. The bread was incrementally fresher than that from Arturo's, and the steak patty was a little thicker, but the overall result was undermined in a number of ways. Most noticeably, the tomatoes were not very fresh, a problem made more acute by Lazo's decision to use whole tomato slices, rather than dice them into chunks. The guacamole and table-side salsa appeared to have been store-bought, while the meat itself was overdone, giving it a tough, stringy quality. By all tastes and appearances, it was a torta prepared without much care or concern.

The Experience: Abjectly depressing. Lazo's has a very large seating area, perhaps 75 tables strong, including several TVs, a bar, and a performance area for bands. I'm sure it can get hopping on Saturday nights. But today the space was all but abandoned (just me and a couple of businessmen having a long, two-Tecate lunch), and there was none of the warmth that can be found at Arturo's. The interior was dimly lit and sparsely decorated, with ceiling tiles and ugly faux-stone walls, and the tables were scrunched together into an undifferentiated mass. The overall effect was like that of a 80s-style rec room built for children that had long since gone to college:

Based on the Yelp reviews, Lazo's is also supposed to have some issues with indifferent service. That was not a particular problem today -- my order was taken quickly, and the food came very quickly, although it took a long time to procure my check, as it did at Arturo's. Nevertheless, there was the sense that they were going through the motions until the nighttime crowd rolled in.

By the end of my lunch, I had developed a distinct dislike for this restaurant. In fact, I can't think of a single reason to go to Lazo's when Arturo's is right next door. We'll log the verdict and update the brackets shortly.

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