#15b. Taqueria Traspasada No. 2
811 N Ashland
Torta de Milanesa
$4.75 (no extras)
There are basically two kinds of taquerias: those that are run by men, and those that are run by women. Dona Naty's and De Pasada are good examples of the feminine variety. These restaurants generally take slightly longer to prepare your food, and take more care in doing so. The seating areas are more accommodating, you will probably be served chips and salsa, and the decoration in the restaurant will be bright and welcoming. The attitude is that you've come to slow down and eat a good meal. On the other hand, there are those more "masculine" taco shops like La Pasadita and Flash Taco. Here, the watchword is efficiency: they know that your time is valuable and so is theirs. You want to get in, get out, and get on with your life, and get some good tacos in the process. The seating areas are designed to maximize turnover rather than comfort, and the menu is likely to be abbreviated to those dishes that the restaurant can prepare best.
Taqueria Traspasada (which we've been misspelling as Traspazada in some previous references) is decidedly on the masculine side. The entire restaurant is a long, narrow hallway, with a kitchen crammed into the back, and advertisements hawking specials pasted onto the windows. There are rows of benches to sit on, but no tables. The service is friendly enough, but it isn't a place to linger. And tacos are the common currency: at one point, the counter dudes hired a homeless guy to wash their windows, and paid his bonus with an extra steak taco.
For further ruminations on this subject, you'll have to wait until I publish my master's thesis, Gender Roles in La Cocina: A Post-Feminist Anthropology of Small Taquerias on Chicago's Ashland Avenue, which will take place just as soon as I receive my MacArthur grant. In the meantime, the important thing to keep in mind is that either type of taqueria can serve up some pretty good food, as La Pasadita and De Pasada respectively can attest.
The Food: So much of a torta depends upon the bread, and Taqueria Traspasada had the best bread that I've tried so far. Formed into spear-shaped pieces that are crisp, toasty, and slightly flaky on the outside, but still soft enough on the inside to soak up all the torta juices, this bread was just about perfect, and reminiscent of a good croissant. And if you combine good bread with a good house salsa, there's pretty much no way that a torta is going to fail, even if the filling is milanesa de perro. Traspasada's salsa was good too, nice and peppery and bringing out the seasoning in the meat.
And that's really about it. This torta had great bread and great salsa; it wasn't going to fail. As a bonus, it included avocado in addition to sour cream, and the tomatoes were a vibrantly fresh red. The steak itself wasn't fantastic, but it was adequately seasoned.
The Experience: As I've mentioned, Traspasada really isn't a place that's designed for eating in. The interior itself is pleasant enough, with lots of light streaming in through the windows, but if it was more crowded than it was in the late afternoon today, it would be almost too cramped to eat there, and you'd certainly have trouble maintaining a conversation with more than one friend. The counter to this, on the other hand, is that the kitchen prepared my food very quickly, and it didn't take longer than 10 minutes or so to get in and out with my meal.
There is perhaps some room to critique Traspasada's price, which was between 50 and 80c more expensive than the other tortas we've tried. Nor was this torta especially filling, although for someone like me with a relatively small appetite, that is as much a plus as a minus. (It was also a reflection of the light, crispy bread, which didn't weigh the torta down). Really though, I have no trouble at all coming up with a little extra cash for fresh ingredients, especially if avocado comes as part of the standard set-up. Taqueria Traspasada is another diamond in the rough, a clear winner in this week's bracket, and a very dangerous #15 seed.
#15b. Taqueria Traspasada No. 2
Posted by Nate Silver at 5:29 PM