I begin my paean to the humble and beautiful taco with a place which hasn’t been open for such a long time, but which captivated my tastebuds since it used to be but a wee baby taco truck. Chupacabra Taqueria, 822 H Street NE (entrance is on 9th Street NE) is my first stop, because it was one of my latest stops. Happiness is unwrapping a hot, fist-sized parcel of aluminum foil and biting into a delicious pork taco while you watch your kid play soccer.
Back when I wrote up my First Bite column, a concerned reader chimed in with his disappointment about Chupacabra’s tortillas. (N.B.: Chupacabra serves its tacos in corn tortillas only.) Since that comment, I have had a few visits where the corn tortillas have
not lived up to my standards been disappointing. Clarification regarding “my standards”: the tortillas were tough and dry and they were hard to bite into, but I still ate the taco because I will eat anything that calls itself a taco– even if you add the Choco- prefix. This is why I am not a sylph. (Incidentally, if you want to have a laugh and also know where to find Choco Tacos at the Rayburn House building, you need to read this.) However,my most recent visits have yielded consistently good tortillas– the kind that stay firm until that tricky last bite rends them, and you end up with a streak of pineapple-laced pork on your chin.
Chupacabra’s tacos cover a wide range of fillings –from a marinated tilapia type called Pescado de Jamaica to two kinds of pork, shredded beef and chicken. All tacos come in corn tortillas and wrapped inside aluminum foil to keep them fresh and warm –unless you order to consume directly, in which case you will be served in red plastic baskets.
I present to you my Taco Rubric. Several aspects of the taco-eating experience, so that you can get a better idea of what to expect.
Why this taco is good: fresh fillings and clean presentation. What you order is what you get: there are no culinary novelties, just a straightforward taco, served in two corn tortillas.
What could be better about this taco: Sometimes the tortillas are not at their freshest, which means they are tough and dry. The tortillas are not made in-house, which can contribute to the problem. Sometimes the fish taco is also a little dry. There is no grilled fish option.
Corn or flour tortilla: Corn only
Why you should give it a try: The price point ($3.25 per taco) means that you can have a lot of variety for less than $10. The fillings are good and the variety is among the best. Other side dishes, many of which are vegetarian, gluten-free and even vegan, make this a really friendly place for everyone.