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Nacho’s Taqueria
Out of a possible five

Sandwich is tops at taco spot

It was a place that intrigued me when I heard it was opening and one I was sure going to check out after it got settled at its rather nondescript location across from South Side High School on South Clinton Street.

But even I was surprised, especially given my love of authentic tacos, that it took me three years to finally try Nacho’s Taqueria. And what I found was a nice mix of Mexican food not just for lovers of the authentic but also for those who like Tex-Mex, American-style offerings.

All of Nachos’ tacos – steak, chorizo, ground beef, spicy chicken, grilled chicken and verde pork – can be had taqueria-style, garnished with just cilantro and diced onions, or like what most of us are used to, with lettuce, cheese, sour cream, etc. It also offers burritos, enchiladas, tamales, flautas, sandwiches and, of course, nachos.

It is a simple operation, where you order at the counter before sitting, but the folks working there were able to answer all my questions, were very nice and got the food out efficiently. Like at many similar places, beverages come in a can or plastic bottle from a cooler, but most meals included a can of soda.

The best thing I had at Nacho’s was a sandwich the man working the counter proudly praised by saying, “That is an authentic Mexican sandwich,” as he placed it on the table – the sambosa.

Made with a traditional, crusty, football-shaped torta roll dunked in a dark red chili sauce, it was filled with meat (spicy chicken in my case), queso fresco, lettuce, tomato and sour cream. The bread was firm enough to hold up to the sauce, which gave it a nice smoky flavor.

The spicy chicken was much better than the grilled chicken I had on a taco, which was dry and bland. The spicy chicken was coated in a red sauce or salsa of some kind that was really not spicy at all, but the chicken appeared to be hand-pulled – from one of the roasted chickens I saw on the menu, I assumed – which gave it a nice textural component.

And with two sandwiches per order, the sambosas were quite a value at $5.25.

Actually, everything was a good value, as all entrées at Nacho’s Taqueria are $5.25, tacos are $1.50 each, and tamales can be had for $1 each or 12 for $10.

The burrito at Nacho’s was not far behind the sambosas, and it stacked up nicely against any of the chain burrito joints.

It was stuffed with ground beef and the usual rice, beans, lettuce, queso fresco and sour cream. But what really made it great was the soft steamed flour tortilla that it was wrapped in.

When it came to the tacos, all were made with two corn tortillas and, although the meat was a little light on one batch, were pretty decent.

The steak and verde pork were the best, with the bright, fresh-tasting green sauce on the pork really lifting it. The steak was tender and nicely charred and seemed great next to the ground beef, which, unlike the burrito, came off as rather bland.

The only filling I would classify as bad was the chorizo, which was more like an American sloppy Joe. It had a runny, tomato-based sauce with none of the spicy punch I expect from good chorizo.

The super tacos were more of an American version, with lettuce, sour cream, tomatoes and cheese. With all of the extra ingredients, the ground beef didn’t seem as boring in these tacos. They were basically open-faced versions of the burrito, with soft corn tortillas instead of the steamed flour ones.

The beef also worked OK in the tamales. There was a decent amount wrapped inside the thick, moist layer of masa, and with a splash of spicy salsa on top, I enjoyed them quite a bit.

The flautas would have been great with either spicy chicken or steak, but here the blandness of the ground beef reared its head again. But the corn tortillas were fried nice and crisp, and they were topped with crumbly white queso and sour cream.

The runny, charro-style beans and simple Mexican rice were standard fare, but the mild salsa was fresh and tasty, and the chips were freshly fried and better than the usual.

Nacho’s Taqueria was not real unusual in terms of eye-opening food, but the genuine service and thrifty prices make it worth keeping on your radar.

Restaurant: Nacho’s Taqueria

Address: 3739 S. Clinton St.

Phone: 456-1617

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday

Cuisine: Mexican

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: No

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Rating breakdown: Food: * 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net, and you can hear Ryan from 3 to 4 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.