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The Journal Gazette

  • The Parilladas combo at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • Bean and cheese dip at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • Fresh quacamole at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • Tacos from Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • The House Specialty Nachos at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • Mary's Enchiladas at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • Chilaquiles from Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • Chicken flautas at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • The chips were fantastic at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • A sope at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • Fried ice cream at Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

  • Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road.

Sunday, August 06, 2017 1:00 am

Paulding Road spot all in with yummy chips

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Taqueria Flores

**1/2

Out of a possible five

$

When visiting a taqueria, one expects the tacos to be good.

At Taqueria Flores on Paulding Road, the tacos were very good, but it was the chips that proved to be stars.

My basket of gratis chips, which were accompanied by bottles of mild red salsa and a very spicy green salsa, were some of the freshest, crispiest I have had in some time. They were well salted, had air bubbles here and there that really added to their crispness and I devoured them happily during all of my visits. But I didn't just have those chips with salsa. I had them again in a dish off the breakfast part of the menu – you can have those items anytime – and topped with a plethora of goodies in the restaurant's “House Specialty” nachos. I even had some with dessert.

Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican hangover cure, but I didn't need them to soak up last night's indiscretions. I love the salsa-soaked chips with queso fresco and sour cream on top no matter what time of day it is.

Taqueria Flores offers them with red or green sauce and I went Christmas style on mine and asked for both. I regretted it a bit, however, as that green sauce was fiery hot and had me going through several glasses of pineapple aqua fresca – a super-sweet, tasty drink choice there – as I noshed away.

I had mine topped with a soft fried egg and that really brought this dish home as the creamy yolk softened the heat nicely. Though they soaked up that sauce, the chips maintained their texture just enough to still crunch, which is the key to making chilaquiles the right way.

I had my nachos with carne asada steak and found nary a flaw with the plate. The same spot-on chips were layered nicely with meat, chewy melted cheddar cheese, refried beans, surprisingly mild jalapeņo slices, fresh avocado, lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream. Every chip I pulled had toppings, and those peppers added just enough heat so I just had to garnish them with the mild salsa.

Speaking of avocado, the freshly made guacamole appetizer was worth a try, too. It had a very creamy texture, a lot of tomatoes and cilantro and there was a nice kick of fresh lime juice in each bite. And, of course, there were those chips again. I would never choose the bean cheese dip over the guac because there was only a tiny sprinkle of queso fresco on top of what was basically a big bowl of refried beans. I was expecting some cheddar, too, or maybe a cheese sauce.

The beans were tasty, however, whether on the chips or on the side. They were runnier than the norm, which is a good thing because thick, pasty refried beans are not worth even messing with. The rice at Taqueria Flores was also above par with a pronounced tomato flavor.

All of the tacos I had were nicely filled and double wrapped.

The al pastor was my favorite with chunks of very fatty pork almost like pork belly coated in a red sauce that was more sweet than spicy.

The chorizo was also top-notch as its meat is more like pulled pork than the usual ground up bits. Its flavor was spicier than the al pastor, but it, too, had sweet notes. An owner said the chorizo comes from a Chicago butcher because they like it better than what is sold around here. I think the trips are worth it, too, because it was very good.

The carnitas (fried pork) were better than expected with a lot of crispy little edges on the chunks of fatty pork. It was so good it had me wondering if I might be able to add some of it to my next plate of chilaquiles to create a masterpiece.

The cabeza (beef head) was tender, moist and stringy, and it had a rich beefy flavor that was better than the norm, and the lengua (beef tongue) had nary a flaw.

Once I got away from the chips and tacos, things took a turn for the worse, however.

Mary's Enchiladas proved to be the worst meal I had. The menu promised three corn tortillas stuffed with either chicken or cheese smothered in red sauce with rice and beans on the side. After my first few bites, I had to unroll mine to see if there was any chicken or cheese – I had two with chicken and one with cheese. There was little more than a tablespoon of chicken in each of those and a tiny sprinkle of cheese in the third. And that cheese was not even melted.

The Parilladas Combination was better but still fell short of expectations. The menu promised “shrimp and chorizo perfectly grilled,” but what I received was a fajita skillet topped with four tiny shrimp, a scoop of chorizo, and big heaping serving of steak and chicken. The latter two were fine, but I was expecting a platter full of shrimp and chorizo. And I expected the shrimp to be bigger than a dime.

Sopes are usually my choice over tacos at a taqueria if they are offered, but they won't be at Taqueria Flores. The masa base – the signature component of a sope – was too thin and became too hard when fried. The key to a good sope is a base that is crispy outside but still soft and almost creamy inside.

The chicken flautas were OK, but they were that same mediocre chicken served this time inside crispy fried tortilla rolls. At least they were filled nicely and there was no shortage of fixings – lettuce, tomato and sour cream – on top of them.

Fried ice cream is offered as dessert and it was OK, but wasn't really fried ice cream. It was a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with crumbled cinnamon and sugar-coated chips, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and cherries. But you know how I feel about those chips, so I gladly finished the sundae off.

I liked that Taqueria Flores had table-side service, which most taquerias do not have, but that service was inconsistent. During lunch, it was impeccable when there was only one server working. With two servers working at dinner time, which was not any busier, it was dreadful. My server was not attentive and sort of lackadaisical about everything. A prime example was her serving me a glass of tepid water with no ice while everyone else at my table had plenty of ice.

Restaurant: Taqueria Flores

Address: 3204 E. Paulding Road

Phone: 399-6499

Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday

Cuisine: Mexican

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Chilaquiles ($6.99), guacamole ($4.99), specialty nachos ($5.99), tacos ($1.59), Parilladas ($26.99 large; $14.99 small), Mary's Enchiladas ($8.99), sopes ($3.59), flautas ($7.99), fried ice cream ($2.99).

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

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. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.