On those rare occasions when I'm not dining out and don't feel like cooking, I'll sometimes stop off at Tarascos, a little Mexican eatery in a strip mall near my home, for a takeout rotisserie chicken. Every time, I look at the list of specials by the takeout counter, and I tell myself that I really should sit down for a meal there sometime.
I finally did just that on a recent weekend, when my wife and I dropped in for an early dinner. I discovered that the restaurant's attractions go far beyond its specialty roast bird, and include a wide selection of tacos, tortas, sopes, traditional seafood dishes and just about every conceivable variation on the combination plate theme. Steak ranchero, arroz con pollo and pork in chile rojo sauce were among the half dozen or so dishes listed on the specials board.
And then there were those meal-in-a-bowl soup specials that many Mexican restaurants offer on weekends, with options ranging from beef to chicken to seafood to the famous pork-and-hominy hangover cure, posole. I opted for the lamb soup, and a few minutes later was happily slurping away at a rustic, earthy both that I had jazzed up to my taste with the chopped onions and cilantro that were brought along with the soup (plus a few jalapeños and a squeeze of lime from the well-stocked condiment station). Loaded with vegetables, rice and hunks of lamb so big I had to transfer them to a separate plate to cut them into manageable bite-size pieces, the soup was really more than I should have eaten.
But that didn't stop me from polishing off the better part of the huarache I had also ordered, a thick, soft corn tortilla (whose sandal-like shape gives the dish its name) topped with refried beans, shredded lettuce, crumbled Mexican cheese and avocado slices. I even managed to snag a few bites of my wife's Salvadoran pupusa, whose grill-blistered layers of masa dough oozed molten cheese with every bite. And a few more of the choripollo she had ordered, a marriage of chicken breast and spicy chorizo that turned out to be the hit of the meal.
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Needless to say, I'll be back -- and not just when I'm there to pick up a takeout rotisserie. Some of the most exciting discoveries, it turns out, are the ones that were right there under your nose all along.