There’s no reason that Taco Tuesday needs to be filled with mediocre menu options and disappointing flavors. Winston-Salem has a tremendously vibrant Latinx community with many commercial concerns situated near the intersection of Waughtown Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
So next time you find yourself craving tacos, drive just a little farther down the road.
Traveling from Old Salem on Waughtown Road, just past the Highway 52 underpass, you come to the Old Lexington Road intersection. Cuchifrito is right there on the corner, and the pupusas are not to be missed — but that’s a topic for another day. Pulling up at this nexus for the first time feels like you’ve arrived in another town. The Sprague-Waughtown Corridor has many Latin eateries, and I have been dining in as many of them as possible over the past few months to discover the diversity of my new hometown. While all of these restaurants offer complete menus, this is an introductory overview, so I attempted to contain my food selections to tacos.
Closest to the interstate underpass and just across from La Providencia market on Sprague Road, El Rancho Taqueria is bustling at all hours of the day. They do a tremendous business; catering and takeout, and there is often a wait for tables during peak times. I routinely encounter festive music blaring from the kitchen and the friendliest service staff in town. On my most recent visit, I selected lengua, carnitas, pastor, and chicken tacos. The tacos needed a little salt, but I just squeezed a little extra lime and everything was all right. I also got a big fat torta (loaded with beans, lengua, avocado, cheese, crema, lettuce, and other ingredients, I’m sure) for later; that lasted me two meals.
La Tili Supermarket has 40 seats at 10 tables situated in the midst of shelves bearing in-house baked goods, cold drink reach-ins, assorted sundries, and the open kitchen. Several tacos are discounted to $1 each on Tuesdays, and served Mexican-style (cilantro, radish, and chopped onions) like the rest of the eateries explored here. Gringo-style (lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and cheese) is available for an extra 25 cents. Tripa and lengua are not marked down but well-worth the up-charge. I also enjoyed the carnitas, which were nicely rendered yet moist, with a delightful texture, and a chorizo taco which had a touch of cinnamon, but was not oily as most chorizo tends to be. The horchata is fantastic, but a selection of Jarritos (a Mexican soda brand) are available also, so I had the tamarindo (tamarind).
La Perlita Restaurant & Carneceria (not to be confused with (La Perlita No. 1, a mercado one block away) feels like an old Dairy Queen or a throwback drive-in restaurant, but it also houses a butcher shop with a retail counter. In the past, I’ve made a few meals out of their rotisserie chicken special with sides. On this occasion, I thought I would start my meal with agua fresca Jamaica (hibiscus) and sopes camarones — beans, shrimp, lettuce, avocado, crema, and cotija on a fried masa disc; listed under appetizers. One order contained three and it was enough for a meal; I packed two to go. Pastor, cabeza, barbacoa, and lengua was the combination on this visit. They were perfectly seasoned and very plump. I don’t now that I’ve ever had better tortillas, but I’ve only just begun to explore.
Taqueria El Paisano is a bit farther down the road than the other taco spots, but worth the trip. It has a salsa bar for topping their offerings. The sauces aren’t labeled, so proceed with caution; some are quite fiery. There’s a big bowl of masa in front of the comal, and tortillas are patted out and griddled after your order has been placed; could not be any fresher. The menu is very spartan; choose a preparation (tacos, enchiladas, sopes, etc.), choose your filling, and make sure to get a drink (I love the horchata). I like to get four different fillings in my tacos, and even that is an agonizing decision. I chose al pastor, carnitas, cabeza, and lengua, and as I waited for my order to be filled, I heard someone phone in and order the daily special, which was pork ribs smothered in mole poblano. I had to have an order to go, so I did. The tacos did not disappoint, the horchata was amazing, and the telenovela on the TV was engrossing. My salsa was spicier than I like, but this too shall pass. And the ribs for dinner were super fine, also.
I realize that I have yet to sample all of the fantastic Latin flavors that Winston-Salem has to offer, but if this endeavor is any indication, the future will be tasty. Whether it’s Tuesday, or any other day, sometimes the journey is the destination.