The Signal

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Sunday December 5th

Get tongue tied at Trenton Guatemalan restaurant

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I’ve been willing to eat some very strange things in the last few years. I’ve dined on haggis in Edinburgh, steak tartare in Paris and sheep’s head from a cart in Marrakech. There is little to nothing that is too unusual for me to try. Some call my palate adventurous, others sickening; my mother just looks at me with a combination of wonder and deep disgust.

I wasn’t always this way, however. In fact, it wasn’t until about two years ago that, with the help of the tacos de lengua at Taqueria El Mariachi in Trenton, I was able to enter the world of culinary adventures.

That’s right, folks. Tacos de Lengua: Beef tongue tacos. I’ll give you a moment to process that.

When these were first recommended to me by a friend, my first reaction was, “Why? Why would I ever do that to my stomach?” Luckily, I took his advice. That day I learned what it was like to have a foodgasm. I had been faking it before; this was the real deal.

Fast forward to two years later. After rhapsodizing about the restaurant, a friend of mine finally insisted that I take him there. I like to think that his life has now been changed for the better.

Have you ever eaten something so good that you aren’t sure that you deserve it? That’s how I feel about the Guatemalan food at Taqueria El Mariachi. I will never do enough good deeds in my life to deserve to eat their food.

As usual, I ordered the tacos de lengua ($6.50), as well as a glass of melon juice ($1.50). My friends and I also split an order of guacamole and chips ($5). This was my first time trying the melon juice, and I can’t wait to order it again. It tasted like a perfectly ripe cantaloupe, light and frothy.

The guacamole was, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had. It’s made fresh, and they don’t waste your time with extra ingredients like tomato or corn. None of that nonsense here. This guac has huge chunks of avocado in it, making it extremely filling. It helps, of course, that the portion size was huge; the four of us could barely finish one order.

“Bigger is better” may actually be the motto of the restaurant. My order included three tortillas (six, actually, as each taco had two tortillas to support the filling) stuffed with chunks of tongue. No lettuce or cheese needed; with a coating of the amazing salsa verde that comes with the meals I was ready to dig in.

People tend to freak out a bit over the idea of eating tongue, but it just tastes like amazingly tender beef. Sure, if you look close enough you can see some taste buds, but my advice? Don’t look that close. Just close your eyes if you have to and enjoy.

My friend ordered the pork pupusas, basically a corn tortilla stuffed with meat and cheese ($6). For the sake of research, I took a bite, and I can give it no higher praise than this: the next time I visit, I will definitely be ordering them. It reminded me of a meat pie, but much thinner; imagining a savory stuffed pancake would also do in a pinch.

Another friend ordered the seafood soup, a weekend special (around $9). I mooched a few bites (again, research!) and while it was delicious, diners be warned: they take “seafood” very literally. As in, “anything that can be found moving in the ocean” rather than your normal chunks of crab or clam. These were included in the massive bowl as well, of course, but they were floating alongside unidentifiable ocean dwellers. Dear reader, there were eyeballs involved. This soup was not for the queasy.

It should be noted that Taqueria El Mariachi is not located in the nicest of areas. There is, however, a parking lot around the back of the restaurant, so street parking is not necessary. The staff, though extremely nice, does not speak English, so be prepared to point at your menu item of choice. I’ve never had an issue, however; between a lot of smiles and hand gestures on both my part and the waitress’s, I’ve gotten the correct dish every time.

I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough. The portions, the prices and, most importantly, the tastes are not to be believed. Don’t let the location turn you away; after one meal you’ll never confess an undying love for Chipotle again.


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