More and more, I find myself in far-flung reaches of town in the middle of the day.
I'm usually running around for work, meeting with clients or vendors, and need to find a tasty lunch on the quick—and preferably, cheap.
Of course, I'd have a much easier time finding slow, overpriced and pretentious (Taberna, I'm looking at you) eats, but I usually like to save those places for dinner. Believe it or not, the inexpensive lunch spot does exist in the City Different, offering tasty, reasonably healthy food to the working stiffs of the world.
When I'm down near Siler Road, Alicia's Tortillería (1314 Rufina Circle, Ste. A 438-9545) is my go-to place for tacos and burritos. The restaurant anchors a strip mall across the street from Santa Fe Greenhouses and, as the name implies, offers house-made corn and flour tortillas, as well as fresh masa and cornhusks for those looking to make tamales at home.
The menu also boasts a surprisingly large selection of tacos, burritos (including the breakfast variety), tortas, quesadillas, tamales and flautas. These items are served à la carte, or accompanied by beans and rice as part of a "plate." When you go, order at the counter (enter the front double doors and then walk to the left), and then wait for your food next door in the dining room. Food typically arrives less than 10 minutes after the order is placed.
I ordered steak tacos à la carte, and my friend Sean had the burrito con pollo (also à la carte). We split a veggie quesadilla and washed it down with Mexican Coke.
An order of tacos consists of five tacos on house-made corn tortillas, served con verduras (in this case lettuce and tomato), a small cup of really tasty, not-too-spicy salsa verde and half a lime ($6.50).
The corn tortillas are delicious, cooked on the griddle with a bit of oil until they get that toasty corn flavor. On its own, the steak is good but not great (decent cuts of meat with no weird bites of gristle, yet a little under-seasoned). It serves, however, as the perfect vehicle for the salsa verde, which is made in-house of tomatillos, fresh chiles, garlic and spices.
The tomatillo base lends the salsa a nice acid note that cuts through the rich flavors of meat and cheese.
The obligatory vegetables are fresh, and add a nice crispness. Onions, cilantro and/or avocado are available for additional charge, and would probably make the tacos taste even better (tomatillos heart avocado).
Sean's chicken burrito (con red chile and rice, sin beans y vegetables) came wrapped in a flour tortilla and weighed about a pound. The shredded chicken was a moist and flavorful mix of light and dark meat. The rice was what you'd expect—seasoned and savory, and pleasantly not cooked to death.
Spices like garlic and oregano complement the red chile's toastiness; the finished sauce adds heat without killing your tastebuds.
I found Sean's "burrito a la gringo" lacking texture, but I think the addition of lettuce and tomatoes would solve that. I've had a few Alicia's burritos in the past (the chile relleno burrito is my favorite), and have enjoyed all of them. And, oh, yeah—they cost $3.75!
The veggie quesadilla was a little disappointing, even though the crisp flour tortilla wasn't at all greasy, and the salsa verde improved the package. That said, try some of Alicia's other specialties first.
Long story short, give Alicia's Tortillería a shot; you won't be disappointed. I wish they didn't serve their food in Styrofoam containers, but for me that's not a deal-breaker.
The people are super-friendly, the food is inexpensive and tasty, and most of it is made in-house from quality ingredients.
It can get a bit crowded around noon, but even at its busiest, food arrives quickly and there is plenty of space in the dining area. Alicia's also accepts take-out orders. Me encanta Alicia's, and I think you'll encanta it too.
1314 Rufina Circle, Ste. A
438-9545 (call ahead for takout)
8 am-6 pm Monday-Friday; 8 am-5 pm Saturday; closed Sundays
At a Glance
Serving: Breakfast and lunch
Menu: Tacos, burritos, tortas, etc.; as well as house-made tortillas, masa and prepared meats by the pound
Order up: Under 10 minutes
Recommendation: Try it. You'll like it.