Tacos are an easy and flavorful meal that I gravitate toward every time I’m unsure of what to eat. Similar to pizza, even when they’re bad, they’re still tacos.
There are a couple of places near me that do the trick — simple grilled chicken tacos in corn tortillas with onion and cilantro, and maybe a side of rice. Recently, though, I began seeing Tacocita, a new Mexican fusion restaurant pop up as I searched for restaurants to try. As much as I am a creature of habit, their unique fare and flavor combinations drew me in. Turkey mole? My mother would gasp at the thought. Smoked hot wings at a taco joint? Vegan options? My dad would be confused. All of these things that would throw off a “traditional” Mexican cuisine lover lured me in, and it will certainly have me back at Tacocita.
Tacocita is located on a busy stretch of Rosemead Boulevard in Pasadena — a small locale with a whole lot of character. It has a mural painted on the wall facing the street with blues and greens in the form of succulents and flowers, which matches the color scheme of the rest of the restaurant. And it has a large rooster for a logo highlighting their specialty on the menu.
Most of the dining seems to occur on the outdoor patio where there are a few large tables that can each seat six, with turquoise umbrellas overhead for shade. There are only a few seats inside, where it is all countertop seating, with not much room for more than two or three people per party. The night my boyfriend and I visited, we would brave the chilly evening air and sit outside, but quickly realized we’d be cozier and warmer inside. There weren’t many others eating in that night. There were a few people outside, with most putting in orders to go. While we took a minute of back and forth debating on what we should order, the cashier was much more patient than she needed to be and helped us by offering her recommendations and popular items on the menu.
While there wasn’t an overabundance of options for entrees, the star of their menu is the taco — and there are plenty of variations to choose from. We went with a few to try as much as we could, and because they all sounded delicious and unique. I will say that the tacos are also pricier than many other Mexican or fusion restaurants. But, then again, I had also never before seen most of these combinations of flavors and ingredients in a taco, so I was intrigued.
We ordered the spicy ground turkey ($3.49) which is served with chipotle seasoned turkey, black bean purée, cabbage scallion slaw, queso mix, and avocado, all in a crunchy blue corn shell. The shell looks black, which was fun, and the taco was great. Ground turkey is the driest of all meats no matter how much it’s seasoned, so I’m glad this is served on a hard shell to give some added texture and crunch, which only adds to the flavors of the purée and scallion slaw. This was probably my personal favorite.
Another turkey taco made its way onto our order, which was the turkey mole. It looks beautiful, but upon tasting was likely my least favorite, only because it felt more Tex Mex than the mole that my mother made as I was growing up, so there is potentially some bias there.
The Drunken Carnitas ($3.69) were a must-try and were great, just not on the level of the “birria” taco, which I’ll get to shortly. The Drunken Carnitas are made with beer-marinated pork shoulder and pork belly, taco truck vegetables and green salsa served on a homemade corn tortilla. It wasn’t bad by any means. I just hoped for more flavors coming from the meat itself.
The braised beef or “birria” taco, on the other hand, checked off all of the boxes. Birria is a dish native to Jalisco, Mexico and is traditionally made with goat or mutton, which is much more tender as a result. While I no longer eat birria (this spin on a staple dish was great) it came with braised beef short rib, jack cheese, onions, and cilantro. As my boyfriend proclaimed, “It’s like Taco Bell grew up and got a college degree.” This was pretty accurate, but obvious that Tacocita is no Taco Bell and offers real quality meats.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the cashier’s first recommendation and her favorite was the potato mushroom chorizo taco ($3.49), an entirely vegetarian taco. This was served with baby potatoes, vegetarian mushroom chorizo, charred jalapeño crema, and cilantro. I’m glad we took her advice and ordered because it was amazing. Who knew you didn’t need meats of any sort to make a deliciously textured taco?
Since Tacocita is more than just tacos, we knew we had to try the Tacocita Wings ($9.99) as well. I’d seen pictures online which looked great, but what was interesting to me was that wings were as big of a hit as the tacos at a Mexican style restaurant. The wings are crispy and smoked, served in a chili glaze, with cucumber and jicama. With each bite it’s clear they’re smoky and full of flavor, and nowhere near being too spicy to eat comfortably. They were also a nice break in between bites of tacos. We threw in the street corn ($3.79), grilled corn on the cob with creamy sauce and cheese. It was difficult and messy to eat, so first daters beware, but enjoyable nonetheless. My boyfriend ordered the horchata ($2.99) in a strawless lid cup and it tasted like the leftover milk from Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the best way possible. I’m not much of a soda drinker, but I couldn’t go without a Mexican bottled Coke ($2.79) which just elevated the experience. They don’t serve alcohol, but they have other agra frescas on tap, like pineapple mint, and sell whalebird kombucha (including a Purple Rain CBD flavor, excuse me – what?) I’ll have to try that one next time, as should you.
All in all, Tacocita is the perfect place for unique tacos and fare in Mexican fusion you won’t find elsewhere. Quality and flavor is at the forefront of everything they do, and never gives way for their sometimes eccentric combinations.
203 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
Major Cards Accepted