Best Of 2004

Best Taco: La Monarca

A few forkfuls of shredded pork, a visible amount of chopped cilantro and a sprinkling of diced white onions, swathed in two warmed (not fried) tortillas. That's all there is to the tacos at this family-run Mexican grocery, Asian-happy Olive's nod to south-of-the-border food. No lettuce, no tomato, no hot sauce, not even sour cream -- who'da thunk true taco love could be possible without sour cream? But authentic Mexican tacos, peasant food at its finest, bear little resemblance to their Americanized adaptations, and far surpass them. The La Monarca taco -- walk to the back of the store, past the aisles of dried chiles and jarred mole, where a modest electric skillet and fresh ingredients await -- is tender but not sloppy, earthy but not plain, magnificent though it looks like nothing special. Its flavor will forever tattoo itself upon your taste buds, spoiling every single subpar, meekly constructed, bastardized taco that you ever consume the rest of your life.

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