Try the Barbacoa Tacos at Tienda El Ranchito

Barbacoa tacos (and a carnitas taco in back) at Tienda El Ranchito - Ian Froeb
Ian Froeb
Barbacoa tacos (and a carnitas taco in back) at Tienda El Ranchito

Tienda El Ranchito (2565 North 32nd Street, Fairmont City, Illinois; 618-875-1521) is by no means a secret. This here publication honored it last year as having the "Best Guacamole" -- and it's damn good guacamole.

Still, this Metro East grocery store and restaurant doesn't get as much attention as the taquerias on Cherokee Street or by the airport. It's time to change that.

The barbacoa tacos are my current obsession here. Barbacoa originally referred to meat cooked in a pit, but that definition is somewhat broader these days. At Tienda El Ranchito, the barbacoa is goat meat that has been steamed until very, very tender. In truth, I haven't had goat this tender before.

The meat has a rich, earthy flavor, with a hint of cumin. As is customary, it comes topped with chopped onion and cilantro. On the side are dishes of smoky red and very hot green salsa to add to taste, though the barbacoa needs little more than a squeeze of fresh lime juice to sing.

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