Mystery Meat

Ian dissects suadero.

Gut Check, the Riverfront Times food blog, offers food and restaurant news, reviews of restaurants and food-related books — and lots and lots of stuff best classified as "other." (For instance, my continuing quest to find a true Philly cheesesteak somewhere in St. Louis.) Beginning this week, this column will highlight the latest Gut Check entries. Remember: You can read it first at

Flaco's Cocina (see review in this issue) of-fers a fun, breezy take on Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, but I find it hard to stay away from the real deal, which around here means the taquerias on Cherokee Street. I come back because the food is so good, of course — but also because there's so much to learn.

For example, at La Vallesana (2801 Cherokee Street) a few weeks ago, I noticed a cut of beef I'd never seen before: suadero. I don't speak Spanish, but sometimes I can figure out unfamiliar words through other languages I have studied or English cognates or just sheer dumb luck. In this case, though, I was stumped.

Turns out I'm not alone. Some of the descriptions I researched claim it is rib meat, others that it comes from the front of the cow. Some compare its texture to carne asada; others say it is smooth. Finally, I found a Mexican butcher's chart: suadero is located on the cow's flank, just above the udders. The Web site with the chart describes it as "the intermediate part between the belly and the leg."

With this (only slightly) better idea of what, exactly, suadero is, I returned to La Vallesana and ordered three suadero tacos. As usual, these came topped with diced onion and cilantro on two corn tortillas.

The meat looked like chopped steak. Several of the small pieces had some kind of sinew or connective tissue visible, but this wasn't unpleasant to eat. Overall, the texture struck me as chewy, though not overwhelmingly so. Like hanger steak. The most notable aspect of the texture was how the surface of many pieces had browned and crisped. Very similar to carnitas.

The flavor was, well, beefy. Nothing especially new ­— just tasty. Suadero won't replace al pastor (smoky pork with pineapple) as my preferred taco filling, but for a change of pace it's quite good.

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