Tortas y Tacos la Chiquita: Tortas Y Tacos La Chiquita, 2911 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204; (571) 970-2824
For weeks it was too cold to visit any of the many food trucks in these parts. So we decided to have lunch at this Arlington taqueria that used to sport wheels. It used to be parked in the lot of a local grocery store which, after 32 years in business (and a failed petition to keep it open), was displaced in favor of a Harris Teeter that’s expected to open next year.
So last summer, the truck traded its mobile grill for a kitchen, the Styrofoam go-boxes for plates, and sidewalk waiting for indoor heating. They kept the plastic utensils though.
We order two tacos: the chicken and the lengua (beef-tongue, because it’s something you can’t get everywhere). The girls behind the counter twist my arm, not very hard, to try their newest menu addition in the taco category — shrimp. Assured that “it’s really good,” I get that too. Gladly so: The shrimp taco turns out to be the best of the three, though they’re all delicious. (There are two other new menu options we didn’t try: Flautus de Pollo y Carne and Chocoflan.)
In the picture at top, the little thimble of sauce on the plate at 1 o’clock is for the shrimp. It’s creamy and flavorful without too much bite. We ask what kind of sauce it is and, after lengthy inquisitions among the staff, are informed that “it’s the special sauce.” Got it. (My guess: mayonnaise, horseradish, chili sauce, and lime juice, or thereabouts. And something else I’m missing — maybe ketchup. The lingo if not the ingredients are what gets lost in translation. I wasn’t asking what they call it.)
If the shrimp wins on flavor, the beef tongue wins on texture. It’s as smooth as foie gras or a soft, creamy liverwurst. It may be slow-cooked, or they may get away with kettle-cooking it in water because the pieces are chopped so small. In any case, the beef tongue nicely balances the other tacos’ fried main ingredients.
I load up on the green and red sauces (and the onion-red pepper mix), and end up overdoing it a bit; my mouth is on fire: These tacos are flavored just right coming out of the kitchen.