A many of my regular readers know, I’ve got a regular tradition of going on an annual “Death March”, in which I and a bunch of friends pick some random large US city (New York, San Francisco, and Chicago in previous years), pick a nice walking route through it (usually around 20 miles), and spend a day walking and eating our way through the city (you don’t feel too guilty about stopping for a hot dog, pizza slice, or taco if you’ve been walking 20 miles!). One of the challenges is that many large cities, particularly in business areas, can have large stretches that don’t have a lot of takeout food, or if they do, the places require some advanced scouting. So this last weekend, we did an exploratory trip looking for more stops on next month’s Boston Death March. So that’s how we found ourselves wandering around Berkeley Street in Boston’s South End, stumbling upon El Triunfo.
El Triunfo is one of those classic hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints, in which the restaurant consists of a single storefront with an ordering counter and a few (in this case, exactly three) stools at a counter for on-site eating. So it’s almost entirely takeout. That said, we discovered after ordering when those three seats were available that the cashier could get us a seat “next door”. And indeed, the vacant-looking store-front next door was a weird semi-furnished annex to El Triunfo filled with a half-dozen tables and a bunch of construction debris. It’s hard to tell what’s going on here, it’s either a very slow effort at expanding El Triunfo, or a former space that’s being decommissioned. Any locals know the answer?
In any case, we found that despite a few people in line in front of us, El Triunfo was running fairly smoothly, and we were soon selecting our items from the fairly wide menu of Mexican and Salvadoran food, the latter including some nice-looking pupusas. So we ended up each ordering a chicken taco with all the toppings, and a pupusa served up with curtido (pickled cabbage). We were quickly treated to a plate of two good looking tacos, and then watched as the staff threw a pair of fresh-pressed pupusas on the grill for cooking. A few minutes later they served these up as well with a baggie (literally a ziploc bag) of curtido and we wandered into next-door’s semi-furnished space for eating.
How was the food? The tacos were good: the chicken was flavorful, the toppings good (I actually enjoyed the guacamole, which is unusual, since most guacamole tastes like greasy cleaning products to me), and the tacos nicely seared. I’ve had better, even in Boston, but this was quite a serviceable taco in what’s generally a part of town lacking in options. Where El Triunfo really shined was their pupusas, which were fresh, flavorful, and nicely crisped, and served up with a fairly tasty curtido. I was quite pleased (I think the last pupusa I enjoyed this much was back in Yuma, AZ).
Sure, El Triunfo is pretty much a dive with some quirks, but our food was good and I’m sure it’s popular with the locals. So, Boston readers, what are your favorite burrito and taco shops?