Lalo’s Taqueria (Lebanon, NH)

Well, it’s been pretty quiet here at the blog. My last real restaurant review (of a repeat trip to Pied de Cochon’s Cabane a sucre) was for a visit that happened almost a year ago. Here in NH, March 16th 2020 brought the abrupt closure of restaurants, and now a full six months into Covid, we’re still not back to order. Many places have closed permanently, and with very few exceptions, almost every restaurant still running is, quite frankly, trying to make do with a combination of takeout, outside dining (now on the wane as the temperature drops), and “socially-distanced” dining, and most places are trying more to just stay open than put their best foot forward. I’ve actually got photos and partial reviews for a good dozen places in my backlog, but most of them are now outdated reviews of how things once were, and not how things are, but it seems like a poor time for restaurant reviews in general until things recover a bit more (and nobody wants to read reviews of an experience they can’t currently indulge in).

But there have been quite a few bright spots throughout the dismal Covid-19 landscape. I’ve seen more than a few creative approaches for outdoor dining, takeout (including more than a few retrofitted takeout windows), and ways to just keep basic operations going (and staff employed). And in this landscape filled with restaurant closures both temporary and permanent, my local area has even had one notable restaurant opening: Lalo’s Taqueria.

It’s a bit of a bittersweet moment. Lalo’s opened late last month in the space recently vacated by one of my most-felt pandemic restaurant casualties: the Lebanon Diner, hit primarily by the one-two punch of Covid-19 and being temporarily stuck in the middle of a construction zone. But this did open up a nice opportunity for local resident Eddie Moran and his partners. Most recently, Eddie Moran (the son of the owners of frequent Offbeat Eats subject Gusanoz Mexican Restaurant) had opened a separate business from Gusanoz, running the Taco’s Taco’s food truck at various sites around the Upper Valley; I had mostly run into him at the winter indoor Lebanon Farmers Market, and several times as a guest truck at Polyculture Brewing in Croydon. The tacos from Taco’s Tacos were always good, and the closure of the Lebanon Diner made for a good opportunity to move from the food truck into a permanent location. A little bit of light remodeling, a fresh new vibrant wall mural by local artist Sam Paolini, and replacing the “Diner” sign with a “Tacos” sign, and Lalo’s Taqueria is up and running.

The menu at Lalo’s remains simple and true to both the taqueria concept and the food truck approach: the menu basically [i]is[/i] “Tacos”. A rotating set of fillings are available, usually including both meat (carnitas, al pastor, pollo, and carne asada on my recent visit), fish (I’ve recently seen both shrimp and cod), and vegetables (I’ve seen roasted zucchini, squash, and hen of the woods mushrooms on recent visits). Each filling can be served up either as “taqueria” style on a freshly-made tortilla with cabbage, pickled red onion, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and salsa, or as a simpler “street style” with cilantro, onion, lime, and salsa. Otherwise, at least for the moment, aside from beverages (including Jarritos), that’s the menu, it’s really focused and simple for now.

So, how are the tacos? For this visit I got a trio of “taqueria” tacos, two with carnitas and one with al pastor. All the basics were covered here: the housemade tortillas are fresh, crispy, and flavorful, and a nice step up from simple packaged tortillas. While I really think a good crispiness to my carnitas or al pastor is one of those flavor and texture aspects that really makes a taco shine, here both seemed simmered; the flavor of both was excellent, but the texture a bit soft; hopefully as the business grows they can work on that a bit. The toppings, however, were spot on: the cabbage, pico de gallo, and onions were crisp and fresh, the flavors nice, bold, and tangy. The salsa was a nice flavorful spike without overwhelming the rest of the flavors. Overall, these were enjoyable tacos, possibly a step up from the Taco’s Tacos food truck, and one of the current best options for tacos in the greater Upper Valley area.

Really, when it comes down to it, while I continue to be sad as I think of my now-gone breakfast favorite Lebanon Diner, I’m really pleased that Eddie has been able to turn things around and bring a new taqueria to the Lebanon Mall. The tacos are good, and well-suited to the current takeout-dominated state of restaurant affairs. I hope he does well and continues to flourish.

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