“I'm buying lunch” is a very dumb thing to say to me and The Right Honorable Nathan Gunter should have known better.
If there’s one thing you should know about me by now, it’s that I have no concept of portion control.
As a capper, “Get whatever you want” was particularly egregious. Because I am not just an over-orderer. I'm also a glutton for punishment.
Which is how I went from eating five large, meaty tacos at Taqueria Rafitas to destroying a $10 ribeye in a smoky bar an hour later.
Rafitas is a real-real taco shop with a nice repertoire of taco-adjacent dishes. You don't have to speak Spanish to function here, but it certainly wouldn't hurt.
Located in the recently lovely Ten Penn neighborhood, surrounded by the original Nic’s Grill to the north and Current Studio to the south, the restaurant isn’t exactly a secret; it’s just nowhere near as well-known as it should be.
With the closure of Chiltepe’s in the Plaza District, however, Rafitas is about to get a lot more popular. Lucky Plaza residents are going to be eating a new class of taco soon.
The menu at Taqueria Rafitas appears simple at first, but there are hidden layers. Look to your left before ordering and you’ll see a list of other specialties not listed on the big board.
If you haven’t eaten for a year and probably won’t eat again for another month or so, check out the California Burrito — so named, one assumes, because it is large enough to have its own state capital.
::puts on sweater, lights pipe::
Son, it’s time we had a talk about burritos. I know you’ve been experimenting with “party burritos” from Tacos Bell and Bueno, respectively, but I want you to know there’s no rush to overcommit yourself to larger burritos.
Sure, you start small with a bean burrito here or there. We’ve all done it. No shame. But pretty soon you move on to Burrito Supremes and Big Ol’ Burritos. Next thing you know you’re wandering around outside a Qdoba looking to score your next Big Burrito fix.
Once you get a California Burrito from Rafitas, there’s no turning back. (Speaking of backs, you’ll need lumbar support.) This thing is so big and so stuffed that you’ll be eating it with a knife and fork. And when you taste the mix of carne asada, lettuce, potatoes, beans, sour cream and guac inside, you might never eat anything else again.
Okay, slugger. Good talk.
Whooo! Thank you! It’s so nice to get to showcase my acting skills once in a while.
Nate ordered the chilaquiles — a dish of corn tortillas simmered in sauce and scrambled with eggs to become a sublime breakfast delight. It's hearty, is what it is. Filling. Satisfying. Like a Snickers bar, but nothing like a Snickers bar.
I stole a bite, because that is who I am: a half-ogre thief with -5 charisma. It was wonderfully simple and a little salsa on top took it to a new level.
Chilaquiles isn’t going to do you like the California Burrito, which any normal person would eat over the course of a long weekend, but it’ll get you through the day.
My tacos, as referenced way back in the fourth paragraph, were both large and meaty. Taqueria tacos sometimes get a rap as being tiny. These were nothing of the sort. Forget those $1 itsy bitsy taco truck numbers that are more tortilla than treat. Two probably would have been enough. Five was overkill. The Mexican Coke was just...delicious.
Taking devastating advantage of my friendship with Mr. Gunter, I ordered one each of the asada, carnitas, pollo, al pastor and barbacoa tacos. Will the damage inflicted by my gluttony ever be repaired? It's hard to say.
Here’s how the tacos ranked:
First place - Al Pastor. This shaved pork taco was a revelation. Al pastor tacos are kind of like shawarma in the way they’re cooked, but the flavor here was pure Mexico. The meat was extremely tender and had a lovely mix of fruit and spice. These might be my favorite al pastor tacos in the city.
A close second - Barbacoa. You had to open all the other tacos to figure out what was inside, but the barbacoa was so juicy/greasy it soaked the wrapper. There was no disguising it.
“Eww, grease is gross,” say fools. Grease is fat and fat is flavor and boy did these taste good.
Third, but still close - Carnitas. I wish more carnitas tacos were like these. The pork was nice and fatty with good seasoning and great crust. Too often, carnitas is just pulled pork, which can be really bland. Rafitas puts in the extra work to make its carnitas irresistible.
Fourth and actually a really good fourth - Pollo. Look, I’m with you. Chicken tacos are usually pretty bland, but these had actual flavor. They were a touch dry (use the red sauce on the table to fix that), but still some excellent chicken tacos.
A stunning fifth place finish - Carne Asada. I KNOW! I, too, was shocked to see the perennial favorite laid low by the competition. The truth of it is, the asada was fine. Maybe a bit drier than I prefer, but still steaky. It’s just that the other meats were so much better than usual. I couldn’t have called chicken beating out steak in a million years, but here we are. What a time to be alive.
You can go heartier by getting the same meats in a burrito with beans and rice for a little more, but I really enjoy the variety of flavors you can experience when you get a couple of tacos.
Do you like beer? They have some. Do you like Mexican TV programs? They have those, too.
More importantly, do you want to buy me lunch? Because if so, I know just the place.
Tacos (Al Pastor, Carnitas and Barbacoa)
Tacos (Al Pastor, Carnitas and Barbacoa)