There's no substitute for good Mexican food. I expect, no, I demand refried beans, rice, spicy salsa and great tortillas served hot with melting cheese and spices oozing everywhere.
I found all I desired at Taco Loco Deli, (600 West International Airport Road.) You're probably no stranger to the tortilla shells, chips and salsa from Taco Loco. The company has been selling its products in stores throughout Alaska for years. If you're looking for a quick dining experience, pop into its shop. Lunch is the only option and is served from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Starving and in need of a major carbo load, a friend and I recently went for a visit. Don't expect anything fancy. You won't find fresh herbs, searing vegetables or ornate table cloths. But what Taco Loco lacks in fine dining, it makes up for in simple, traditional foods.
Behind the counter, server and cook Cindy Albanil suggested the chicken enchilada pie, ($7.75) which had just come out of the oven. She said it's probably the most popular item on the menu and is also often made with beef. My companion jumped on the suggestion. It had thick chunks of white chicken breast smothered in chile sauce, layers of shredded cheese and corn tortillas. Sides include a choice of pinto or refried beans, tomato chunks, onions and lettuce.
I couldn't resist the 10-inch burrito ($7.75). The title isn't an exaggeration. My meal was served in a flour tortilla stuffed with slow-cooked, tender, shredded beef. It also came with refried beans and rice. I picked green chile sauce over red for my topping. It's a blend of tomatillo and jalapeno peppers with a great, spicy kick. I love spicy food but my dining partner found the flavor too intense.
With time to spare before heading back to work, we decided to dine in. Between the rows of Mexican cooking products we snagged one of the two tables and dug in. Both meals were good, but, the chicken enchilada pie was better with its complex flavors and cheesy goodness.
Meals here are large, but the menu is pretty small. Expect only a handful of options. There's a taco salad ($6 for a small, $7.75 for a large). It's an edible tostada shell filled with taco meat, lettuce, cheese, rice and salsa. There's also a chicken chipotle dish ($7.75). It's seasoned, shredded chicken in a creamy chipotle sauce served over rice and beans and an 8-inch flour tortilla.
The tamales were also spectacular. They are served with rice and beans or ala cart ($2.50 each). All plates are served with your choice of onions, garlic, tomatoes, jalapenos, sour cream and salsa.
Albanil said she also offers rotating daily specials. One of her all-time favorite meals is strong man chili. I could feel myself falling in love with the dish as she described it. For $5.50, diners get chili that is loaded with meat, chili, onions and garlic. Sometimes beans are also tossed in. Albanil repeated the word, "loaded with meat" several times to describe the chili.
She also cooks food for large groups, although stops short of calling it catering.
Taco Loco Deli is a cheap, hearty lunch for people on the go. If you can get there before the 2 p.m. deadline, I'd highly recommend adding it to your lunch time rotation.
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Taco Loco Deli
Location: 600 West International Airport Road
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday
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By Rebecca Palsha
Daily News correspondent