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Tuesday, November 30,1999

A happy taco discovery

By Clay Fong

Ever since the closing of the carniceria on Boulder’s Bluff Street, I’ve been at loose ends trying to find a suitable substitute venue for bargainpriced, traditional Mexican tacos. Word on the street was that Longmont’s El Taco Feliz served up what I was seeking. I’m ecstatic to report that this eatery’s offerings are even better than those of the late, lamented carniceria, and that the tacos here are among the very best I’ve had in Colorado.

Taqueria connoisseurs know that fancy décor is a negative rather than a positive when it comes to a cash-only spot like this. Feliz’s nondescript strip-mall location, coupled with a Spartan but brightly painted interior, ably passes the humility test. Seating here is limited, with only a handful of counter stools inside and a couple of picnic tables outside. But what Taco Feliz lacks in chairs, it more than makes up for in service, as the amiable counterperson/ cook happily answered our questions and offered up samples of the wide variety of meat fillings.

Prices here are reasonable, with $6.25 quesadillas, a special $4.50 enchilada plate and a $3.75 breakfast burrito. Beverage selections include south-ofthe- border soft drinks, including Mexican Cokes, fruity Jarritos sodas and a potent housemade horchata, the sweet and creamy rice milk drink. Friend Jon cheerfully commented that this sweet brew, best served with plenty of ice, was “a meal unto itself; it’s like drinking rice pudding.”

For dinner, Jon’s wife Arleen went for a $6 Pollo Flauta platter, essentially an entrée-sized version of the familiar taquito appetizer. This jumbo example consisted of achingly tender chicken morsels served up in a freshly fried tortilla. This piping hot wrapping possessed the qualities of the best and freshest tortilla chip you’ve ever had, with an addictive crunch that nicely contrasted with the lightly seasoned poultry.

Ann’s choice of a classic $5.25 carne asada burrito strayed from tradition by virtue of its considerable girth, making it closer to a San Francisco Mission District behemoth. The ample steak filling was packed with meaty flavor, and it was enlivened by a dash of salsa verde. Less successful was $2.50 brace of sizable tamales, which could have been improved with more pork and a moister consistency.

Dryness wasn’t a problem with Jon’s $6.25 smothered barbacoa burrito. Barbacoa is slow-cooked beef, and this version clearly benefited from several hours of cooking, creating melt-inyour- mouth meat akin to a well-prepared barbecued brisket. Han

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