Taqueria El Sabor

tl;dr: The carnitas are the only way to fly if you’re serious about pork, but the whole menu (minus the chef salad, probably) is on the perfect end of the great spectrum.

The best way to describe the carnitas at Taqueria El Sabor is that they’re meat hashbrowns. Sheets of crunchy pork cover the exterior of either side of the pile on your plate, the inside a jumble of silky, salty strands of pork shoulder and onion. This is one of those foods you add to the list of “things I can’t go vegan because of” (which also includes chicken wings and mac and cheese). It shot to the very top of my “foods I would add to my last meal” list (which also include chicken wings and mac and cheese) the moment I first tried it. I can’t force myself to say anything other than “carnitas” when I order, but before I found the porky promised land, I had great experiences with the adobada and asada.

To truly experience the pure porkiness of the carnitas, order the combo carnitas, which gives you a pile of unadulterated pork along with rice, beans, and one of those guilty pleasure iceberg salads with cheddar cheese and shitty ranch. Eating the carnitas in any other way is really gilding the lily, but they’re fantastic in every other application they offer.

I’ve ordered everything from the nachos to the sopitos to the chilaquiles to the quesadilla, and I’ve never even come close to disappointment. The service at El Sabor is always pleasant without being overbearing, the salsa bar is always loaded with the classics you’d expect from any self-respecting taqueria, and the horchata is cold and cinnamon-y with free refills (!!). El Sabor is another favorite album of restaurants. Consistent, always nice to come back to, and you never get tired of it.

http://taqueriaelsabor.net/

Ma’ono

tl;dr: ORDER THE GODDAMN ROLLS. I don’t care what else you order. Everything is good.

When people talk about Ma’Ono, they always talk about the fried chicken. Well, I’m a natural born hater, through and through, and I’ve gotta say the fried chicken was one of the worst things on our table.

THAT BEING SAID, we ordered SEVENTEEN things, and all of them were spectacular. Do you get what I’m saying here? Fried chicken was the worst of the best. Everything else was better, and fried chicken certainly wasn’t bad.

The best of the best was easily a tie between the rolls and the saimin. The rolls were the best combination of food adjectives; light, dense, huge, not filling. How were they both light and dense? I DON’T KNOW. I truly can’t wrap my brain around the idea that these rolls are real. That’s how good they are. They are simultaneously light and dense in a world that doesn’t allow that to happen. How are they both huge and not filling? I DON’T KNOW. These rolls are fantastically huge. Absolutely gigantic, and yet, I could eat piles and piles of them. They must have paid off the same people Lay’s did, because they are like potato chips in that you can eat them forever without feeling the slightest bit full.

After that how could I possibly recommend the saimin? Well really, nothing can top those rolls. I think I’m actually doing myself a disservice here by having this be the third article, because honestly, after those rolls, nothing matches up. Grass just isn’t as green anymore, the sky isn’t as blue, and babies aren’t as cute. They’re so good, they’re depressing.

If you must follow up the rolls with something other than another plate of rolls though, the saimin is your best bet. The broth in that bowl is as close to gravy as broth gets. Fatty, rich, opaque, it’s a beautiful masterpiece of liquid, but the real star of the show is the soft-cooked egg. It’s marinated in soy and sesame, which doesn’t sound especially spectacular, but when you bite into it, it just feels right. It feels like all eggs should be marinated in soy and sesame. These eggs are living their true egg destiny.

If you really want to fat (and you should), go for the banana cream pie. I geek out over dessert menus and Ma’ono was no exception. Even though I was absolutely pushing the limit by ordering a seventeenth plate of food for the table, I had no choice. Banana cream pie is a fantastic indicator of how good a restaurant is, and Ma’ono hit it out of the park. Not only is there no fake banana flavor to be found, but there were cacao nibs in the graham cracker crust which were addictively crunchy, and the whipped cream that topped the entire slice was freshly piped on, which was just about enough to send me into convulsions right there in the booth.

The only regret I have about Ma’ono was that I didn’t get to try more than seventeen things. Ma’ono is the kind of restaurant that is like your favorite album. You can play it all the way through without skipping a song, but there are definitely some songs you play more than once.

http://maono.springhillnorthwest.com/