Tacos and more, with a side of telenovelas
Special to The Seattle Times
El Fogon Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant in Burien, isn't a destination spot, but it endeared itself to me in a couple of ways.
First, I don't usually like to watch TV while eating, but I make an exception for Univision, the pan-Latin cable network that shows many types of programming, all of them exuberant. While I ate chiles rellenos, they were showing a singing competition featuring kids at all skill levels, from tone-deaf to Selena Jr. Then there was an old man covering himself with bees. I love Univision.
Second, no doubt you've seen menus that proudly proclaim, "Our food is cooked in 100 percent vegetable oil." El Fogon's menu sports such a disclaimer. Sort of. It says, "Menu items cooked in vegetable oil and pig lard."
So, El Fogon has good taste in television, and they're not kosher. What else do you need to know? Not much. The exterior of the place seems almost deliberately unwelcoming: The building is a mere box on seedy Ambaum Boulevard, with little to suggest that the place is even open. Step inside, however, and you'll be greeted by a welcoming staff.
And the food? Perhaps a little on the Mexican side of Mexican-American, and good enough. Papas fritas? Sí. The kid's menu features the Quesadilla Kid ($4.99), obviously one of the most feared outlaws of old Mexico. But there is also menudo ($7.99) and tacos de lengua (tongue, $1.50). The tacos are served on a pair of soft corn tortillas.
Service is friendly and quick, and a little of my leftover Spanglish from college went a long way.
So why do you need to know about El Fogon? Because it's just past the end of Highway 518. No matter which way you're headed, it's a quick stop on the way home from the airport, and after a long flight, a taco al pastor is just the thing.
Taco al pastor: In Mexico, pork for tacos al pastor is cut from a souvlaki-style vertical spit with a pineapple perched on top. I doubt there's any such roasting device in the kitchen at El Fogon, but the small slice of pineapple in the taco was a nice complement to the spicy bits of pork.
Chiles rellenos: "Too spicy," our server warned, but we persevered. Unlike the typical dish made with anaheim chilies, these chiles rellenos are three large jalapeños stuffed with shredded chicken and not quite as spicy as advertised.
Cochinito pibil: Something of a cross between tacos and enchiladas, the cochinito (little pig) consists of four corn tortillas filled with pork and jalapeños, rolled up and bathed in red enchilada sauce. Very nice, although the sauce got a little cloying.
Gordas fritas: A flavorful but shockingly gray fried corn-tortilla boat sets sail with beans, cotija cheese and a creamy sauce. Somewhat heavy and messy, but what do you expect of a dish whose name translates as "fried fat things"?
Agua de piña: I am always on the lookout for something refreshing to drink other than water, soda or beer, and this light pineapple drink hit the spot.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Taco al pastor $1.50
Chiles rellenos $7.99
Cochinito pibil $4.99
Gordas fritas $2.00
Agua de piña $1.50
Matthew Amster-Burton: firstname.lastname@example.org
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