Taqueria La Esperanza’s menu includes an appealing enchilada plate. (
Alexander Joyce / For the Camera)
Taqueria La Esperanza
Food: 3 stars
Service: 3 stars
Ambience: 2 stars
Address: 1280 Centaur Village Drive, Lafayette
Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Quiet to moderate, with the loudest sound being an extended shout of “Goalllllllllllllllll!” from the TV during a soccer match.
Located on Centaur Village Drive, set back from South Boulder Road in Lafayette, Taqueria La Esperanza dishes out a humble but mouthwatering menu of traditional Mexican standbys.
This isn’t the place for those wanting trendy takes on their South of the Border fare. You won’t find anything like a gold-leafed sashimi chimichanga here, but the connoisseur of simple, old-school Mexican will find much to enjoy, such as the street tacos.
Like most taquerias worth their salt, Esperanza anchors its menu with an array of tacos, burritos, tortas and entree platters ranging from carne asada to chile rellenos. Appetizers include flautas and chili cheese fries. Breakfast burritos, featuring such meats as bacon, ham and chorizo are on tap all day, a boon for the late riser. Prices are remarkably reasonable, with the most expensive item consisting of a $12 camarones a la diabla, or deviled shrimp platter, and on the more affordable end, a filling smothered burrito is a mere $6.75.
I’m suspicious of overly fancy taquerias, and Esperaza’s atmosphere is properly straightforward and comfortable, with a mix of tables and a long counter perfect for watching soccer matches on the big screen. Ordering happens at the register, and off to the side there’s a utensils station salsa bar featuring lively condiments made fresh daily. These range from a sedate pico de gallo to hot-as-you-want-them red and green salsas, as well as plump, whole roasted chiles.
Taqueria La Esperanza offers breakfast burritos with bacon, ham or chorizo all day long. (
During a weeknight dinner, my dining companions and I observed that customers conversed in Spanish and English in equal measure. When we first arrived, there were few customers, but as the evening progressed, the tables began to fill with a patrons ranging from individuals to families with small children. As we waited, we also took in the unmistakable sounds and scents of our meals being cooked to order, and our appetites were whetted by the tantalizing aroma of sizzling meat.
After we put in our orders, I sipped a jumbo $3 horchata, the creamy rice-based soft drink resembling sweetened cinnamon-scented milk. My first reaction was that it was a touch heavy on the sugar, but as the beverage’s ice melted, the drink settled into a Goldilocksian, just-right level of sweetness.
In many instances, carne asada steak plates are more about flavor than ultimate tenderness, and Esperanza’s $8.25 take was no exception. At that price, one can’t really expect filet mignon, and what we received was a pleasing mix of economical but full-flavored shredded beef folded in with tomato, onion and green pepper. These veggies had been cooked just right, without a hint of being overdone, and the kitchen’s preparation made the most of these ingredients’ taste and texture.
Tucked into a large flour tortilla, this is one of the more satisfying beef dishes you’ll find for well under a ten spot. Rice and beans on the side were exemplary. A hint of smoky chile increased the spice quotient on the starch, while the beans were smooth and satisfying, happily lacking the tired consistency that plagues some taqueria versions.
A $6.75 smothered chicken burrito was another excellent value. We were pleasantly surprised by this top-notch dish’s generous quantity of tender white meat, along with plenty of rice, and this preparation’s sheer size should easily satiate the largest appetites. On the side was a garnish of shredded lettuce and bright and refreshing pico de gallo topped with a fresh and light guacamole.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete taqueria visit without tacos, and I took it upon myself to order a $7.50 plate of these namesake noshes. Taco fillings here include more unique choices such as shrimp, fish and tripe, as well as more common meats such as classic carnitas and asada.
I opted for a platter of my personal favorite, lengua, or tongue tacos. Preparation of the meat was dead solid perfect, with a hint of char on the exterior and just the right amount of tenderness on the inside. In many instances, tongue can be over-seasoned, but in this case there was an optimum amount of salt. Traditionally simple garnishes of lime, cilantro and onion provided ideally tangy and pungent accents.
Taqueria La Esperanza clearly aspires to be among the best of its type, and it succeeds on all counts.
Currently, this is my favorite affordable Mexican spot. The combination of unparalleled value, attention to detail with respect to the cooked-to-order nature of the food and fresh made salsas make for a South of the Border winner.
A chicken quesadilla is among the many tasty and affordable dishes at Taqueria La Esperanza. (
Alexander Joyce / For the Camera)