Above: If it were any fresher, it wouldn’t be ready yet. That’s the way tacos are done at Fernando’s Mexican Grill in the Drake neighborhood.
By Wini Moranville
The first time I tried tacos from one of the great taco trucks around town, I could neither believe how good they were, nor figure out what made them so much better than similar tacos served at ultra-casual restaurants in town. My food-editor dining companion put forth this theory: Tacos diminish in greatness for every second it takes to get them from the cook’s hands to yours, which can greatly depend on how far you are from the kitchen. Because taco-truck cooks hand you the tacos immediately after they’re ready, and from within a half-step of where they were made, theirs are the best.
Alas, it’s getting late in the season to enjoy taco trucks around town. But when a craving recently struck last week, I fortuitously landed at the Drake-area’s Fernando’s Mexican Grill. While they serve tortas, chile rellenos, burritos and quesadillas, I doubt I’ll ever be able to move beyond the ultra-fresh tacos here.
At this cheerful and casual order-at-the-counter operation, they wait until you order before they press the raw dough balls into tortilla disks (how fresh is that?); next the tortillas get slapped on the grill for little pockets of char. Choose the toppings as you move down the line—I recommend the glistening, moist bits of seasoned steak, with pico de gallo, green salsa and cilantro-flecked red onions. And within seconds, you’ll be sitting down and savoring taco-truck-fresh, killer-good tacos … but in the cozy indoors.
A basket with two tacos costs from $5.95 to $6.95, depending on the toppings. Yes—that’s a little pricier than at the taco trucks, but those at Fernando’s are somewhat larger than traditional street-style tacos.
Find Fernando’s Mexican Grill at 2316 University Ave.; 515-255-3700; on Facebook at Fernando’s Mexican Grill.
Wini Moranville writes about food, wine and dining for dsm magazine and dsmWeekly. Follow her on Facebook at All Things Food–DSM.