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22 July, 2009

Restaurant Review–Taqueria La Vaquita, Durham

Posted in : Dining in Durham - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez

Taqueria La Vaquita
2700 Chapel Hill Road
Durham
http://lavaquitanc.com
A la carte:  $2-6.
Plates:  $8.29-14.

Taqueria La Vaquita is a local favorite for many Durhamites and has received lots of press, including nationally.  I have been salivating to give it a try for months.  Their building, of course, is notable for the cow (la vaquita) on the top and the warm peach, orange, and yellow paint.  You order at the left window and can eat at the picnic benches under the overhang.  It’s a bit of a wind tunnel, just so you are aware.  I recommend parking on the side of the road or next door rather than trying to pull out of the marked spaces.

I went to La Vaquita twice because I simply refused to believe that my first time was the best they had to offer.  I ordered a barbecue chicken torta and an horchata.

The bread on the torta was the perfect texture, crunchy on the outside and not too thick.  The shredded chicken was slightly sweet, smoky and tasty.  Included toppings are lettuce, tomato, avocado, beans (which I opted out of), onion, jalapeno, mayonnaise and ketchup.  It’s that last ingredient that tripped me up.  Though only a very thin layer, the ketchup’s tanginess did not taste right on a torta.  Also, my favorite tortas are always super messy and goopy.  La Vaquita’s stayed nicely composed within the slices of bread.  It was a well-behaved sandwich, but didn’t give me the torta experience I love.  Taqueria Vallarta in Santa Cruz, CA is still my favorite place to get one.  Too bad it’s on the other side of the country.

The horchata was also a disappointment.  Horchata is, by nature, a grainy drink but La Vaquita’s is so grainy that it felt like a paste on my tongue.  I tried it both times and was unhappy with it.  More cinnamon and liquid would help.

Luckily, I did not write off La Vaquita after that trip but decided to venture back, certain that the other items would wow me.  It was the right thing to do.  My second meal included a taco pastor, chicken empanada, and chorizo gordita.

The taco was fantastic, in large part because of how great the fresh tortillas are.  They are supple and warm and don’t fall apart, which is always a badge of honor for a tortilla.  With a simple cilantro and onion garnish, the taco was fabulous.

The empanada was the largest I’ve ever seen.  The barbecue chicken was again great and the fried shell was too greasy but so delicious that I can’t fault it.  The gordita was not as impressive as its brethren, possibly because I was stuffed by the time I got to it.  It was also rather greasy and a bit overwhelming with the massive amounts of fresh, crumbly cheese.  That cheese is great in smaller doses but there was just too much of it on the gordita.  The chorizo helping was also generous but it was not spicy enough for my palate.

After two visits, I can definitely recommend La Vaquita for your Mexican snack food needs.  I look forward to trying one of their special plates, too.  The camarones a la crema are calling to me.

Reviewed 7.14 and 7.17.09.

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