18 June, 2009
Restaurant Review–El Paraiso, Durham *CLOSED*Comments : 2 Posted in : Dining in Durham - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
El Paraiso *CLOSED*
111 S. Alston Street
East Durham (Note, I only think this is the East Durham area. Feel free to correct me!)
Lunch/Dinner: $2-7 per item
I’ve been dying to try one of Durham’s taquerias for quite some time, as they have been heavily praised. On my way back from the Animal Protection Society for a biweekly check for my lost cat, I stopped for lunch at El Paraiso. It’s not much to look at from the outside, basic building with barred windows, but I did like the bright green paint! Inside, the walls are yellow and studded with those beer logo mirrors that I think must be sent out for free advertisement in bulk. There are two rows of plywood booths and a few red-clothed tables as well. Pool table in the back. Soccer on the television. This sort of relaxed vibe is exactly what I think of when I think cheap eats for lunch.
There’s no posted menu besides a list of available meats but the cashier did produce a printed menu, so just ask for one if you like to peruse your options like I do. To drink, I had their aqua fresca of the day, pina colada, and it was very delicious if a tad too sweet. Their salsa verde was, by far, the best part of my meal and I am not usually a huge fan of salsa verde. This one was creamy due to avocado, bursting with flavor and perfectly spiced for my taste buds. In contrast, the red sauce had little flavor besides charred chilies and too much salt.
I had a chorizo taco and a chicken sopa, both with cheese, onions, cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes, and a squirt of sour cream. The tortilla for the taco was heavenly; they definitely make their own here. The chorizo was bright red, nicely spicy but also drier than I’d like. I’d never had a sopa before and I’d call it a mix of a tamale and a taco, basically a corn meal patty with a crispy exterior. It was alright but I probably wouldn’t order one again, with so many other wonderful versions of filling holders available in Mexican cuisine. The chicken was stewed just right, though. Plenty tasty.
I liked El Paraiso but I didn’t love it, except for that salsa verde, of course. I’ll probably stop in again but since I really want to find one of those taco carts or another taqueria, I won’t be running back for another helping anytime soon.