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To call Tacos & Deli, a one-year-old family-owned spot in the popular nightlife district of Zona Rosa, small would be an understatement. The main dining area contains six little tables, a tiny kitchen, a taco station and a cashier stand, all of which are squeezed into a micro-sized area that in many other restaurants would probably end up being used as a broom closet.

We had noticed the restaurant just before it first opened, surprised that anyone would think about setting up a restaurant in such a cramped space. After a recent visit, we understood that despite its miniscule size, Tacos & Deli had a big heart, managing to turn out a surprising variety of food prepared with a high level of care and attention to detail.

Tacos & Deli’s outsize culinary ambition is announced as soon as one enters the restaurant, where a large chalkboard above the taco station lists a rotating weekly menu of daily specials as well as a menu of items that are on offer every day. Curious to see what the joint’s little kitchen could do, we went ahead ordered a bit from both menus. From the everyday list, we ordered the alambres, which is something like a Mexican stir-fry of chicken, onions and peppers topped with cheese and served with fresh, homemade tortillas. For a side dish, we ordered cebollitas, small onions grilled whole. From the daily specials menu we ordered tacos de cochinita (marinated pork), tacos de rajas con crema (stuffed poblano peppers in cream sauce) and tacos de carne asada (grilled beef). To wash it all down, we asked for horchata, a sweet and milky drink made using rice.

The alambres, with its tender chicken meat and melted cheese that we scooped up into the warm corn tortillas, was homey and satisfying, while the cebollitas – cooked perfectly without a hint of bitter onion taste – proved to be an ideal complement. The tacos, meanwhile, were all excellent, showing that whoever was cooking in the restaurant’s little kitchen had some serious chops. The poblano pepper of the rajas taco was filled with queso panela, a fresh, white cheese made from cow’s milk, and slathered in a wonderful tomato-based sauce, while the pulled pork of the tacos de cochinita simply melted in our mouths.

Because the miniscule restaurant was, naturally, crowded, we were only able to briefly speak to the owners, a husband-and-wife team who, along with the husband’s father, were responsible for the cooking. Most of the dishes were derived from family recipes and the trio said they spend hours each morning preparing the daily main-course specials. It was evident, not only from the quality of the food, but also from the owners’ quick laugh and energy, that a lot of care went into what was coming out of Tacos & Deli’s mini kitchen. Our meal, in fact, proved to be one of the nicest restaurant surprises we’ve had in some time.

Less surprising is the fact that over the last year Tacos & Deli’s customer base has grown steadily, so much so that the owners were forced to reconfigure the floor plan in order to squeeze in a few more tables. It may be crowded, but with food this good, no one really seems to mind rubbing elbows with their neighbor.

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Ben Herrera

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