Forget about a clever introduction. No need to bury the lede. Los Tarascos is the best Mexican-American restaurant in Tuscaloosa. I feel quite confident in this assessment. At bare minimum it satisfies my need for Mexican flavors, and it frequently goes beyond the minimum.
Los Tarascos is like every other Mexican-American or Tex-Mex place in so many ways: same faux roof shingles extending from the walls; same yellow & red & green & tan color scheme; same hardwood booths that feel like church pews; same simple beer selection of Bud & Miller & Corona & Dos Equis & Modelo; same chips; same salsa.
The menu, with over 100 numbered order options, initially seems like the same ol’ same ol’, until you read some of the more obscure sounding items. Los Tarascos makes a staggering variety of burritos, filled with all manner of peppers, vegetables, meats, sauces, cheeses. They make fresh takes on some staple items; the guacamole salad, for instance, contains carrots, onions, and pickled bell peppers.
The menu moves from pretty standard fajitas and burritos to Mexican City-style alambres dishes (lots of savory meats and stringy, melted Chihuahua cheese. Then you start to notice the fish and shrimp dishes, some in garlic-based sauces that don’t sound typically “Mexican,” that are reminiscent of Jalisco cuisine. Then you see the roast quail. Seriously.
If you are very hungry then order a burrito. They are the size of an entire plate, specifically the size of the giant novelty plates that Los Tarascos seems to prefer. And they are generously filled. They are basically Man vs Food style challenges. Take for example the Burrito Brava: steak, pablano peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, chipotle ranchero sauce, optional sour cream. All of that is wrapped up in a giant flour tortilla and covered in cheese and enchilada sauce. It is a lot to handle, but it is really good. A spicy, earthy example of what Mexican-American food can be.
My favorite reason to come to Los Tarascos is for the dish that Tuscaloosa is in such short supply of ever since Taqueria Jaripeo got wiped out in the tornado: the humble taco. True authentic Tacos Mexicanos are some kind of meat served in a small tortilla (preferably corn tortillas), topped simply with onion and cilantro. That’s it. America took the taco and created this bastard child topped with tomatoes and lettuce and shredded cheddar and ugh. The traditional taco is one of Earth’s perfect dishes. All of that is to say that Los Tarascos serves authentic tacos! Before you get your hopes up too much, they only serve asada and pollo tacos. No cabeza or lengua or tripa or cachete to be found. But Los Tarascos excels at their skillet-cooked and grilled meats, so these standard tacos taste pretty good. They come with a roasted chile hot sauce (sometimes served on the side, sometimes added to the taco for you) that adds a lovely smoky character to the steak taco.
Los Tarascos dares to create interesting, complex flavor combinations in a restaurant genre where homogeneity is the norm. They excel at both the basic fare and the stranger, more region-specific dishes. If only El Rincon would take some cues from Los Tarascos. Quality matters, especially here.
This Los Tarascos is located at 1759 Skyland Boulevard E, Tuscaloosa (right by America’s Thrift). They have a second location (pictured above) at 3380 Mcfarland Blvd Ste 18, Northport (in the stretch of storefronts between Popeye’s and the Northport Civic Center).
Mon – Thu:11:00 am-9:30 pm
Fri – Sat:11:00 am-10:00 pm
Sun:11:00 am-9:00 pm