OK, so the name doesn’t exactly inspire too much confidence: Tacos y Burritos Metro Basilica No. 2. It apparently refers to a Mexico City metro stop, but how many San Antonians will know that before asking? (The No. 1 store seems to be in California, so don’t look for it.)
The look of the place doesn’t exactly win too many points either. Sure, it’s ultra clean, but it’s also sterile and nondescript in an equally unnoticeable plaza along Culebra Road. The boxy layout of the dining room tables makes you feel as if you were being herded through.
All of which could explain why only two other tables were occupied the other night when we slipped in for dinner.
But the food is so unbelievably good that it will win you over at first bite. This is Mexican street fare that you usually find around here only at a taco truck, only better. Forget the chips and salsa, and concentrate on huaraches, sopes and mulitas, all with the most divinely cinnamon-laced horchata in town.
It’s a small menu, but everything is choice. And the prices, most under $5, are a steal.
We tried two sopes, which were visually indistinguishable until you dug a fork into them. Each arrived with a mountain of shredded lettuce topped with avocado, slivers of tomato, sour cream and queso fresco. Underneath was a smear of lardy beans and plenty of meat — we tried both the asada and the chicken, and found plenty to enjoy in each. Everything was situated atop a handmade base made from corn. Think of your favorite tostada, only on steroids in terms of size and flavor. A squirt or two of the fiery green salsa or the smoky roasted red just carried the freshness of the dish to a whole new level.
The same sumptuous mound of lettuce covered the carnitas huarache, which also had a thick-yet-tender, oblong corn tortilla on the bottom. The succulent strands of meat had been crisped on the edges, giving a variety of textures as well as its juicy pork flavor to the dish.
I was not familiar with the mulita, so I couldn’t wait to give it a try. Two corn tortillas were stuffed with the meat of your choice (I opted for what turned out to be a spectacularly well seasoned al pastor), ripe avocado and a salty cheese that sort of melted together with just a few welcome drops of grease, which you will want to sop up with any tortilla so you don’t miss a single bite. Individually, each ingredient shone; together, they eclipsed everything else on the table, which was no mean feat.
I just wish that a few slivers of radish had been added to each of the dishes, as they would have offered a lively little kick and a complementary crunch. I hope they’re available with the pozole, which a flier on the wall said is now offered daily. I wish I had seen that first. Or maybe not. It gives me something to go back for. With a mulita on the side.
Tacos y Burritos Metro Basilica No. 2
7627 Culebra Road
Open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily