Juarez often conjures up fantastic nights of revelry for many of my peers. The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, so many El Paso teens had (have?) fake IDs that got (get?) them into bars and clubs where drink-and-drown specials were the norm, meaning $5-10 got you bottomless drinks. Not me. My standout memories of Juarez go back to my childhood when we visited my dad’s cousin, but not necessarily for familial reasons. My name might as well be Lisa Simpson, because I had a massive overbite. Fortunately for us, my dad’s cousin was an orthodontist.
Worry not folks, there is a silver lining to the Saturday mornings in the dental chair and nights of headgear. Not only did I have less of an overbite to look forward to, but there was also El Taco Tote. Yup, there once was a time when The Tote solely existed in Juarez. Even though I ate meat back then, my fondest food memories were of their salsa bar, quesadillas, and papotas (translation: awesome baked potatoes). Fast forward to the 2000’s, a world where 20 El Taco Tote locations are scattered throughout Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. At one point, Denver was graced with a location. As much as I love Denver, I don’t know what’s wrong with those people. They also used to have Taco Cabanas! Those people don’t know when they’ve got a good thing.
Well, the point of this post is not to reminisce about my geektastic childhood, nor to berate Denver’s bad taco decisions (they’re not all bad. Hooray for Chipotle!). The point is to announce once more that The Tote now has a vegetarian (possibly vegan. I didn’t ask as I was already being annoying by asking too many questions) taco option!!! Last month, they added two new tacos and there was a whole teaser campaign on social media as to what they were gonna be. I commented on Instagram about about how it should be a veg option, and then the time came to announce the newcomers, and by golly it was a veg option! So, then I got to thanking them and they invited me to try them. :D
The new mushroom veggie taco is currently only available at El Paso locations (score!). At $2.99 a taco, you get a taco loaded with sliced mushrooms and chopped onions and peppers sauteed in Maggi seasoning. Maggi liquid seasoning, also known as Jugo de Maggi is popular in Europe and also Mexico, where it’s usually used in Micheladas and soups. It tastes kinda like if soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce had a vegetarian baby. It gives everything a nice “meaty” umami flavor without any animal products. Anyways, I liked the taco and thought it was a good size for three bucks, although it had way too much onion and was a little on the salty side (probably due to the Maggi). Fortunately, the onion was well-cooked and didn’t dominate everything. If you’re vegetarian, be sure to order it on a corn tortilla, the flour ones are made with lard (refried beans also have lard).
I recommend ordering one or two tacos, one papota and trying every salsa on the complimentary chips and salsa bar! There’s even cucumbers and radishes! If you’re one of those salsa-squeamish people, by all means do yourself a favor and try the avocado salsa. It’s like liquid guacamole, but way better than I just made that sound. You’ll want to drink it and no one will judge you. People here bypass the little condiment cups to load up the paper boats. Other vegetarian options would be a cheese quesadilla on corn tortillas. They also have red cheese enchiladas, but the rice and beans that they come with contain chicken stock and lard.
Disclaimer: El Taco Tote asked me to come in to one of their locations to try three of the mushroom veggie tacos free of charge. They did not ask me to review or promote their new tacos. All opinions are my own.