Columnist Caitlin Weigel said Mexicali provides quality Mexican eats for cheaper prices than its neighboring counterpart, Distrito.
Despite, or perhaps because of, my limited understanding of the Spanish language, I believe that “taco” means “delicious little pocket of goodness.” I do not think I have ever encountered a taco that I did not enjoy.
The basic formula of delicious fresh things wrapped in a crunchy shell or soft warm tortilla makes it a surefire winner every time. You could seriously turn anything into taco form and I will like it infinitely more. Thanksgiving dinner in a taco? Yes please. Omelet in a taco? Top it off with some salsa and you have yourself a deal. All the remaining leftovers in your fridge mashed together? Allow me to grab my bib.
Putting food in a taco is the equivalent of stamping Oprah’s seal of approval on a book–people are going to instinctively like it more.
Maybe it’s the lack of silverware required. Maybe it’s the fact that you generally get to eat more than one and it’s not considered gluttonous – try that mentality with cheesesteaks and watch as your surrounding diners glare at you like you just left a puppy in the backseat with the windows up.
Maybe it’s the relatability – the taco just seems like an everyman food. I can relate to tacos. If I was a food, I think I might be a pulled pork taco with pineapple salsa. The point of the matter: I like tacos.
Unfortunately dear readers, this is the tale of a slight taco tragedy. I recently ventured to Distrito at 3945 Chestnut St., which has an amazingly cool website and an even cooler green and pink décor – think “Nacho Libre” meets metallic David Bowie digs. Though the vibe was definitely up my ally, the unfortunately prices were not.
Distrito serves tapas style dishes and apparently caters to millionaires. I’m going to throw this out there, and ya’ll can hate if you want, but I am not a fan of tapas. At least not in any of the ways I have experienced them, because in my experience, “tapas” is code for “baby portions.” I don’t like that they’re an excuse to give me less.
If I want to share, I’ll share. But don’t force me to share by calling it “tapas.” Not cool, food world.
That’s pretty much how it went down at Distrito. I shelled out $7 for some cow-tongue tacos, the cheapest tacos on the menu, only to be served something that wouldn’t satisfy the appetite of an Olsen twin. They were delicious of course, but this hungry caterpillar was left feeling less than satisfied.
This was followed by a small rant by our waiter about the importance of only consuming quality tequila. Apparently he doesn’t count a $12 handle of Montezuma Gold as quality.
I left Distrito with a rumbling still in my tummy and my wallet lighter than when I arrived. Immediately, I wished I had gone to MexiCali.
MexiCali is a few short blocks from Distrito at 110 S. 40th St. If you’re looking for a meal that will fill you up for a low cost, this is way more your style. MexiCali serves up banging burritos as big as your head and stuffed full of plantains and sweet potatoes. The prices for these little bean-based beauties range from $4-$7. The place isn’t much to look at, with a tiny seating area and order-at-the-counter-style service, but you’re way better off here than throwing away your dollars at fancier spots.
As far as my home experience making tacos went, it was easy peasey. I chopped up some sweet potatoes and roasted them with lime and red pepper flakes. I added some lettuce, sour cream and black beans with cumin to the mix, then wrapped it all up in a few small tortillas. Total cooking win and it was insanely easy.
So here’s the verdict: You should 100 percent make your own tacos at home. It’s fast, easy and a delicious potluck meal. You can even host a taco party and have your guests bring different toppings. Though if you do this you are obligated to invite me.
If you’re in West Philly and you find yourself yearning for some Mexican delights, hit up MexiCali. Don’t plan on eating anything else the rest of the day. And if you discover that you suddenly have no appetite but are bogged down with way too much money and are wishing that someone would criticize your choice of booze, go to Distrito. You’ll love it there.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.