Exploring a new restaurant is like baseball: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it isn't available. My Taquería Jalisco rainout was a Tuesday, its regular day off. Fortunately, my other visits got me humming "Dirty Water" — it's a champion with especially fine tacos ($1.75). They boast the correct double layer of soft corn tortillas, generously filled with meat and simply dressed with chopped onions, fresh cilantro, and lime. The uniformly delicious, tender fillings include lengua (diced beef tongue); rez (shredded beef); pollo (chunks of marinated grilled chicken breast); rich, slightly gamy cabeza (chopped beef cheek); and adobada (chunks of pork loin in a vinegary, bright-red chili marinade). Excellent by themselves, they're nearly perfect once dotted with three amazing fresh table salsas: a bright-green one of fresh tomatilloes, avocado, and jalapeños (fiery); a yellow-green one of cooked tomatilloes and chilies (tangy); and a brown one of cooked tomatoes, chili de árbol, and myriad spices (as complex as mole).
Three tacos in a combination plate ($7.50) with excellent chunky refried pinto beans, annatto-tinged rice, and an undressed salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and radishes add up to a gorgeous, filling example of budget Mexican. Pollo rostízado (rotisserie chicken, $5.50/quarter; $7.50/half; $13.50/whole) is juicy, flavorful, and similarly satisfying with accompaniments of rice, beans, guacamole, grilled onions, and corn tortillas. Seafood plates boast skillful grilling or frying and clear flavors, like camarones al mojo de ajo ($10.99), a half-dozen grilled tail-on jumbo shrimp with a garlicky dipping sauce, two kinds of rice, and a salad of avocado and tomatoes. Breakfast platters are served all day, like fine huevos rancheros ($7.50), fried eggs on tortillas topped with a tomato/chili sauce plus rice, beans, and avocado.
Weekends feature astonishing specialties like bírria ($8.99), a brick-toned, complex stew of many chilies and beef served with tortillas and onions. Another is pozole ($8.99), a soup of pork and hominy kernels in a chile-tinted chicken stock that one garnishes, pho-like, with shredded cabbage, radishes, oregano, and fried tortilla pieces. Menudo ($7/small; $9/large) is a fiery, blood-red stew loaded with squares of beef tripe that the fearless can garnish with extra garlic, oregano, and dried chilies. Drinks include excellent cinnamon-rich horchata ($2) and Mexican fruit sodas ($1.75). A standout in a neighborhood with multiple worthy Mexican options, I'm hopeful that Taquería Jalisco is an auspicious omen for many more great cheap eats in 2010.
TAQUERÍA JALISCO, located at 291 Bennington Street, in East Boston, is open Wednesday–Monday, 10 am–10 pm. Call 617.567.6367.