Some of us feel that all tacos, no matter how delicious, should never cost more than a dollar. Others feel that one dollar tacos are an abomination against the gastrointestinal tract, and that they should cost more money, use higher-quality ingredients, and come equipped with valet parking. Extremists may never see eye to eye on this issue. But we here at Squid Ink are independents, running on the platform that any number of things, when thrust on or in a tortilla, can be rather good. So for today's fight, we analyze the food at two places known to make cheap taco fans cringe — Loteria Grill and Tinga.
We began at Tinga with the intention of focusing our battle on the papas bravas, a taco containing potatoes and poblano chile rajas. So we ordered those. But we also realized that our next stop had chicken tinga on the menu too, and figured that we should also allow Tinga's tinga to face off against Loteria's.
The namesake, a chicken tinga tostada, was a bit unwieldy. The moisture caused some structural problems, and when taking that first bite (all while simultaneously and inadvertently dotting our face with crema), the whole thing crumbled and collapsed onto the plate. Fortunately, we don't really begrudge messy food, and the shredded chicken was moist, soothing, and lightly spicy. In the end, we were left with a filthy napkin and a satisfied stomach.
The papas bravas taco didn't fare so well. It was certainly easier to eat, and the homemade tortilla had a good bite to it, but the potatoes, unfortunately, were debilitatingly bland. The rajas added an oddly flat spice, and despite the crunchy pickled radish and large slice of mysterious, cooked green fruit, nothing could overcome the lack of flavor at the core of the dish.
For our second stop, we visited the nearby Loteria Grill at the original Farmers Market. For our analysis, we tried the chicken tinga both in taco and tostada form. We preferred it on the tostada, where the smoky meat was mellowed by the crema, and given some extra body thanks to the smear of black beans on the crispy shell. The simple taco, while enjoyable enough, felt a bit pedestrian by contrast. Ultimately though, the chicken itself was better at Tinga, which only seems fair.
The papas con rajas taco, however, was unquestionably better at Loteria. Soft, salty, and spicy, it was in immediately comforting food. It was our favorite bite of the afternoon. So the papas con rajas landslide decision, when combined with the somewhat narrow loss in the chicken tinga department, makes Loteria the clear victor of the afternoon. And now we're in the mood for some papas con rajas.