Despite living within walking distance of about 5 places where I can get tacos, I almost always prefer to take the 10 minute drive down to Washington Blvd. in Arlington, when I get a hankering for tacos.
Taqueria El Charrito Caminante is a store-front on the outskirts of Clarendon. The story goes that they used to have a taco truck, but opened up this brick-and-mortar joint several years ago. There’s not a lot of seating, just a short formica counter with a handful of stools, so most orders are carry-out. These guys do a steady business during the lunch hours (except on Tuesday, when they’re closed,) slinging tacos, burritos, pupusas, tortas, tamales, and a variety of mexican sodas (Jarritos and Inca Cola.)
I’ve been countless times and I’ve only ever gotten one thing. Tacos. If I lived within walking distance, I’d gladly jump around the menu, but since it’s only every couple of months that I end up going here, I really only want one thing. Tacos. For me, these are the prototype for a taco. So simple and pure. Two warm soft corn tortillas, a modest amount of meat filling, radish and scallion, and some salsa verde. No cheese. No crispy shell (not that I don’t love a crunchy taco.) No lettuce or tomato. No nonsense. When I make tacos at home, this is what I’m trying to approximate. They offer a variety of fillings — pork, beef, chorizo, chicken, beef tongue, and goat. My usual order is a trio of goat, pork, and chorizo. And since this has become somewhat of an addiction/habit, I end up eating them in that order every single time. And wash it all down with a tamarind Jarritos. At $2 a taco and $1 for the soda, the bill runs $7, tax included.
The goat is slow-cooked and shredded. It’s not the least bit gamy, and occasionally a little greasy. Think shredded beef or lamb. The pork is similarly slow-cooked, probably shoulder, but the pieces are cubed, so they’re a little more substantial. Think carnitas. Lastly, the chorizo, my favorite (which is why I save it for last) is minced and, kind of greasy, but in the best possible way; the grease tasting of the spicy sausage. As bad as it sounds, think about the tacos you had at your school cafeteria texture-wise. I swear that’s a good thing. Each of these little guys are dressed with a simple radish and scallion salad and then a little of the spicy salsa verde. If I were ever challenged to some sort of eating competition, I would pick these. I’m pretty sure I could a thousand of them.
Whenever anyone suggests tacos, this is immediately where my mind goes. These warm little rolls of simplicity and tastiness.