In the two years since moving to Shreveport from Chicago, I've been able to find passable substitutes for many Chicago things. No, there's no deep dish pizza or Portillo's beef sandwiches, but there are Shreveport versions of most other Windy City favorites. But, one of the few things I hadn't been able to substitute was one of the most sorely missed: good Mexican food.
It may come as a surprise, but Chicago has some of the best Mexican food in the country. I don't mean the rice, bean, and cheese laden tex-mex dishes of Texas, or the avocado heavy shrimp and fish tacos of the west coast; no, the Mexican food of Chicago is true Mexican street food: corn tortillas wrapped around cheap chopped meat, garnished with onion, cilantro, and maybe a lime, served wrapped in foil inside a greasy paper sack. Beautiful in its simplicity, and also amazingly delicious.
Tacos such as these just weren't to be found in Shreveport, or so I'd come to believe. I went everywhere in my search, coming up empty each time. A couple places came close (most notably, the taco stand at the Hispanic league soccer games), but I couldn't find the one thing I was looking for, the one ingredient that would tell me I'd found what I was looking for: lengua (beef tongue, for you gringos).
Yes, tongue. It sounds scary. I was terrified the first time I ordered it. But my curiosity got the better of me, I ordered it, and non-tongue tacos were ruined forever for me. The cheap, tough meat is slow braised for hours upon hours until falling apart, then it's grilled and chopped. The end result is a strong beef flavor--think about the best brisket you've ever had--and the texture of warm butter. Lengua was a staple ingredient at any tacqueria in Pilsen, Humboldt Park, or other Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago, and it was my benchmark for determining whether or not a Mexican restaurant in Shreveport would be good. Everywhere I went, I'd ask for it. "¿Su tienen lengua?" They'd usually just stare back at me, confused by the gringo ordering beef tongue. I eventually gave up.
After a while, I started to hear rumors of the best tacos in Shreveport. Several people all said the same thing, that I had to try Tacqueria la Michoacana. I looked it up, and the reviews seemed promising. I had a good feeling that this might be the place. Then, finally, I was able to go for a visit this week. I was not disappointed.
There's nothing I can say about these tacos that would do them justice, other than to say that Tacqueria Michoacana would be right at home in Pilsen. If you've had a chance to have real street tacos before, and have been missing them like I was, go. Now. If your only experience with tacos is deciding between hard or soft, go. Now. But don't go in expecting anything like you've had before. These don't come covered in white and yellow cheese and you won't get a side of rice and beans, but go (and please, in the name of all that is good in the world, order the lengua).