Tacos from George’s Mexican Café
- Josh Tuck
- Josh Tuck
If you’ve never ventured to the south side of Fort Wayne to experience George’s International Market, you are missing out on one of Fort Wayne’s more interesting grocery stores. While the bulk of the groceries are Mexican, George’s is the only place in town where large tins of Greek olive oil, dates from the middle east, and sauces from South America can be purchased in one stop. I’m here almost weekly to pick up items for Mexican meals, or to just browse the shelves of exotic ingredients. On this visit though, I was only interested in one thing, the Mexican café at the front corner of the store.
It was an uncharacteristically warm June day as I crossed George’s parking lot to the entrance. The deep blue sky had an even patchwork of large cotton ball clouds and there was a soft breeze blowing. It reminded me of the weather the Mayan Riviera experiences year round, and it set the stage perfectly for a quick Mexican lunch. Inside George’s, Spanish is spoken over the blare of the Mexican radio station, the jangle of cash registers, and the rustling of groceries. A broad ethnic mix of people do their shopping here and the atmosphere always seems more neighborly than in other grocery stores. The café in George’s is separated from the rest of the store by a shoulder high wall, and looks out into the parking lot from floor to ceiling windows. It’s cramped kitchen area is attached to the produce isle and the cooks make frequent trips to it for tomatoes, avocados, and other supplies.
Specialty of the House
The menu is limited, but not as much as a true taquiera like Tacos Arandas “El Amish”, which is located across the street. There are other Mexican-American staples on the menu, but the real stars are the tacos. At $1.50 each, the generous portions of meat piled on corn tortillas and topped with cilantro and onions, are about as inexpensive and authentic as it gets. For those feeling decadent, any number of toppings can be added such as tomato, avocado (I highly recommend this addition), or queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese). There are several kinds of meat to choose from, and I opted for one each of the lengua, al pastor, and chorizo. All tacos come with George’s house-made, spicy, tomatillo salsa and their milder tomato-based salsa.
The Taco That Tastes You Back
A friend of mine came up with that one when I told him the lengua tacos are made from beef tongue. As exotic, or unappetizing, as that sounds, they really are quite delicious. The tongue is ground and mixed with plenty of spices. The texture is soft and juicy, like good quality sausage, and the taste is almost identical to ground beef. The dominant smoky and spicy notes of the tongue are complimented perfectly by a wedge of creamy avocado and a few chunks of lightly grilled pineapple. I was amazed that such a humble food could touch on so many flavor points and be so deeply satisfying.
From Lebanon With Love
“Al pastor” means “sheperd style”. These tacos of roasted pork are thought to have originated from the Lebanese immigrants who came to Mexico and brought with them their recipes for doner kebabs. Al pastor pork is marinated and roasted until the meat is supremely juicy and fall-apart tender. All the other flavors of the taco come from the fresh onions, cilantro, and avocado. While the purity of the pork flavor was remarkably good on it’s own, a dab of the tomatillo salsa gave them a new dimension. They won’t ever be fireworks in you mouth, but the basic flavors are a fantastic representation of simple, everyday Mexican cooking at it’s best.
South of the Border Sausage
Chorizo tacos are quite similar to lengua tacos in terms of texture and flavor. However, Chorizo is a pork sausage, as opposed to cow face meat. It’s made with a similar blend of ground hot and smokey spices, and when it is crumbled and pan-seared, it turns a dark rusty orange. The only thing that stops me from ordering a dozen of these, and wolfing them down like a starving dog, is knowing the shame Danielle would feel from having to roll me into the emergency room in a wheel barrow.
In reality, there aren’t many similarities between horchata (rice water) and lemonade, except for the fact that they are both extremely refreshing on a hot summer day. I didn’t order a horchata, but they kindly offered me a free glass, so who was I to say no. It’s light brown color gives it a more then passing resemblance to river water, but I was amazed by how well this playful mix of ice, water, rice, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon cut the fire from the tacos. You can buy some to take home from the grocery section of the store, but the stuff for sale in the café is their own special recipe.
Loosening The Belt
Invariably, one must draw comparisons to Tacos Arandas “El Amish”, George’s neighbor and principle competitor. On one hand, I found myself longing for the selection of salsas at Tacos Arandas. However, George’s tacos were fundamentally better because the meat was so much more flavorful, tender, and juicy. The pork in the al pastor taco was falling apart like a well prepared pot roast. Furthermore, the lengua and chorizo tasted like they were cooked fresh rather than made in a large batch and kept warm. Ideally, I would be able to top a taco from George’s with salsa from Tacos Arandas. However, I’m guessing an agreement of that nature will probably never happen.
What’s on the menu is only part of the reason why lunch at George’s is such a great experience. The other part is the people you eat with. Many different types of people, from all over the city come together here. Construction workers, business men, families, and individuals from the surrounding neighborhoods all seem to enjoy getting together for a couple for tacos. On my visit, two friends in their twenties sat across from me and talked excitedly about where they wanted to travel after college. A man who looked to have come straight from a job site, downed a few tacos quietly before rushing off to work again. There was also a group of girls who lingered over their Cokes and chatted for some time. When you witness so much division among people in the world, it’s enlivening to see so many different types of people brought to gather by something so simple as a really good taco.