Taqueria Thursday

Alteño's Alright With Me

Homemade Mexican food at fast-food prices

By Paloma Lenz May 2, 2013

It was getting late, and I was starving by the time we walked into Taqueria El Alteño on Harrisburg Boulevard in the East End. I gorged myself on chips and warm red salsa, then ordered the Tampiqueña plate (no.7).

A Tampiqueña plate is a combination of carne asada (thinly sliced steak) and at least one enchilada, with rice and beans on the side. It is the only combination plate in Mexico, but it's also popular in Tex-Mex restaurants and taquerias.

You might guess this dish originated in Tampico, Mexico. But in fact, it was invented by Jose Luis Loredo at his restaurant, the Tampico Club, in Mexico City in 1939.

The Tampiqueña steak is not to be confused with ranchero steak, which is served in a ranchera-style sauce with lettuce, tomato, rice, beans, and tortillas.

The enchilada in the El Alteño version was stuffed with cheese and hidden beneath the carne asada. The flour tortillas I ordered were freshly made. I slathered on some guacamole and refried beans, tore off a few strips of steak, and piled on some rice before going to town. The meat wasn't very tender--at one point, I got tired of chewing. But the cheese from the enchilada, along with the thin sauce made from chile colorado, created a great spread for my taco-making.

Also at our table was the day’s special, rico molcajete, which we ordered to compare to last week’s molcajete abasolo. This molcajete dish was bigger in size and had a totally different flavor. Instead of red salsa, the beef and chicken fajita and cactus were sautéed with onion and bell pepper, set in the molcajete and topped with a refried bean puree and asadero cheese.  I kept saying I was full, but I continued to pick at the meat from the molcajete.

Except for the chewiness of the steak, the food at Alteño was delicious. And the service was good. The meal was inexpensive, too.

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