I have been writing this column for nine years, and am happy to report that I am still uncovering new dives and have yet to recycle a place. So I need to plead special dispensation here for a return trip to the original Taqueria Mercado in Fairfield. (They’ve just added a third location downtown at 100 E. Eighth Street.) I first reviewed this place not long after they opened. There was barely anything on the menu recognizable in English. That’s changed, but I think only the words were Americanized, since the food certainly hasn’t been. You hear “authentic” or “the real thing” about every new Mexican place in town, but the real litmus test for authenticity is chips and salsa. If it’s on the table when you sit down, it’s not “authentic” authentic. Once Taqueria Mercado didn’t even serve chips and salsa. Now they’re available, but for a fee. Carne asada fajitas are still the big seller here. It’s only the bold gringo who might try the goat soup or the menudo (if you need a definition, don’t order it.) But they do some specialties that most palates find thrilling, like grilled shrimp or pastor, pepper marinated pork with onion and pineapple sliced liked gyros. The size of the place has doubled and it’s still?in the mini-mall with the Mexican bakery and Mexican meat store. The parking lot is still the social center for Mexicans looking for day labor, a chat in the mother tongue, or a hangout where they feel accepted. I suggest gringos consider it Outward Bound for the taste buds.
6507 Dixie Highway, Fairfield
100 East 8th St., downtown
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days
Originally published in the November 2010 issue.