True, authentic Mexican food

BY BEN VERHILLE | MAY 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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Publicly acclaimed as the most authentic Mexican food in Iowa City, La Michoacana Taqueria, 436 Highway 1 W., sits unopposed.

For starters, its website doesn’t work. Talk about authentic. But in seriousness, there are a number of examples to be shown for its authenticity over the Tex-Mex style that is so popular in the States.

The array of glass-bottled sodas in the cooler comprises mostly Jarritos, sodas flavored from fruit juices such as strawberry, grapefruit, and orange, made in Mexico. The set is completed with a wall mounted bottle opener.

Just over the wall of the restaurant area is a full market for your south-of-the-border goods, including piñatas and all the candies a kid could want. A good option for any fiestas or if you just want to be the coolest relative ever.

Back in the kitchen, you can hear the workers speak to one another in fluent Spanish. After ordering in English, I noticed a number of other customers confident enough to order in Spanish.

If there’s a lull in the conversations, fútbol is on the television.

But what makes this place truly authentic? It can’t be just the appearance of the restaurant or the language spoken.

Its menu is moderately complex, but I was adequately prepared for this venture. I went with a variety of the tacos: the carne asada, or steak, chorizo, or spicy sausage, and the fish taco, all of which came with onion and cilantro.

With an array of corn tortillas aligned in front of me, I took a brief glance at which taco would reign supreme before I began to devour them. After brief deliberation, I started with el chorizo.

The spice on the meat itself was comfortable, almost playful on the palate. Amplified by the sauces provided, I went with the verde caliente, or hot green sauce. The light portion of ground sausage was just enough to satisfy a small craving, as these are tacos and nobody would be full from just one.

The carne asada, or steak taco, had the same basic ingredients. The well-done beef was moderately chew but juicy enough that I believed it was steak. I added the intimidating radioactive-orange colored salsa to the taco and was actually able to handle the taste.

The fish taco included a breaded piece of tilapia on top of pico de gallo, lettuce, and a small layer of tartar sauce. This was the one I hesitated most with, but the first bite reassured me. The fish had a light crisp and combined well with the freshness of the ingredients served with it. I added almost every sauce available to this taco, because the tartar quickly neutralized the spice.

I sought out authenticity and found simplicity. Sometimes, the best tacos aren’t the ones with every ingredient, because those hinder the true flavors in the tortillas. Authenticity also means low prices, at least in my Mexican adventures, and they were very fair here.

An easy choice for takeout, and you can bet I’ll return here as opposed to the centrally located venues on campus.

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