El Milagrito Café
521 E Woodlawn
El Milagrito, “home of the Feo and the Loco,” is one of those places I’m always driving by on my way to somewhere else. Considering the lively lunchtime crowd in this colorful, hodgepodge of a place, it’s apparent many folks don’t have my commitment problem. From the lunching-locals look of things, most are already intimately familiar with the lethal, blended sauces, both alarming orange and deceptive avocado in color, that are available in dispensers on the tables. They doubtless have grown accustomed, as well, to the warmed salsa that comes with the fresh chips.
It would take me some time to warm up to that salsa myself; it’s too dependent on tomato. But the fluffy flour tortillas are classic, and they make for good wrappers for the middling refrieds (cautiously add dispenser salsa in your color of choice — or toss in a chile toreado should it appear on your plate). The rice is more colorful than it is tasty. But the knee-jerk “salad” that accompanies all Tex-Mex plates hereabouts is at least bright and fresh. Which inevitably brings us to the centerpiece of the Tampiqueña plate.
Yes, I’ve been beating around the bush avoiding it, but the especially thin steak (it’s never all that thick, admittedly) was also especially tasteless, and the plate was missing the advertised guacamole that might have disguised that fact. But wait — the plate’s cheese enchiladas, from which I had expected little satisfaction, turned out to be Titans of Tex-Mex, topped with a good, chunky gravy that indicates Milagrito’s guisada would also be a cut above.
It looks like the breakfast menu, served all day, merits a try, too. There are breakfast tortas the likes of egg a la mexicana, the basic tacos (chorizo and papa is a personal favorite) are only $1.19 from 5:30 to 10:30 a.m., and, yes, there are both barbacoa and machacado plates. Experience suggests steering clear of the steak and egg.