Mexican snacks find their place in Itaewon cafe

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Mexican snacks find their place in Itaewon cafe

One thing that has been gratifying to see in Itaewon over the last few years is the addition of some foreign eateries serving decent grub at the lower end of the price scale ― i.e. 5-10,000 won per head.

Most of these sit along the road leading from the Namsan 3rd tunnel to Itaewon. However, in the very heart of Itaewon’s main strip, just 50 yards from the Hamilton Hotel, is a worthy member of the cheap eats club: “Taco Amigo Real Mexican Kitchen.”
It is a wee place, with just 20 seats. The servery, with the kitchen and a couple of serving/cooking lasses behind it, is at the far end. In clement weather they set up a table outside. Tables are decorated with miniature cacti and should your dish lack the expected “arreeeeba,” they are equipped with bottles of Louisiana Habanero Sauce. Some jaunty Mexican swing comes over the speakers and there are a few pictures on the wall, but essentially it’s a no-frills kind of a place.
Menus are on the walls and at the table. We four ― three moderately hungry adults; one ever-ravenous sprog ― order pretty much the full monty.
First, Taco Salad (3,600 won). This is a combination of chopped onions, tomatoes and shredded lettuce, drizzled in a very light sauce, surrounded by warm nachos with sour cream and guacamole. It is a light and colorful dish, which may suit the health conscious better than the heartier and greasier selections which follow.

Jumbo Cheese Quesadilla Set (7,500 won) offers yellow rice, refried beans (a bit sloppy for my taste) and a handful of warm nachos, plus a couple of salsa dips. The quesadilla is a goodly size, generously loaded with cheese. The sour cream is a nice touch, adding some cool, light tartness to a rather heavy ―and slightly greasy ― but enjoyable dish.
Beef Fajita (5,500 won) proved rather more fresh-tasting. There are actual pieces of beef, (rather than mince) in the flour wrap, and the crunchy texture comes via the inclusion of lightly fried, chopped bell peppers.
A slightly less conventional selection was the Chicken Taco Dorado (3,600 won for four pieces). Unlike your common-or-garden open taco, these are rolled, lightly fried tacos, drizzled with sour cream and served on a bed of lettuce. A snacky little variation; not bad.
My personal favorite was the Chorizo Burrito Set (8,900 won). This is a substantial handful. It is commendably spicy, though you can order it mild, with the chilli oil staining the wrapping paper. I should add here that the house-made chorizo was not actually a chorizo sausage, but instead, a sausage filling. However, that did not stop this being a very, very tasty number indeed. Recommended. All the above are available to take out.

To drink, there is a range of soft drinks and lagers. If you want to go Mexican, you can order a Corona, but when there is Heineken on offer for the same price (5,000 won) why would you? This kind of blue-collar dining, I should add, is best accompanied by a brew or three.
Or you can try a horchata (3,500 won), the classic south-of-the-border drink made of rice and almonds, dusted with cinnamon. English is variable. On our most recent visit, the waitress spoke with a fair degree of fluency, but on other occasions, the staff have looked a bit nonplussed when confronted with a foreign man spouting the language of Shakespeare. On those occasions, communication took place in Korean, although the menu is in English.

by Andrew Salmon
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