Thursday, September 11, 2008

Naples Mexican Taqueria San Julian Restaurant Review

Taqueria San Julian is a welcoming Latino lighthouse, a roadside's little yellow flower, guiding taco-craving folks to Naples Bayshore Drive. On Bayshore's east side, a little further south than dining neighbors Real Macaw and Saporitos, it attracts a 90% Latino crowd of happy families with well behaved kids, couples and quartets of all ages, and welcomes newbies (you and me),as well as some well tanned Gringo-seasoned veterans. There’s the Fort Myers' Taqueria branch in the Dragon Plaza by India Palace; Both have a homey ambiance.
What’s the draw? Very good Authentic Mexican food, primarily soft tacos, at prices from the 1970’s! The décor is simple and bright.. It’s a small, one room place with tile floor, pale yellow walls, wooden chairs, and colorful serape draped tabletops, quite intimately close to one another. The handwritten menu is up on the wall by the kitchen. A USA map, some posters, an advertisement in Spanish on the counter for coaching prospective nurse assistants through their degrees (CNA), -nothing fancy here. Sit down, and wait staff sets down a trio of sauces-dark red, smoky moderately hot Chipotle-my favorite, the Hot Habanero- the lighter red sauce (bottom of the photo), and the Verde, or moderately hot green sauce. Order some tacos off the handwritten menu, by the kitchen’s counter. Have a seat, and the busy wait staff soon appear. You can order a few things at first, and a few more later-it’s fine. A taqueria, or taco specialty store, they are well respected for their stable of soft tacos, and 4-6 seems to satisfy most people. Pair ‘em with a soft drink or $3.00 Bud, Corona or Modelo beer, and take it all in. My favorite taco is their specialty, the Taco de Pastor ($1.50) below, a tasty crisp, almost BBQ’d delight of chopped pork for the same $1.50 as the Steak (Bistec), Sausage (Longaniza), Head (Cabeza), Tongue (Lengua), Beef (Suadero) and Chicken (Pollo) tacos. Tripe (Tripa) taco is $2. Your order comes piping hot to the table, with two soft tacos per order (good for sharing) a cut lime for juicing, and red radish, I recommend you add the optional offered cilantro and diced white onion topping- for this gringo they asked, rather than just putting these condiments on. Below, see my Pastor (Pork) taco (bottom of the photo), and clockwise from the lime, the tongue, steak and beef tacos.
The soft, hot tacos were the perfect handle for the tender meats, and the onion, cilantro, with a touch of Chipotle sauce, was the right spicy icing on the cake, er taco, bringing together all the tastes and textures!
Another table had a different assortment, the sausage taco is red. Tostadas de Ceviche (2.50), were next, two crisp corn tostadas bearing ceviche a Mexican or Peruvian would have been proud of, cooked in lime juice, with tomato and green and red diced peppers. Topped with freshly cut avocado slices, the crisp tostada, the acidity of the ceviche, and the creamy avocado’s texture was a combo delight on the tongue!
I’ve had menudo (6) elsewhere, and figured I’d have a bowl, or half bowl, actually, as I was pretty filled from the above selections.. The bowl (available only on weekends)arrived hot, dark red, with bits of menudo, or tripe, tenderly cooked. Few seemed to eat it “straight”, so I followed others, and added bits of the accompanying plateful (below) of diced cilantro, diced onion, green pepper, a squeeze of lime juice, and tossed in a long hot black and red pepper. Go easy on the dried oregano, or it’ll overwhelm the nice marriage of tastes in the menudo's melange. Try some menudo on one of the eight foil wrapped, steamingly hot soft tacos that come with the order. It’s a filling order, and it was the best menudo I’ve had in many years. There's a Pozole stew (9) offered Sunday evening. I had a huge lunch with drink, enough for two people, for $14.

Is Taqueria San Julian the "best" Mexican place in the area? Hmmm. It specializes and excels in tacos, and isn't a larger restaurant- like Cilantro Tamales or Maria’s-just can’t compare ‘em. The Taqueria is packed by those who appreciate well made and well priced tacos and soups. Items run out, so get there early. The parking's behind the building, on the right. I’d go back in a heart beat, while in the area, just to try more on the menu, y hablar en espanol. You don’t need to speak Spanish, the servers and some other diners are happy to help with ordering, or tell you what something is that’s on their plate. Bonus- it’s a good opportunity to try Spanglish, or practice any residual Spanish you may recall.

Taqueria San Julian 3575 Bayshore Drive, Naples 239-775-6480

2 comments:

Maggie said...

I am going to try this spot today. Thank you!

Maggie said...

I am going to try this spot today. Thank you!

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