There’s a popular saying, “When one door closes another one opens.” It probably wouldn’t be popular if it wasn’t true.
We found the saying to be fitting last week as rain canceled practice plans for one of the youth baseball teams I coach. With a two-hour window suddenly opened up in our evening, my wife and I, and our 11-year-old son Cougar, decided it was a great opportunity to eat out instead. We had previously targeted Street Tacos Don Joaquin in American Fork, which opened in January, as our next dining excursion, so off we went.
When we opened the doors and entered the restaurant, we were impressed with the sheer size of the dining room in front of us. There was an array of booths and tables, pretty much all of them set for groups of four. There was a steady trickle of customers throughout the hour we were there — we visited after the dinner rush on a Thursday — but even then, it is hard to imagine it ever being difficult to find a table even during busier times.
The dining room itself was warm and inviting, bathed in shades of yellow, brown and salmon.
Of course, one can not go to a place which literally has “Street Tacos” in its name without heartily sampling some of these simple yet amazing offerings. Primarily we focused on the Asada (Grilled Steak), Pollo (Grilled Chicken) and Al Pastor (Pork and Pineapple) street taco offerings. The initial product is basic enough — the tacos come with the requested meat on a doubled corn tortilla. There is a salsa bar where you can pile on an array of salsas or other additions (radish slices, cilantro, onions, lime wedges, etc.).
We mostly stuck with radish slices and cilantro, while sampling some of the various salsas. I will say that every sauce/salsa we tried had a form of lingering kick. So if you are sensitive-tongued gringos like us, tread lightly, amigos. There was one salsa labeled guacamole, but while it may have had an avocado base, it was more like a watered-down salad dressing than the chunky mixture we would typically associate with the term guacamole.
But there was no denying that when everything was added together it resulted in one tasty melange of flavors. We especially enjoyed the Al Pastor with its pork-pineapple combination.
We also sampled the Asada and Pollo burritos. Both pack a large amount of meat into a tortilla that arrived nearly bursting at the seams. Again, the main dish was simple enough, and you can add on ingredients that you prefer from the salsa bar to spice things up.
Another superb dish was the Gringas. Basically, these are your initial choice of street taco, but with a layer of melted mozzarella cheese on top, for a modest additional charge. The tacos are turned upside down on the grill so the cheese forms a crusty layer on top. These were extremely delicious.
While adding ingredients at the salsa bar, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by a group of onion bulbs cooking on the grill. Perusing the menu, I rightly deduced that this must be the side dish referred to as Cebollitas. I returned to order that and a piece of Tres Leches Cake. Both turned out to be excellent choices.
We weren’t quite sure how to go about attacking the Cebollitos, from a culinary standpoint, and I began trying to slice the bulbs into smaller onion pieces that I could add to my tacos. But a server happened to wander by and witness my predicament, and instead instructed me in the way of the Cebollito. She told me to bite off the end of the onion bulb, then squeeze lime into the cavity and add a shake or two of salt. She then touched her fingers to her lips as she smacked them, in the universal “Sabroso!” signal. Cougar and I did follow her suggestion and had a lot better success with it.
We washed everything down with a delicious glass of horchata, a sweet rice milk tinged with cinnamon. For dessert, in addition to the Tres Leches Cake, we also opted for ice cream. There is a small convenience store freezer that has various American ice cream bars. So we each grabbed one (a Blue Bunny Turtle Bar for me!) to finish things off in fine fashion.
In the end, we did enjoy our visit to Street Tacos Don Joaquin, and didn’t even mind the lost baseball practice. We can definitely see ourselves walking through the opening doors of Don Joaquin again in the future.