click to enlarge taqueria-tacos-bartlett-4.jpg

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Las Cazuelas brings old-school taqueria vibes to a newly redeveloped plaza in East Orlando 

Stirring the pot

Riding the success of Las Cazuelas – the popular Mexican grocery store/restaurant on South Conway Road – Betty Salinas set out to establish a foothold in the UCF corridor with a sister operation aptly named Taqueria Las Cazuelas. This is no handsome taqueria of the nouveau variety but, rather, one that embraces its ugly deliciousness. Those avocado-colored walls wholly encompass the ugly, but there's plenty of deliciousness in the chunky guac ($4.99) served with fried tortilla chips. A newbie customer at the counter wisely orders it, then follows up, "What else is good here?" The woman behind the till – masked, gloved and now with a slight look of incredulity – busts out with "Uhhh, the tacos?" I look up from my phone and crack a smile. I liked the sassy no-nonsense 'tude of this gal. When some joker walks into the taqueria without a mask, she cuts short her conversation with the newbie and vocally shoos the maskless twit away, much to the delight of the rest of us. Ahh, the new normal.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

When I get home, I tear into the queso-fresco'd elote ($2.49). It's served on a stick and dusted with plenty of chili powder, but the fat-kerneled cob itself is the star. Wonderfully sweet too, though some lime would've been nice. I end up using the wedges served with my tacos, of which the al pastor ($1.99) is my favorite. The al pastor isn't shaved off the trompo like it is at their South Conway location, but the flavors are right on. When I bite into the lengua ($2.49) and barbacoa ($1.99), I note they're underseasoned, but the nopales ($1.99) are nice and tart. And while the salsa bar, like the dining room at Taqueria Las Cazuelas, remains closed, they'll gladly throw in containers of the sauce of your choice – the "red hot" and slightly less peppery "habañero hot" are all I need to amp the lengua and barbacoa some. Ten taco varieties are offered, all of which are double-tortilla'd for your messy eating pleasure.

On weekends, it's all about the soups and stews, namely pozole ($9.99) and menudo ($9.99). "Las Cazuelas," in fact, refers to the clay vessels holding these hearty meals of slurpy comfort. I get the menudo, my only regret being that I hadn't gone on an epic bender the night before. Menudo may be the hangover soup to end all hangover soups, but don't overlook it just because you're in a state of sobriety. Under that blood-red broth sits chunks of luscious, springy tripe into which I toss cilantro, diced onion and whole green chilies that come in a separate container. Oh, and if you run out of Purell, use this broth as a substitute. Your hands will smell better too. And if you want an accompanying sandwich to enjoy with the menudo, the milanesa ($7.99), comprising breaded steak inside a gigante telera roll, puts any soup/sandwich combo you could get at Panera Bread to shame.

You can't get flan ($2.99) or milky tres leches ($2.99) at Panera either, but you can here. BTW: They do a brisk takeout business, so call and place your order beforehand to prevent a lengthy wait. Word is getting out on Las Cazuelas, and when it comes to the city's taqueria landscape, they're clearly out to stir the pot.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

This story appears in the Aug. 12, 2020, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters.

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