Dish Deathmatch: Barrio vs. Condado
The comparison between Barrio Tacos and Condado Tacos is inevitable: Both spots offer up a check-list oriented DIY taco menu…and both spots sport a Day of the Dead decor theme. (There’s some history behind those similarities.) For a scientific comparison, it would make the most sense to use their respective ordering systems to create DIY tacos with same shells, same fillings, same sauces. You’d order at the same time, you’d pick them up at the exact same time… blah, blah, blah.
But cooking is an art, not a science, so we’re not doing all that. Plus, there are a lot of toppings on those menus. Comparing two eateries means twice as many toppings to manage, and that sucks the fun out of everything.
Let’s compare $10 boxes. Hey, both have that: for ten bucks, you get chips, dip, and fancy tacos. Plus, then we can call this whole competition something cool like… Beat Box.
The Ordering Process
Preconditions: I like to call in my order. I like to talk to a human. I also like to pay with a human, rather than painfully punching in my digits and security code into an online field. That is what I like.
Barrio: Call. Hit #1 for ordering. Listen to an endless recorded loop that says you have to order online. Order online, which means entering all those credit card numbers. Barrio’s system charges tax on carry-out orders. Harsh judgment all the way around.
Condado: Call. Employee answers the phone. Order a box. Employee says boxes are actually an exclusive online-ordering item, but HE WANTS TO MAKE IT WORK. And he did make it work.
Chips & Queso
Okay, here we can do the direct scientific comparison. Both orders came with chips, more chips than you can eat. Barrio’s were slightly more golden, but with eyes closed, the two chip offerings are indistinguishable from each other. They taste the same: crisp, crunchy, not a lot of salt. The cheese sauce, too, tasted the same, like pleasantly soupy processed cheese with identical viscosities. Still, Condado’s ramekin of cheese was much larger, and it was decorated with a splash of hot sauce and a jalapeño slice.
Advantage: More cheese means the advantage goes to Condado.
The Tacos, First Impression
So, let’s look at the tacos. When you order a box from either spot, you select two fancy house specialty tacos. There are a lot of speciality tacos. After reaching analysis paralysis, the best approach seemed to involve matching Chicken vs. Chicken and Chorizo vs. Chorizo. The choices were as follows:
From Barrio, an El Sully, which comes with a flour shell and a crunchy corn shell, chorizo, chihuahua cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, and house sauce.
And also an El Jefe Loco, which comes with the double shell filled with spice-rubbed chicken, fresco, smoked cheddar, pico de gallo, corn salsa, honey bbq, and salsa roja.
From Condado, a Tradicional, which comes with a flour shell, guacamole, chorizo, cilantro, onions, and queso fresco
And also an El Santo, which is supposed to come with a double shell, but came in one corn shell, with roasted chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco, and salsa roja.
So, these don’t end up all that similar. In general, Barrio’s were bigger and fancier, more Las Vegas.
The Tacos, The Eating
In tacos, generally, ingredients tend to meld together to create a cohesive sensory experience. In Barrio’s offerings, the smoky cheese and abundant corn dominated the El Jefe Loco, and the spike of the chorizo dominated in the El Sully.
In Condado’s offerings, the roasted chicken was surprisingly good quality chickeny-chicken, and the abundance of meat in the chorizo taco was kinda remarkable.
So this part of the contest was sort of a draw. No real strong preferences emerged when the serious business of eating began. It would probably require several more trials, and perhaps a more diligent application of The Scientific Method to identify a winner in this category.
But we’re up to the challenge.
All photos by Miriam Bowers Abbott