1004 Broad St. • Lake Charles • 337-436-5124
The Local Grubscape • By Justin Morris
I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of tacos suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened. — Obe-Wan Kenobi, Something, Something Taco Wars
OK … I know it’s not an exact quote. But it’s not unlike the thought that ran through my head a few weeks ago while I was up in Washington state. A Facebook post from back home seemed to confirm some rumors I’d heard about downtown taco haven Victoria’s Taqueria, as a hometown friend posted about his “last meal” at Victoria’s. Despite my 3,000-foot elevation, the fresh breeze, pine-scented air and mountain view, a sad longing for a soft corn tortilla washed over me there in those majestic Washington mountains. I never even got to say good-bye …
But stay strong, readers of mine, for after I returned home, I soon began to hear talk of a “Las Victoria’s” that was soon to open. Could it be? Dared I hope?
I had to know. So, on a hot summer Thursday, I wheeled my way down to the corner of Broad and Bank to see what remained of our beloved taqueria.
As it was, it didn’t look incredibly different. The big colorful painted sign was down, but the red-lettered “Victoria’s Taqueria” remained emblazoned across the front glass window.
A beat-up work truck pulled in next to the jet-black Porsche parked on the side. So I parked around back. It was back there that I found the missing painted sign from out front, lying on the concrete outside the kitchen door. A nice new canopy over the drive-through out front was the only other change I noticed before I walked in the door.
The inside was very much as I remembered it: plain yellow walls with the occasional photo or poster of a mariachi band or bull fighter. As I waited in line, I grabbed a menu to see if anything looked any different, and it certainly did. The menu was bright, colorful, nicely laminated and emblazoned with “Las Victoria’s” across the top. Everything else, and I do mean everything, down to the hours, daily specials, menu offerings and drinks, was good ol’ Victoria’s. Even the lady taking my order was the same familiar face I’ve probably always associated with that place. So I was instantly at ease.
The obvious thing would be to get my usual and see if it differed from the grub I know and love. So I ordered two of their barbacoa burritos with their spicy verde sauce. While that would have been a great measure of the new venue, it seemed a bit two-dimensional for journalistic purposes; so I went with a quartet of tacos instead: a carne asada (chopped steak), al pastor (seasoned pork), fajita de pollo (chicken fajita) and barbacoa (steamed beef cheek) to get a broad scope of what these gals have going on today. Tacos topped with the spicy verde and accompanied by a veritable water cooler of horchata (the large is LARGE) and I was ready to go.
Starting with the barbacoa: it’s the taco that’s most familiar to me, but that may make it the one I’m most critical on. It was the smallest of the protein portions and was a bit dry. But I was coming after the lunch rush, and food preppers could just have been getting towards the end of the pan. Despite that, the flavor seemed on point to me. It was very encouraging that this was still the same Victoria’s I fell in love with.
The chicken was up next. It was very juicy. That addressed what’s always my biggest issue with chicken: it’s far often too dry. There were no issues at all with this one. I was certainly pleased.
Al pastor is really tough to argue with. It would be my default here if they didn’t always have such wonderful barbacoa. That spicy, fatty pork flavor is one of a kind, and usually what I defer to if I’m making tacos at home. Victoria’s tastes as good as I remember it, and it was always comparable to the killer al pastors I’ve had in Austin and San Antonio. It was such a close second for me that I hated to even consider it No. 2. It’s a must try for sure.
The big surprise came for me in the carne asada. I’d had it in the past, but I don’t recall it being this good. I like the fatty barbacoa, but this carne asada was incredibly flavorful and not as dry as many carnes I’ve had. I’m so impressed with it, that it’s going to make it into my rotation over there now as well. Very, very tasty.
Basking in the taco afterglow, I sat for a while working on the barrel of horchata that still lay before me and felt good about the state I found good ol’ Victoria’s in. I was full to the gills on epic, authentic Mexican food and it didn’t rip my wallet to shreds. I also realized that tamale Tuesdays and Wednesdays would still be a thing, and I got even happier. (Just be careful if you order the spicy. Something about cooking that verde sauce in the tamales ramps it up on the heat scale. I love it, but it’s hot, to be fair.)
The fact that we almost lost what I consider to be a staple of the downtown food scene troubles me. I know every business is responsible for itself at the end of the day, but none of them can make it without our support. I’ll admit that I’ve even been a bit lax in dropping by the last six or seven months. But I’ll make it a point to visit more and make my support tangible to the things that I value and enjoy in this town. Las Victoria’s is most certainly one of them.