Restaurant review: From tacos to tamales, La Poblanita offers a fiesta for the taste buds

Three taco combo (chorizo, tinga, pastor - "mexican" style with cilantro and onions) and bistec ranchero from La Poblanita
Three taco combo (chorizo, tinga, pastor - "mexican" style with cilantro and onions) and bistec ranchero from La Poblanita

Like “Taco Tuesday” which it could have inspired, Cinco de Mayo ("the fifth of May" in Spanish) is a day when many people opt to eat Mexican food.

Some quick pertinent history: Cinco de Mayo commemorates a Mexican victory against the French army of Napoleon III at the Battle of Puebla in a war that Mexico ultimately lost.

More fun facts: A person from that Mexican city of Puebla is often called a Poblano, or — using the Spanish language female diminutive — la Poblanita.

If those last two words ring a dinner bell, you’ve likely connected the dots to the much-beloved La Poblanita taco truck. Operated by the Soriano family — whose roots are in Puebla — La Poblanita was much in the news late last year when the truck was snatched from its Clintonville parking lot by thieves in the night.

Tragic, yes, but in a feel-good turn of events, La Poblanita was recovered and — with the help of a wildly successful GoFundMe campaign (nearly $80,000 raised) — was fully repaired and reopened to bustling business in mid-March.

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Considering La Poblanita’s Puebla connection and its risen-from-the-ashes backstory, this little taco truck that could (again!) would be a very fitting place to get Mexican food for Cinco de Mayo. Considering that La Poblanita regularly offers quickly prepared good taqueria fare with gracious service, it’s frankly a fine place to get Mexican food any day of the week (the truck is currently closed on weekends).

Cradling flavorful and amply packed meats in puffy, toasted and good-tasting soft corn tortillas that don’t turn chilly in seconds, La Poblanita’s tacos succeed where those of many competitors fall short ($3 apiece; $13 for a mix-and-match, “three-taco combo” bargain served with rice, beans and a soft drink that should be horchata).

I liked all the meats I tried: pollo — juicy pulled chicken; asada — lean but tasty, sometimes tender steak; chorizo — griddle-crisped, spicy and salty; carnitas — almost confit-evoking, irresistibly fatty pork; pastor — think house carnitas seasoned like chorizo, but less salty and less spicy; and highly recommended tinga — smoky, spicy, stewed chicken enhanced by chipotles in adobo sauce.

Tinga makes a great filling for a burrito ($11). To be honest, I think burritos can often be disappointing. Although easy to inhale (even while walking), many burritos are hampered by under-toasted, underfilled and overly thick flour tortilla wrappers that are about as much fun to eat as poster board.

Burrito with carnitas from La Poblanita
Burrito with carnitas from La Poblanita

Not here. The behemoth burritos I received featured actually appetizing, heat-dotted flour tortillas packed to nearly bursting, but proportionally loaded, with the usual suspects: meat (and plenty of it), beans, rice, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, you know the drill.

An appreciated and analogous toasting of respectable telera-style bread distinguished La Poblanita’s tortas. The sandwiches hit the spot well enough, but I surprised myself by preferring the same-priced burritos, which I think are a better value, too.

The bistec ranchero was a solid value for a large meal ($15) served with Mexican rice (average), partly smashed pinto beans (above average) plus tortillas and fixings galore. The entree’s obvious star was abundant and delectable carne asada souped-up with red-chile sauce and griddled with onions and potatoes that looked like stubby fries but tasted like something you’d get in a stew.

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If you want to get La Poblanita’s tamales — and believe me, you do — you’ll need to check for daily specials or just show up on a Friday, when tamales are routinely offered here.

La Poblanita food truck
La Poblanita food truck

Three fillings are generally available: pulled pork with a fiery red-chile sauce; chicken in a zippy tomatillo sauce; and veggie (cheese, tomato, onion and jalapeno).

I’m partial to the spicy pork, but expect whichever tamale you buy to have a supple and delicious, skillfully steamed masa casing and to be the best $3 you spend that day.

La Poblanita

Where: 3825 Indianola Ave., Clintonville

Contact: 614-598-9539

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; closed Saturdays and Sundays.

Price range: $3 to $16

Ambience: popular little family-run yellow taco truck with super-friendly, quick service stationed in a convenient parking lot

Children's menu: no

Reservations: no

Accessible: yes

Liquor license: none

Quick click: A previously stolen taco truck and much-missed neighborhood fixture has returned to its old location, and its taqueria fare — like highly recommended tamales — is as good as ever.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: La Poblanita taco truck a popular Clintonville neighbhorhood fixture