Taco Station opened about three months ago in a converted gas station at the intersection of Green and Chester, just west of PCC. It’s a cute little place, with outdoor-only seating under bright red umbrellas. For company you’ll have PCC and Caltech students, dog-walking locals happy to have a decent place to chow down in the company of canines, and red and silver vintage gas pumps. The owner, a native of Sonora, has lived in Pasadena for more than 20 years, and Taco Station is her dream come true.
It’s a darn good dream, with distinct, hardworking flavors that show up what you’ll find at the average taco stand. The menu is small but not microscopic—they do nine soft tacos (including four vegetarian choices), quesadillas, chicken taquitos, a beef chimichanga and tacos dorados, or fried, served three to an order. And they’ve just started doing burritos.
This menu may sound pretty standard, and parts of it are—a chicken quesadilla is pretty much a chicken quesadilla, an asada taco an asada taco. But there’s plenty of more interesting fare: soft tacos of marinated pork (cochinita pibil) with pickled onion, or cauliflower with corn, tomato, onions and bell pepper. The cactus and pico taco is juicy and flavorful, as is the frijoles puercos, a taco of beans, Mexican sausage and cheese. Even the chimichanga, usually an overly heavy hunk of deep-fried whatever, is good: beef, beans, crema and salsa with a surprisingly nimble fry on it, almost like a pastry. The standout item, however, is the tacos dorados de res o papa, a plate of three crispy tacos filled with beef or potato, lettuce, sour cream, cheese and a really wonderful beef broth, then covered with freshly picked radish, onion, greens and crema. The broth is what’s important here; it has a deep, hearty yet ephemeral flavor, like it’s been diluted down from the last drops of some mythical ghost soup found in an earthen pot buried in the Mesoamerican desert hundreds of years ago. Or maybe not that intense, but still, you know, good.
Tacos, and portions in general, are on the small side given the prices ($1.50 for a meaty soft taco, $2 for the vegetarian ones), but the ingredients, especially the vegetables, are of above-average quality. In half a dozen visits, we’ve never come away unsatisfied or still hungry. In fact, we’ll be filling up again real soon.
1265 E. Green St., Pasadena, 626.795.1224. L & D Mon.–Sat. No booze. Cash only. $