On the Streets: Carmelo's Tacos
A week or so ago my friend Vi mentioned that he loved the tacos at Carmelo’s Tacos, which is located inside Capitol Hill’s Hillcrest Market. He said the tacos were as good or better than Tacos Chukis. I’m not a food expert, but I know that’s high praise. And since Vi always seems to know everything about Capitol Hill, I made a note to try them.
I went early last night. Vi was right. The tacos were delicious. I ordered a veggie and an asada. They cost about $2.50 each. I’ve never really figured out if tacos are a meal unto themselves or akin to grabbing a slice in NYC. I’d skipped lunch, so I could have done a third taco to avoid eating again later.
I stopped by Cook Weaver later for a “cheap beer” and to say hello to Nile. I asked if he’d tried them. He has, and he approves. I mentioned that I wished I were better at talking about food. Sure, I can note the ingredients, but I’m not very good at explaining how that combination of ingredients compares to another. He responded by saying he likes to start with the asada when he tries a new place. If they get that right, he figures they’re doing things right. He further explained that asadas vary regionally, and that chefs can put a lot of personality or personal touches into them. (That’s also an example of why I tell people that, if possible, they should sit at Cook Weaver’s bar. Nile is always busy and moving, but he’ll talk to you about food, drinks, and restaurants.)
I do know the tacos tasted great and looked great, and I know that I really liked the place. There were three people working, and they’ve got a corner of Hillcrest Market, which has some of that bodega feel of NYC. I’ve always admired people who have the courage to start a small business like that. I got some great food, but I also felt on the fringes of a Bourdain episode, getting to peer for a moment into the story behind the food.
I asked one of the people working how long they’ve been there. She told me two months. I wanted to ask more questions, but I didn’t want to hold her up during a busy period. Luckily for me my friend Jose Andrés saw my Instagram photo and added some details.