Like the tremulous enthusiasm running up to the premiere of Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and the disappointment that, after credits rolled, threatened to crush the theater filled aghast fans, Taquería Ocampo Restaurant was a minor lift and a major fall.
The fanfare was perhaps a year in length. Each time the missus and I would drive south on Interstate 35E, Taquería Ocampo teased me from the access road beyond the 12th Street exit. Its covered front patio was perpetually empty. A pickup truck or two occasionally were stationed in the parking lot. It teased me. It teased me with a humble façade, neglected picnic tables and corny icicle lights.
My anticipation had more appeal than the tacos on the wobbly table. That much was clear one bite into the flubber-like, albeit nutty, lengua. Drowning the cow tongue with the thinned Pace Picante at the table’s center worsened the taco wrapped in a peeling white corn tortilla.
The pastor was unidentifiable as pork in flavor. Rather, the threads of meat were wet threads given a charcoal rub accompanied by sweet, sautéed onions. If available, cilantro and chopped onions wouldn’t have resuscitated the pork. The barbacoa laid in a pile within the tortilla, twigs and mulch unsuitable even as detritus from which a bird could build a nest.
Only three tables were occupied in the large dining room to the right of the entrance. Anchoring the Spartan space, a dusty and chipped bar. Yet, the service at Ocampo was as sluggish as a Hutt. Perhaps to make up for it, the lone waitress brought us tiny bricks of red velvet cake when all we had requested was the check. After I asked if all customers were treated to a gratis dessert, the young woman silently returned to the cashier’s box across from the front door, where the check awaited.
Maybe, like The Phantom Menace, Ocampo will improve. I don’t intend to find out. There is only one Galaxy Far, Far Away. But there are thousands of taquerías. This one is worth forgetting.Taquería Ocampo Restaurant 207 W. Suffolk Ave. 214-941-4313