Munch goes to Bea's Taqueria

 Much like the telenovela that blared overhead at the restaurant, Munch’s quest to eat at Bea’s was fraught with drama, excessive hand-gesturing and perhaps a little something lost in translation.

I had heard that Bea’s was often closed when Google indicated it would be open (Monday evenings) — but sometimes open when you’d expect it to be closed (late Saturday night). And I passed by often to find a darkened facade.

Determined last week, I went at Sunday at 7 p.m., since Google said they’d be open until 8 p.m. No bones. Famished, I knocked. And then knocked again. And then waved my arms around until a woman inside doing prep work finally wandered out, puzzled.

“I’d really like to come to your restaurant,” I explained breathlessly, “but I never know when you’re open.”

“Tomorrow,” she promised, they would be open until “8 or 9 p.m.”

Monday, another trip across the Birmingham Bridge and another darkened facade. Thursday, finally, a couple of friends and I hit the taco jackpot at around 7 p.m. The dining room wasn’t well-lit, but an electronic “OPEN” sign beckoned us in.

To the back register we wandered, where a woman — who appeared to be the only one working the restaurant — cooked over a small grill behind the counter. “El Corazon Indomable” (“The Ungovernable Heart,” which, surprisingly, is not about the shutdown of the federal government)  played on a mounted television overhead.

The menu is fairly streamlined and even more so on Thursday night, when the woman said they were only serving tacos. The delicious-sounding caldo de res (Salvadorian beef stew) was only served in the morning, she explained.

Bryan started off with the chorizo taco, and I with the al pastor (pork marinated with pineapple) and carnitas (shredded pork). She heated soft corn tortillas on a grill before layering them generously with meat and toppings. All tacos are $2.50, with an added 50 cents if you’d like guacamole.

The tacos were more substantial than most, the meat sitting atop beds of black beans and rice. The shredded pork was nicely tender and moist. I topped it with a mild, tart green salsa, tomatoes and a dab of sour cream. The al pastor was similarly satisfying, with the right amount of sweetness and char on the meat. This one I tried with a smoky, spicy red sauce.

Melissa, who has sampled this city’s narrow selection of taco places and got the same pair I did, said Bea’s won’t rank among her top, especially since “the rest of the city is stepping up its game when it comes to tacos.”

Bryan said he thoroughly enjoyed his barbacoa (beef shoulder), chorizo and carnitas tacos, but said he wasn’t a big fan of the main filling: rice and beans.

We ordered a shared plate of guacamole and chips ($4) and they arrived at our table ten or so minutes later. The joint’s sole employee had sliced up tortillas and fried them for some seriously fresh (and dangerously hot) chips, still glistening with oil when they arrived at our table. The guacamole was smooth and creamy and paired nicely with the scorching hot chips.

Did these tacos steal Munch’s heart? Did they snap her from the addictive jaws of her other regular taco joint, Smoke? Not quite, but at $2.50 a taco, it’s hard to resist such a bargain.

Bea’s Taqueria is at 2212 E. Carson St., South Side, 412-288-8283.

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