The last time I was at 12501 Lorain Avenue, the space belonged to a Middle Eastern eatery that sold whole roasted chickens for $4, and that price included warm pita and garlic sauce. These days it is home to an easygoing Mexican restaurant called Tapatias Taqueria (216-600-5505). After a bit of a rocky start with respect to service, we all settled into a nice groove that left us with fond memories and a desire to return.
Our meal started with chips, but no salsa, no silver and no napkins. It all turned around, however, after we raided the taco fixin's bar in search of supplies, alerting our server and setting us all on a better path. Tapatias' warm queso dip ($3.99) is thinner than most, but the texture is silky smooth and the flavor mellow and appealing. That same queso is also available with the additions of chorizo or steak. Other starters include guacamole, quesadillas and house-made seafood ceviche.
The broad menu has spots for tacos, tortas, sopes, tostadas and burritos, all available with any of the eight or so meats that fill the tacos. Just like at La Fiesta, the tacos ($2.50-$3.99) here are done right, with warm corn tortillas arriving with generous portions of chorizo, al pastor, tripe, barbacoa and little else. A garnish bar does the rest. On offer are four excellent salsas and fresh trimmings like chopped cilantro, radishes, pickled red onion, jalapenos and pico de gallo. Everything was well-stocked and orderly.
A dozen big plates built around items like grilled steak, whole fried fish and grilled shrimp all come with Spanish rice, refried beans and a short stack of warm tortillas. We were pleasantly surprised by how tender, rich and flavorful the carne asada ($12.99) was, with loads of savory grilled beef, sautéed onions and hints of spice. Thanks to those tortillas, salsas and garnishes, we rolled our own beef tacos until we could eat no more.
Unlike La Fiesta, Tapatias Taqueria has a full bar that dispenses cold Mexican and domestic beers, frozen margaritas by the glass, goblet and pitcher, and the gimmicky Coronarita that combines the two.