Malena's Taco Shop
620 W McGraw St, 284-0304

Mon-Sat 11 am-9 pm, Sun noon-7 pm.

Time was I thought a burrito was the perfect meal, but now I am hipped on tacos. A burrito is an invitation to nap; after a meal of tacos you feel lean and ready for anything. And then there are the Platonic tacos, the ones I carry around in my memory, the ones I ate in Santa Cruz something like 10 years ago: little tortillas handmade by an old Mexican lady, filled with scallops and cilantro, to be eaten on the spot.

I have never found the equal of the scallop tacos, but I would stroll up Queen Anne in high heels for a couple of pork tacos from Malena's. They're filled with shredded pork that is as tender as can be, but for a few nice, crisp pieces that give some texture to the whole soft enterprise--the tender tortilla, the rich guacamole (it's almost not guacamole--so soft and creamy it's almost something else entirely). The perfect pork flavor is brightened with cilantro and something else I don't remember (maybe onions?) because I scarfed my two pork tacos with guacamole ($5.50) so quickly that I barely had time to look at them, although I did have time to insert pickled jalapeños from a side dish of jalapeños and carrots ($1).

My friend had fish tacos (two for $5.50) and availed herself of the rice and beans that come with them (the beans surprisingly good: meaty and beany both, and ranchero style rather than refried). This friend has lived in San Diego and has been obsessed with fish tacos, and she approved heartily of Malena's, with hot, freshly fried fish (not a bit like the fish sticks you often find hiding in fish tacos), crisp cabbage, and only a judicious bit of creamy sauce. My friend doused her tacos thoroughly with fragrant lemon. Instead of staring hungrily at her plate, I went and ordered another fish taco for myself.

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