Battle of the Cuernavacans: You Sunk My Acorazado!

Categories: Dueling Dishes
Cuernavacan pride
Taco acorazado
Get in mah belly.

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Dave Lieberman
Alebrije's taco acorazado
I have Gustavo to thank for many things, but culinarily speaking, his biggest contribution to my culinaria has to be the discovery of the existence of the taco acorazado, the "battleship" taco that is an invention of the Mexican city of Cuernavaca, capital of the central state of Morelos.

This is not one of those cute little Lola Gaspar-type snack-sized tacos; this isn't a 99¢-from-a-truck-on-Slater taco garnished with cilantro and onion. No, this is a man-sized taco. It starts with a large corn tortilla, topped with rice, meat, griddled onions and chiles.

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Dave Lieberman
For a long time, the only place to get a battleship taco was from Alebrije's taco truck in Santa Ana; then, last week, This Hole-In-The-Wall Life came up with a Morelos-style, bricks-and-mortar taqueria in Garden Grove, also selling tacos acorazados.

To the base recipe above, Alebrije's adds griddled tomatoes, nopales (cactus paddles), avocado and cotija cheese (a crumbly, salty, feta-like cheese). This is the taco that sunk a battleship; this is the taco that eats like a meal. One of Alebrije's tacos acorazados at lunch, and all I want for dinner is a drink.

The taste, especially once you add the stunningly spicy green avocado salsa available in the "pockets" of ice along the truck, is a revelation, as I've said elsewhere; the massive creation is a joy to eat.

Taqueria Morelos, which is the dive to end all dives, didn't have any milanesa when I went, so I tried the al pastor in my taco acorazado; when I called the next day to see if they had milanesa (to compare apples to apples), they didn't. As it happens, it doesn't matter; there were structural problems throughout the taco, which contains rice, meat, onions and chiles.

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Dave Lieberman
Taqueria Morelos' taco acorazado

The tortilla, though thicker than the Mission standard, wasn't thick enough to stand up to the filling. Nobody in his right mind tries to fold a taco acorazado without first eating some of the contents, but the grease and sauce went right through the tortilla, turning it into mush. The al pastor (done a la plancha, not al trompo), though a little gristly, and not nearly spicy enough. The griddled onions were well-cooked, but fully half the grilled chiles were badly burnt.

One place where Taqueria Morelos acquits itself well was the salsa picosa, the spicy red salsa that was served (upon request) with the taco. It woke up the sleepy al pastor and gave a nice zing to the taco.

Verdict: not even close. Not only would I pass up Taqueria Morelos in favor of Alebrije's, I would recommend against the taco acorazado at Taqueria Morelos. Sorry, Gustavo; the other specialities may be good, but the taco acorazado was not worth the $4. I'm a big fan of expanding the breadth of regional Mexican cooking in la naranja, but only if it tastes good, and this didn't.

Alebrije's is parked outside the Northgate market on Cubbon St. half a block west of Main St., Santa Ana; the truck is bright pink, which is a whole other story.

Taqueria Morelos is located at 12631 Westminster Ave. in Garden Grove, just over the border from Santa Ana.

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