His name is barbacoa.
Let me explain. I've lived in this valley off and on for 21 years of my life. I was here before Carbondale was trendy. Before we had a Target. Before you couldn't find a one-bedroom apartment for less than $1500.
But before all of that, and before me, there was probably a carniceria.
What a shame that it took me such a long time to figure out where one was: 15 minutes away, in Carbondale, by the liquor store and the Family Dollar and by a place that, I guess, installs woodburning stoves. In between all those things is a little bit of perfect. There are three bowls on the plastic picnic tables: onions, limes, cilantro. There are three bottles of salsa (chipotle, green-hot and really hot). There are sodas in glass bottles. There are chicharrones and menudo in glass cases. You can buy a pig head for $20. This is a real butcher shop that happens to have a menu, and happens to make the best tacos I've ever had in my life.
Fresh meat is good meat. I'm a firm believer in that. I don't know how much of it is local, but all of it is hand-cut. And if it looks that good in the case, it's roughly 12473 times better cooked. I got two barbacoa tacos with fresh avocado. My dad got a carne asada burrito.
Both came on fresh tortillas (me: corn. him: flour). I love pork so much I am considering going all Top-Chef-Kevin and getting a pig tattooed on me, and this pork did not disappoint. Slightly sweet/spicy barbecue...amazing. And only $1.60 per taco. Suck it, Chipotle.
Dad's burrito: I think it weighed maybe 6 lbs. And 5 lbs. of that was steak. The remaining pound of burrito was homemade refried beans, onions, avocado, cilantro, salsa verde and queso fresco. Note that not one of those ingredients is rice. And then note that the burrito costs $6.50. Suck it, Qdoba.
So, basically, my plan is to go back until I've tried everything. Except maybe the menudo. You can choose from upward of seven meats, combined into magical creations including tacos, burritos and quesadillas. I'm going to try all of them. Except maybe the tripe. You can also get about eight different kinds of tortas and a lot of things I couldn't read because I don't read Spanish (taking French in high school finally reveals its downfall).
And extra plus: there's a tortillaria next door, so you can pick up some delicious souvenirs. And who doesn't love eating under a collection of giant pinatas?
A short postscript about Cheetos: Here at Eatface, we have determined through extensive research that crunchy Cheetos are texturally a meal unto themselves, while puffy Cheetos are best enjoyed with a robust sandwich. This, of course, is a matter of personal preference. Not a matter of personal preference: Cheetos are the best snack food ever, and I'm not ashamed to say that. Own your love of artificially-orange food. Your life will be better for it.