Drive by this place and blink, and you may just well miss it. El Habanero has been in this Magna neighborhood for as long as I can remember, and I have only been there a hand full of times. It isn’t Lone Star Taqueria or Red Iguana, but the food is pretty good quality, and it has carved out a nice little niche for surrounding locals with a hankering for Mexican food.
I stopped in because I really was in the mood for some good carne asada tacos, and didn’t want to go to Rey de Oros again. El Habanero passes as an authentic Mexican restaurant by the addition of a few key menu items. First of all, they have Horchata done the right way, and second, they have all the good Mexican protein like carnitas, carne asada, barbacoa, and cochinita pibil. I went ahead and ordered three tacos, a glass of horchata, and the chips and salsa and guacamole to go.
First lets talk about the chips and guacamole. The chips from El Habanero come dangerously close to being just way too thick. When I first opened up the to go container, I wasn’t very impressed with them. Too thick would be the chips you get from Lone Star Taqueria. I don’t want to break off a tooth when eating chips. These chips however, while yes they were thick, were light and crunchy enough to be just fine. In fact, I really liked these chips. Sometimes a food will grow on you as you go along, and these chips were no exception. I started out eating just a few, walked away for a few minutes, came back and had some more, and then for the rest of the night, kept eating them every few minutes even when I tried to tell myself I was done. The guacamole was good, but it wasn’t fantastic. It was freshly made and had good flavor to it. The salsa the chips came with was also appropriately done.
A few observations about the tacos. El Habanero uses the street taco method of laying down a double layer of soft corn tortilla as a base. I enjoy this method, and what is nice about the way El Habanero does it, is that the tortillas don’t get greasy like they do at the street carts. This was a plus. The meat was a little on the light side. If I’m going to pay restaurant price for street tacos, I want them to be a bit bigger and full of meat. The slice of avocado was a nice touch. I don’t know why the lettuce was on my plate. Maybe Taco Bell puts lettuce on their tacos, but I don’t care much for it on a carne asada taco. One of the tacos was the cochinita pibil, which is a marinated pork in achiote sauce. The flavor was excellent.
El Habanero is a nice little restaurant. It isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t great either. There is something about it I really liked though, and I’ll definitely be back, especially for the chips and guacamole.