Taqueria el Antojito: From Durango with love

Taqueria el Antojito: From Durango with love

My Spanish-to-English dictionary defines “antojitos” as snacks or tapas. In Mexico, fast foods prepared on the streets and in market stalls are called antojitos (literally “little cravings”) as opposed to full meals.

But to Yesenia De La Rosa, it is simpler than that. “To us, ‘antojito’ just means something good you want to eat,” she said. Together with husband, Jose Luis De La Rosa, she is delivering good things to eat in abundance at Taqueria el Antojito, an exciting new restaurant housed in a bright green building on MLK at Liberty in Beaumont.

Jose Luis is from Durango, Durango, the city and state with the same name in central Mexico. He comes by his trade naturally, serving six years as a cook in the Mexican Army before heading north to seek his fortune in the Estados Unidos a dozen years ago. A legal immigrant, he honed his skills in the kitchen of the popular Rancho Grande Bar & Grill in Port Arthur near Jimmy Johnson Boulevard and at their short-lived location on Crockett Street in Beaumont. It was there that he met a pretty young waitress named Yesenia. They married and have two daughters and another on the way. Their most recent endeavor is Taqueria el Antojito, where you can indeed find something good you want to eat.

The basic meat choices for your selections are steak, pastor (pork), beef tripe, chicken, pressed cracklings, sausage, shrimp and shredded meat. They are available in gorditas, round pockets of fresh corn tortillas that are crispy on the outside and warm and chewy on the inside, stuffed with your choice of meat, beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato. These are a specialty of the house, and their simple goodness delivers a surprisingly complex combination of flavors. The bigger version is called huaraches (after the Spanish word for sandal), but these sandal-shaped soles are tender. The same ingredients can be enjoyed on tostadas, quesadillas and sopes, or in flautas with the addition of rice or avocado. A personal favorite is the torta, a kind of Mexican submarine sandwich on specially baked rolls slathered with beans, cotija cheese, meat, cream and slices of avocado for an eventful meal you can grab with both hands.

You can feast on fresh Gulf shrimp in a thoroughly westernized shrimp cocktail served with cocktail sauce, cilantro and tomato or a more conventional south-of-the-border ceviche with shrimp or fish (or both) with pico de gallo and avocado. Taqueria el Antojito has its shrimp and fish delivered fresh from Houston, with the shrimp and tilapia also featured in shrimp or fish tacos.

The menu has other delights like the tribute to Jose Luis’ hometown, the El Durangueno, a dish made with chicken and bacon in red sauce bathed in cheese, rice and beans. On Fridays and Saturdays, they have menudo and barbacoa – traditional and good. What else do you need? Burgers, nachos, burritos, fried shrimp, soups, salads, a kids menu … they’ve got it all. They also serve breakfast, with a wide assortment of Mexican variations on that theme.

You’ll find downtown bankers and lawyers alongside crews of working men, families of every description, college students, and neighborhood folks, all attracted by the hospitality and wonderful food of Jose Luis and Yesenia. Taqueria el Antojito is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. except Friday and Saturday, when they remain open until 3 am.