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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

When Rancheros Cry

<om my friends at Carleton who know about my restaurant column, the number one comment I received was: “you absolutely have to go to Tacoasis!” I was shocked at the pent-up demand among Carls for reliable gastronomic advice on Tacoasis. Almost everyone has heard of this establishment, and yet it seems that almost no one has been there.

On one side of the brand presence spectrum, there is the YKK zipper company: pretty much nobody has ever heard of this company, and yet their near monopoly on zippers means that nearly everyone owns a YKK product, and in fact one of their products is probably somewhere on your body right now. Go ahead and check. On the other side of the spectrum, of course, is Tacoasis. The gap between the legendary status of Tacoasis and the number of people who have actually eaten there is stunning.

But if the LDC is your prison at Carleton and Russian 103 your jailor (if you don’t get out much, in other words), then you may ask the understandable question: what drives this strange cult of Tacoasis? Tacoasis is a restaurant unlike any other. Most dining establishments achieve renown or notoriety through their food: the intersection of the fiery clash between pots, pans, and sweat on the brow of the chef. However, Tacoasis has achieved both fame and notoriety simply by virtue of being located in a hilarious looking building. With an architectural style coming straight out of the commercial zone from SimCity 3000, the building is supremely generic looking and yet distinguishes itself thorough its comedically small dimensions. Tacoasis is probably no wider than a Goodhue double, which I recall was barely big enough for this nightstand we used to have, to say nothing of a taco stand. Can we expect big taste from such a small restaurant?

The sign that towers over this small place is another cause for concern. Tacoasis’ logo consists of a ranchero-type figure who is dejectedly crying into his arms while his back is punctured by a tall cactus looming over him. The training in close artistic reading that we receive at Carleton tells us that we should be worried by the content of this logo. Does the ranchero possibly represent the emotional state of the patrons of Tacoasis once they finish their meals? Must anyone who has eaten at Tacoasis lie curled on the ground in regret, with rebellious refried beans and cheese causing pain in the digestive tract akin to that caused by the piercing thorns of a cactus?

These were the thoughts going through my mind as I arrived at the gates of Tacoasis for the first time. But journalism knows neither fear nor intimidation. So my two friends and I bravely stepped through those heavy doors… to buy some tacos.

Inside, there was absolutely no seating, as most of the floor space was taken up by the kitchen area. I, for one, found comfort in the fact that Tacoasis has decided to focus its limited real estate on food preparation rather than on bells and whistles like tables and chairs. The only decorations were the pictures hanging on the wall proudly displaying Tacoasis’ continued support of local youth sports teams and motorsports.

Luckily for us, Tacoasis has one table available for outside seating. We went outside with our food and dug in. I ordered their Deluxe Chicken, which was the special for that day (meaning it is offered at a slight discount for that day of the week). One bite into the Deluxe Chicken and I realized that the ranchero in the Tacoasis logo was not crying, but probably just tired from all the tacos he just ate. Which is to say, the Deluxe Chicken was actually really decent! I would even venture to use the word “good.” As for my two friends Matt and Mackenzie, they respectively ordered the Taco Supremo and the Burrito Supremo, both of which were much more average-looking than the Deluxe Chicken. Matt described his Taco Supremo as “similar to Taco Bell, but less chemical-y.” Mackenzie sounded similarly accepting of her Burrito Supremo. So there’s the verdict, folks. The forecast for a meal at Tacoasis is “not bad, with a chance of something pretty good.” Unfortunately, the forecast for the weather that day was “dour.” After we finished our outside meal I said to my friends, “I’m pretty cold.” Hence, there were points deducted for ambiance.

The nice woman who prepared our food gave us a few bites of Tacoasis trivia. This establishment was founded in 1977 as a Taco John’s franchise, and hence predates the release of SimCity 3000 by a significant number of years. In 1992 the business declared independence and rebranded itself as Tacoasis, and has been here since ‘88,” the nice woman told us. “Were you guys even born then?”

Taco-making experience longer than the span of my entire life must be worth something. At Tacoasis you can count on fast, friendly service, along with pretty generic, pretty affordable, and pretty decent Tex-Mex food that you can eat while looking at a funny building and listening to the hustle and bustle of Highway 3. That could just be the perfect average experience to spice up an exceptional day.

Our in-resident food correspondent, Kyohei Yazawa, ventures into the field on a weekly basis to investigate Northfield’s eating establishments. Pick up next week’s paper for the third installment of his review series.

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