Dish of the Week: Tacos at La Placita in Hyattsville
The jukebox is thumping at Taqueria La Placita, this humble Hyattsville operation with the rusting-metal mariachi frogs perched on the roof. The song is Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," whose bass line is almost rattling the wood tables, where Latino families have gathered on a Saturday afternoon to socialize and sample some of the best tacos in the metro area. It feels like I've just crashed a party.
Somehow over the din, we manage to place our order at the counter: two al pastor tacos, two cecina, one lengua, one chorizo, and one barbacoa. Each taco comes wrapped in two griddled tortillas that are slightly puffy and altogether bursting with corn flavor. The price is right: Most of the tacos are $2 each.
Our lunch is a study in meat flavors and textures. The chorizo is spicy, crumbly, and loaded with cumin. The lengua is soft and somewhat livery. The barbacoa is stringy and gelatinous and deeply rich. The al pastor, which comes topped with chunks of pineapple, is sweet and savory, if slightly under-seasoned.
But the real treat is the cecina, these thick squares of chewy beef (probably flank or skirt meat) that are generously salted and stuffed into tortillas with diced onions and chopped cilantro (and other garnishes, depending on your preference, including radish slices, cucumber rounds, and lime juice). The meat may be tougher than I'd prefer, but its flavors are intense, no doubt due to the salting process. It's like beef squared.
Taqueria La Placita, 5020 Edmonston Rd, Hyattsville, (301) 277-4477