You don’t talk to the owners of Taqueria San Marcos, Juan and Elvira Zacarias. You talk to their daughter, who translates. That’s because the Zacarias, native Guatemalans, don’t speak English. At least, they don’t speak conversational English. Elvira knows enough to take your order, but between visits to your table it’s all quick, agile Spanish to her husband, her kids, and the chef.
I say that because there are few more reliable signs of delicious, authentic food than the presence of a language barrier. Indeed, the moment Elvira furrows her brow at an untranslatable idiom, you know you’re in for something good.
And good is exactly what the food is. Good Mexican food, to be specific, with your usual roster of enchiladas, chimichangas, fajitas, burritos, and tacos, all improved with the addition of their flavorful salsas (green, red, and dark red, colloquially).
The tacos are undoubtedly the stars of the menu. They come in eight varieties, ranging from pescado to chorizo to al pastor. Bring some friends for the “20 tacos and a pitcher of horchata for $40” deal and you’ll eat like kings and queens for a pittance. Otherwise, you're looking at $2.50 a taco, which is a steal considering how big and flavorful these suckers are.
And yet, good though it may be, the food is not the whole story at Taqueria San Marcos. Just as interesting is the space, which everyone seems to want to call it a “hole in the wall.” Don’t, for what wall is there? The Zacarias own the entire building. It’s their legacy project, their labor of love.
They bought it in 2011. The same year they began fixing it up by way of income from a nearby convenience store they also owned. In the effort they enlisted their kids Bob’s Burgers-style, and after five years of hard work they opened the restaurant in 2016. Now it sports a handsome exterior with cozy, diner-like decor on the inside.
Yes, sometimes that decor betrays the hand-crafted nature of its origins, just as you might find yourself wishing the horchata packed a heftier punch. But that’s exactly what’s so charming about this humble Norwood taqueria. It’s a family affair, and you can tell it matters to them.
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Taqueria San Marcos is located at 5201 Carthage Avenue. (45212).