Frugal Friday at Taqueria La Fiesta - inexpensive meat and vegetarian options abound
Mary Bilyeu | Contributor
Taqueria La Fiesta is a bit hidden at the end of a small strip mall. Despite being near one of the busiest corners in town — Carpenter and Packard — it would be easy to go past it without realizing that the restaurant is there.
So, that's why it's today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature — to make sure you don't drive by, but rather stop in to enjoy some fabulous authentic Mexican cuisine.
My son Jeremy, Stuart (my ex-husband, for those who don't remember him) and I decided to eat dinner at the taqueria after a long afternoon of shopping for a new oven once mine was finally in need of last rites.
I despise sorting through the options I don't want and performing mathematical calculations weighing one store's deals vs. another's. It's utter wretched misery that simply makes my brain hurt! (I get equally stressed by cell phone packages, as well as orange juice and toothpaste options. Anyone who knows me has heard my rant about too many dizzying choices!)
So we sought respite at Taqueria La Fiesta and found not only some outstanding food for exceptionally reasonable prices, but also a tremendously friendly welcome from the owner, George, whose family has run the establishment for the past five months.
When we walked in the door, the restaurant smelled so enticing! Rarely do I walk into a place and immediately find myself immersed in so many tantalizing aromas. We were warmly greeted and immediately shown to a table, and an appetizer of pico de gallo — a zesty fresh salsa — with chips was brought out for us.
I had a few questions about the menu, particularly about portion sizes for determining what could be shared for $5 or less per person — our mandatory Frugal Floozie Friday budget. George answered all of my questions while proudly telling how his aunt, the primary chef, uses his grandmother's recipes to prepare the food. (She usually cooks with love; but she's banned from the kitchen if she's in a bad mood, apparently, as George told us you can even taste the difference in the food because his aunt infuses her cooking with so much passion!)
Jeremy ordered — and loved! — the enormous Burrito Gigante filled with carne asada, a flavorful char-broiled steak; this was large enough to split, and at $6 could easily be a Frugal Friday dish for two. Stuart and I split the Burrito Gigante platter, which also offered generous servings of refried beans and rice; we chose the tender and well-seasoned birria (marinated beef) filling pictured below. At $7.75, this was an exceptional value offering almost more food than two people could eat comfortably (but we're good eaters, so we managed just fine!)
George very generously brought two different well-stuffed tacos for us to try, so that I can attest to still more inexpensive dining options. On the left, in the picture at the top of the post, is the barbacoa [bar-bah-KWAH] taco filled with steamed beef that is spicy without being hot; the meat is perfectly complemented by the generous cilantro, and this is a great value at only $1.80.To the right is the $2 taco gringo — filled with the lettuce and tomato that we're accustomed to in this country, and served with a genuine smile and affection — featuring a tender, succulent chicken.
To go with my meal, I ordered a tall glass of hibiscus tea — Jamaica [hah-MY-kuh] in Spanish — which was reminiscent of a fruited sweet tea. Jeremy liked it so much that I let him finish it for me after I'd had just a few sips. It costs $2, but there are less expensive sodas available, too.
Taqueria La Fiesta offers a number of vegetarian options: traditional Mexican egg dishes for breakfast, potato tacos, bean and cheese tamales, meatless nachos and burritos filled with grilled poblano peppers or mushrooms. There are vegetarian fajitas and also a wide variety of dishes featuring nopales [noh-PAHL-ays] — prickly pear cactus.
George told us that his family removes the cactus needles by hand, rather than the faster method of burning them off which actually causes the cactus to feel traumatized. Nopales are similar to okra, with a famous "slime" factor if not prepared properly; burning the needles increases this tendency, so the more time-consuming hand preparation is infinitely preferable and makes the salad, cactus in salsa and stuffed cactus paddles with cheese even more delicious.
There are a number of deals you can take advantage of at the Taqueria: check in on Foursquare and earn a 10-percent-off coupon; enjoy a lunchtime carry-out special between 11 a.m.-1 p.m., buying one entree at regular price and getting the second for half off; and police, fire and EMS workers get 10 percent discounts.
So, what are you waiting for? Go eat! And eat well at Taqueria La Fiesta, where you'll find a lot of frugal dining options and an exceptionally friendly host.
Taqueria La Fiesta
4060 W. Packard
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Tuesday - Saturday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Mary Bilyeu writes about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You should also visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related. The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.
The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.