The cure for a cold, rainy day is, of course, some warm tacos.
by Alexander Quebec
On a rainy, late afternoon in San Jose, I made my way down to Willow Street, a quiet yet vibrant community comprised of immigrants and locals from Mexico. It had been a while since I had set foot in a place like this and with that comes the feeling that you may be stepping outside of the familiar and into the unknown; however, at the same time I felt like I was home.
Located on the corner of Willow and Locust Streets, Taqueria Metro Balderas is an unpretentious, local neighborhood kind of place. It’s a very straightforward proposition, you come here for the legit tacos and other food. While sitting by myself at the table, I sat quietly and observed my surroundings and my fellow diners. The rainy Friday night probably kept a few people indoors tonight, but it made for a much quieter dining experience than what I had in mind.
On Fridays, the day I dropped by, the tacos are made outside, with the shawarma machine and meat grills located outside in full view for the customers. What I found interesting was that the tacos al pastor are prepared with a large pineapple at the top of the top of the shawarma machine. They used a skillful technique using the blade they sliced meat off the shawarma machine with to slice pieces of the fruit off of the pineapple itself.
Hands down, the al pastor meat straight from the shawarma machine is the best there is. Granted this was an invention from the Middle East (Lebanon to be exact), this dish is proof that the fusion of cultures, even in something as mundane as cookware, can have a huge impact on the quality, presentation, and flavor of the food.
If you’ve never tried tacos al pastor from a Shawarma machine you need to as the meat tends to be very moist, tender and full of flavor. Combined with the sweet pineapple, I think I inhaled the tacos I allowed myself to have, fighting the urge to go back to the counter and order more.
Overall, this is the kind of place we’re always looking for, the smaller places where only the locals know about its existence. I know that for those outside of the community, it may feel like you are intruding, but the best piece of advice I can give you is just to take everything you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste like this as it is, be respectful of the people and the area you are visiting and, above all, enjoy your food.
There are two locations with the same name (as of press time, awaiting word to see if they’re affiliated). This particular location is on the corner of Willow and Locust St. They are open Monday through Friday, 11AM to 11PM and on weekends 10:45 AM to 5:00 PM. Major credit cards accepted, but also give yourself some time to get there are parking is very limited in that area.