Elite Eight Preview

With apologies to Taqueria Trespasada, and to a lesser extent Carncierias Guanajuato and Taco & Burrito Express, all of which I would recommend to one degree or another, things are going to get much more interesting now that we've advanced into the second round, and weeded out some of the weaker taquerias in our bracket. Following is the world's briefest -- and hopefully only -- preview of my next eight lunch dates.

#1. La Pasadita versus #8 Arturo's Tacos

Barbacoa Tacos

This will be our first and perhaps only venture into barbacoa in the bracket; the secret ingredient was originally supposed to be al pastor, until I realized that La Pasadita did not carry pastor on its menu. It's that barbacoa that throws a little bit of a wild card into this matchup, since it's something that involves careful preparation and a house recipe that can differ significantly from taqueria to taqueria. The two things we can say almost for sure about La Pasadita are that (1) everything on its menu is good; (2) nothing on its menu is as good as its carne asada. How we resolve the tension between those two platitudes is going to go a long way toward determining the outcome here. That is not to say that what Arturo's does is unimportant -- it surprised us once before by turning out a very solid torta in Round 1. But this is still La Pasadaita's match-up to lose.

Vegas Odds: La Pasadita is a 5-1 favorite.

#4. De Pasada versus #12 Dona Naty's Taco
Torta de Milanesa

These restaurants remind me a lot of one another -- both are tremendously friendly family businesses that are overshadowed by flashier neighbors (La Pasadita in De Pasada's case, and Taco Veloz for Dona Naty's). I would not read very much into Dona Naty's #12 seed -- it has already won twice, first in its eat-in match where it delivered pastor tacos that were worthy of our Honor Roll, and then with a chicken burrito in Round 1 that wasn't that far behind. Still, De Pasada is nothing if not consistent, and tortas have not been a particular strength of Dona Naty's on past visits.

Vegas Odds: De Pasada is a 5-2 favorite.

#2. El Taco Veloz versus #10 Picante Taqueria
Al Pastor Burrito

This is probably the biggest mismatch of the second round, at least on paper. Both Veloz and Picante exceeded expectations in the first round -- but for Veloz, those expectations had been very high, whereas for Picante they had been quite low. Veloz also has something of a structural advantage in the non-food categories, and the weather could be a factor -- we'll be into November by the time this match-up occurs, and if God has thrown off the global warming switch and restored Chicago's weather to what it normally should be this time of year, it's not going to be much fun eating at Picante's outdoor patio.

Vegas Odds: El Taco Veloz is a 9-1 favorite.

#3 Tecalitlan versus #6 Irazu
Chicken Tacos

Irazu was unambiguously better in the first round, crushing Lobos al Fresco while Tecalitlan barely skated by Carnicerias Guanajuato. Indeed, Irazu is probably the favorite in spite of its lower seed. But I'm not sure that chicken is going to play to Irazu's strengths, since most of its dishes are either meat- or vegetarian-based. Tecalitlan, meanwhile, as one of the more gringo-friendly restaurants in the bracket, and ought to know how to keep us white boys happy by serving up some good chicken. This is definitely the signature matchup of the second round.

Vegas Odds: Irazu is a 4-3 favorite

Odds to Win Bracket

La Pasadita ............... 2-1
El Taco Veloz ............. 3-1
De Pasada ................. 5-1
Irazu ..................... 6-1
Tecalitlan ............... 10-1
Dona Naty's Taco ......... 20-1
Arturo's Tacos ........... 50-1
Picante Taqueria ........ 100-1

The main changes here are Veloz and Irazu moving upward and Tecalitlan moving downward, based on their respective performances in Round 1. I've also shortened Pasadita's odds slightly after several positive "off-bracket" experiences, but it is by no means a shoo-in. Who do you like? Who are you rooting for?


Jeff said...
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Jeff said...

Suffice to say - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by Irazu's chicken...

I live across the street, and I'm pulling for the Costa Rican entry. Also, on an off-bracket trip, you need to try the casados with gallo pinto.

Keep up the good work, man.

Anonymous said...

I picked Dona Naty early on, and sticking with them now despite the tough matchup.