Photo by Joshua Tibbetts
Tacos are perfect, no matter what form they take: Whether hard shell or soft, spicy or mild, meaty or vegetarian, a taco’s deliciousness and convenience are peerless. I’d argue that, like sex, even a bad taco is still pretty damned good.
A margarita, on the other hand, is easy to ruin. Too often, the flavor of tequila is barely discernible in the too-sweet tang of frozen sour mix, and the whole thing amounts to nothing more than a mediocre Slurpee. A middling margarita can dull the shine of even the most stellar taco.
This is part of why Caucho (1201 3rd St. SE, Cedar Rapids) is such a gem: Their margaritas are perfection. Whether delivered as a mixed-from-scratch top-shelf cocktail rimmed with smoked paprika salt, or as a frozen, blended house margarita straight from a machine, the drink combines perfectly with their fresh, farm-to-table, eclectic selection of Mexican favorites.
The smokiness of a high-end reposado supports and enhances the earthy bite of the tlacoyo, a savory, tender masa empanada stuffed with black beans and melty, molten chihuahua cheese. The cooling crispness of the frozen house margarita cuts the charred piquancy of the addictive house escabeche, which features grilled farm-fresh vegetables pickled with vinegar and chilies.
Variations on the margarita, like the Up in Smoke — a succulent blend of mezcal, pineapple, lime and smoked salt — complement the herbed echoes of Berkshire pork lard in the frijoles refritos, which are freakishly delicious in their own right. And the tacos, served on soft corn tortillas, go well with everything — though I’m partial to the carnitas, served with house-made chicharrones, black mole, onion and lime, washed down with a Lion Bridge draft.
It’s almost a shame that the menu is so full of deliciously executed small plates and entrees, though, because it is imperative that you order dessert. A snifter from their vast selection of higher-end tequila embraces the tart heat of the tamarind and ancho that coat the dark chocolate pelotas; I prefer the Don Julio añejo, though I’m open to suggestions.
And let the pelotas be dessert, round one; if you leave Caucho without indulging in the churros and chocolate, you have done Caucho incorrectly. Rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with pasilla-dark chocolate ganache for dipping, the warm, melty pastry of the churro is what every doughnut and beignet wishes it were. Wash it down with a lightly sweet house-made horchata, but make sure you’re close to home: You’re going to need a nap.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 219.