Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#103: Dollar Tacos at El Paraiso

Thanks to films such as Super-Size Me and Fast Food Nation, we all know that "fast food" is bad.  Bad for our health, often bad for our farms and farmworkers, the environment and small town communities.  However, in the decision to get fast food, guilt is no match for hunger, convenience, and cost.  What's the solution to our need for good, cheap, filling food served fast from familiar faces?

South Bend's answer is El Paraiso.  This grocery store, owned by Jalisco-native Rafael Martinez, stocks an array of Hispanic goods and cooking needs, but off on the left side, there is a small kitchen/taqueria.  On Wednesdays and Sundays, they serve dollar tacos (corn or flour, red or green salsa), filled with your choice of meat (or not) and cilantro and onions.  Upgrade to the taco paraiso, a delicious mash of tomatoes, avocado, and goodness.  Be forewarned: you will probably make this a weekly tradition.
Did I mention their warm and accommodating service?
They let us order takeout even though it was a minute or two past closing--muchas gracias!
Just like at any fast food restaurant, you order your food at the counter, and you can either sit at a brightly-painted table or take it to go.  If only there was a drive-through.

When: Until 8pm.  (The grocery store stays open until 9:00 pm)
Where: 425 S. Main Street, convenient to both downtown and the Hispanic community on Western
Tip:  Try the horchata--not just so you can sing along to the Vampire Weekend song knowing what you're talking about--but it's a welcome complement to the spicy salsas offered.


  1. Hi there! I just discovered your blog, and am happy to have found it. My husband and I lived in SB for about five years, are currently in Paris, but will be returning to SB in the summer to finish our degrees--it's great to hear about some of the new stuff going on (there's a vegan reuben in SB?!), and to reminisce about the many nights we spent at Thai Cambodian and Fiddlers.

    I just wanted to make a couple of other Mexican suggestions, from when we lived off of Western, near Olive. One place I love to go to is Chico's, a cute diner that serves both Mexican and American brunch foods from the early morning until 2pm. Although I don't think they're on the menu, I used to get some awesome potato enchiladas there. The folks who work there are super friendly, and I really miss it. Chico's is on the corner of Western and Olive, and is open everyday.

    And there's Chicago Taqueria, just a little further west on Western. They have wonderful tacos, and their homemade sauces (yes, the ones in the plastic squeeze bottles) are killer.

  2. Wow, I started thinking about food in South Bend, and felt like I had to mention Sunny's Kimchi Garden Patio (in Mishawaka) to you. Sunny is super friendly, makes her own kimchi (and everything else) from scratch, uses no msg, and manages to make some of my favorite Korean food. She's also happy to sub tofu for meat, which makes me happy. I love the spicy eggplant, and the bi bim gooksu. Also, they have a cute beer garden in the summer.

    PS: I forgot to mention---while at Chico's, get the guacamole. It's fresh and delicious, and not to be missed.

  3. I have heard about Sunny's for years, but never been. That is definitely a place we'll need to feature on here! Thanks for the tips!

  4. Actually - the tacos are $1 on Wednesdays and Sundays. ANY KIND, ANY MEAT (or not), ANY TORTILLA. No upcharge on those days. Mexican style, onion and cilantro - Paraiso style, cheese, sour cream, avacado - American style, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream.

    Just sayin' :)