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Cochinito Taqueria

RestaurantsSpokane

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One thing I’ve learned during the trials and tribulations of tortillaphila is that fancier taco spots more often than not deliver on the toppings. Don’t get me wrong: The sight of a good taco literally and figuratively falling apart due to a substandard tortilla is sad to behold, but with a reputable chef, you at least can trust what’s in the tortilla.

Cochinito Taqueria is a good example, and the promise of chef made tacos with responsibly sourced ingredients is tantalizing. Here is a spot that serves octopus tacos, which is akin to doing God’s work. A combination of mollusk and cumin might not sound like what dreams are made of, but give it a try, and you may be surprised. It makes for a subtle, yet richly textured, taco.

The classic carne asada equally delivers. Cochinito’s tri-tip is meat done properly: a classy steak you can take home to meet your mom, all wrapped up in a tortilla substantial enough to hold its contents.

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And yes, the tortillas do deliver. I have heard varying opinions on them, none wrong, though not all ones I can see eye-to-eye on. I can appreciate the tortillas’ thickness not being everyone’s thing, but I will defend them to my death. The corn-based bread is thick, around twice that of your normal street variety, and flavorful enough to pass the I Could Eat These By Themselves test. Think of them as a five-inch Mexican style cornbread-tillas, and you’ll know what to expect. The flavor of corn really punches through.

High-End as Cochinito’s tacos are, the taqueria still maintains a casual tone. The airy interiors, with a large mural on the wall, and a walk-up counter, bring everything down to a buoyant experience. It’s a comfortable spot.

$10.50 for two tacos, rice, and beans is a decent price, too. More expensive than a taco truck, for sure, but the quality of the ingredients and the relative size of the tortillas give a good bang for the buck. Add a house-made agua fresca, and you got yourself a proper meal.

Overall, I have few complaints. Nothing really comes to mind, other than the dishes not arriving at the same time, which is a bit annoying, though not a show-stopper. Of places within its ilk, Cochinito ranks high on my list. It reminds me somewhat of Seattle’s Barrio. A bit more casual, maybe, but right up there in quality. Consider that a win.



Incrediburger & Eggs

The Great Burger ChaseSpokane

One has to respect Incrediburger & Eggs’s dedication to the introvert. No longer do you have to order from an actual human being; instead, a kiosk is available for your quiet, contemplative perusal. You can still order from the counter if you’re the adventurous type, though you’ll have to brave less than ideal acoustics to do so. The auriculars don’t live up to Incrediburger’s otherwise comfortable and contemporary interiors.

Either way, the order-pick-up-eat-leave approach makes casual casual, and I’m OK with that.

The menu is impressive. You can find a range of burgers, from Classic to Steelhead (respect!), in addition to salads, bowls, and poutine. Vegetarian and gluten-free options abound. All items run for less than $8, and a host of (optionally booze-powered) shakes are available to complement your meal.

Conceptually, the mélange of a vintage diner and modern-ish brunch spot seems like something that should see a longterm success in Spokane. It’s a good fit for downtown.

I gave the Classic burger a try, and I have to say… Not bad at all. The package was simple—even with the optional ninety-nine-cent cheese, onion, and bacon trifecta—and dominated by clean flavors. I usually give pickles a pass, but Incrediburger’s bread and butter variety added a pleasant tang to the palate, flanked by a coarse, textured, grain mustard. The slab of bacon held enough substance and zest for it to be more than bacon for bacon’s sake.

Props, too, to the bun, which was more than just a vessel for everything in-between, and plenty flavorful in its own right.

The only real downside—and sadly it’s one that’s hard to look past—was the doneness of the patty. I’m not sure if you specifically have to order it medium, but reputable sources have confirmed the default cook to be consistently closer to (if not entirely) well-done. That’s a bummer, though I would argue the fresh ingredients saved the burger in the end.

Overall Incrediburger delivered a solid experience. The variety of the menu should make it a default stop for any burger-hound, and you can do a whole lot worse as far as a casual brunch spot goes. Consider it a good entry in The Great Burger Chase.



My Fresh Basket

RestaurantsSpokane

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There are few things more disappointing than being let down by a breakfast burrito, even more so when it comes from a place of otherwise high standards. The twist of the knife is when the burrito is just within reach of the quality one would expect from such a spot. Case in point is My Fresh Basket, a new highfalutin Spokane market which delivers on many levels, but is sadly missing its inner tortillaphilia glow.

Maybe I went in with too high of expectations. The burritos are not prepared on-the-spot like at PCC, which I’d otherwise compare to My Fresh Basket. Here we get tinfoil wrapped cylinders in a heating tray, and that brings with it some hard questions. When was the burrito prepared? How long has it been in the tray? Was it prepared by a trained burrito professional? Valid questions, but I have enjoyed pre-prepared burritos before, and My Fresh Basket seemed like a pretty safe bet.

The issues presented themselves straight at unwrapping time. Trying to remove the tinfoil Mission-style was an exercise in futility. Small pieces had to be torn off in increments, making the dining experience unnecessarily slow. Hey, I’m not an impatient man, but when that burrito is in front of me, I very much want to enjoy it on my own time.

Faring better were the fillings, which consisted of high-quality ingredients. Cheddar and sausage? A respectable, classic combination, particularly when paired with green and red peppers. The eggs were there, as one would expect from any self-respecting breakfast burrito. And the potatoes… Oh, the potatoes.

This is where everything fell flat. You cannot have undercooked potatoes in a burrito. It’s just not done. It’s unseemly. Biting into something overly firm and quasi-cold stands in such stark contrast with otherwise piping-hot fillings. It’s enough to ruin one’s morning, which is even worse when the tortilla featured solid flavors.

The good can’t compensate for the bad when the bad literally blocks the good. Getting through those potatoes took effort. The poor wrap-job directly stopped me from getting to the actual burrito.

It was all very sad, nigh tragic. I had expected more, and I almost did get what I had hoped for. This time, though, almost wasn’t enough.

But, I will be back. Search their souls, and My Fresh Basket could very well give a tortillaphile what a tortillaphile wants.



Taco Bell Egg Tacos

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I beat Taco Bell to the punch by designing my own egg taco, but now that the real thing is widely available… A tortillaphile has to get to the bottom of what possibly is the oddest creation in the Bell’s sordid history.

There are two egg tacos for you to enjoy: one naked, one dressed. These have to be the worst adjectives to describe any kinds of food, but I suppose we have to live with. A Naked Egg Taco and a Dressed Egg Taco. One sans a conventional1 tortilla, the other wrapped in one.

I have what I consider valid concerns over the eggs themselves. Knowing the Bell was once in a legal battle to prove their meat was the real deal and not a by-product, I suspect we are in a similar situation with the egg. If I was to use this for, say, baking, would I achieve the same result as with a store-bought egg? I doubt it.

The rubbery concoction has little flavor, and what’s there certainly does not taste like an egg. Grease, perhaps, but not the old fashion, diner kind. This oil can only exist in the Bell’s kitchens.

Wrapped inside the egg-tortilla is bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, and what could pass as a cheese sauce. There really isn’t a whole lot more to say about it, as you probably know what to expect from a Bell taco. Different wrapping, same content.

Should you go against my advice and try one of these, you probably want to steer toward the dressed taco. Not only because there is something inherently wrong with eating anything called a naked taco, but also because the tortilla masques some of Taco Bell’s (probably quite literally) patented flavors.

Really, though, stay far away from the egg tacos and Taco Bell in general. Only a trained professional should sink to these levels.

1 Conventional might be going a bit far. It’s more like a fluffy pita.