Tacos put the emphasis where it belongs, on the meat fillings.
After I left Abarrotes Yuremi the first time, I scribbled on the takeout menu, “This is the kind of place that makes my heart flutter.”
Given a choice between a Mexican restaurant with a 12-page plastic menu and the taqueria counter in a Latin grocery store, I’m always going to pick the latter. Last spring, on my way to the Pheasant Branch Conservancy for a dog walk, I spied the Abarrotes Yuremi sign at a strip mall hidden behind the McDonald’s at Highway M and Allen Boulevard in Middleton. I executed a quick U-turn and headed back to pick up a little snack. (Dog walking is big exercise, you know.) Stupidly I ordered just one chicken tinga taco to go. The chicken, stewed for a long time in a chipotle tomato sauce, was outstanding, far beyond the bland chicken usually stuffed into North American chicken tacos, and all I could think about during the rest of the dog walk was stopping back on my way home.
Since last spring, Abarrotes Yuremi has cut down on its grocery space and expanded its seating with a handful of tables and booths in a sunny, brightly painted space. The menu has expanded too, though it is still basic tacos, burritos, tortas, quesadillas, tostadas and sopes, with a Mexican breakfast and specials on the weekend — menudo, tamales, stews. Take advantage of the specials board.
The tacos — simple, diminutive corn tortillas, griddled and doubled — are fresh but really just delivery vehicles for the real stars here, any long-stewed meat. I’d recommend the tinga, the barbacoa (with a smoky, cinnamony quality), carnitas or, if it’s on the specials board, cochinita pibil (a slightly sweeter long-roasted pork dish). Topped with raw white onions, cilantro and pickled onions and accompanied with a wedge of lime, that’s all you need — I’d even skip the salsas to savor the meats. (The green sauce is quite hot and a little harsh, with lots of onion and garlic, though on another visit a green sauce with some avocado in it was a better fit.)
Tacos are $2 each, well worth it, or order three for $9 along with rice (a rich, slightly greasy but satisfying version studded with kernels of corn) and pinto beans (just shy of mushy, with some whole beans remaining, and real bean flavor).
Any guisado (stew) on the specials board is a must-order. My only disappointment so far has been the steak filling. The small nibs of flank steak were tough and underseasoned.
Simple tacos put the focus where it belongs, on the fillings, but I also like the sopes, with their thick, crispy, fried masa base, loaded with beans and meat and topped with lettuce, tomatoes and luscious crema and cotija cheese.
Pork prepared al pastor, chorizo, tripe and tongue are also on the regular fillings menu. Recently the taqueria has been announcing more weekly specials on its Facebook page: tilapia (whole fish), mole enchiladas, flan, $1 taco Tuesdays.
The sign out front says “fruteria y taqueria” but I haven’t seen signs that the fruteria part of the business is up and running — maybe this summer? A nice raspados (Mexican shaved ice) with mango and some chimoy will be just the ticket come warmer weather, but in the meantime, agua fresca is available, along with Mexican bottled sodas and fruit drinks.
The Middleton area has recently experienced a growth spurt of places serving Mexican food, all within a stone’s throw of Abarrotes Yuremi. Lupe’s Taqueria in Middleton Hills offers a Chipotle-style build-your-own experience; I Love Tacos has filled the huge Cold Fusion bar space; Cocina Real (a sibling of Laredo’s) is just down Allen Boulevard; and Lalo’s is not too far off on University Avenue.
Abarrotes Yuremi is not the place that gives you a free basket of chips while you sip on an oversized margarita. It’s all about the food. And rightly so.
2606 Allen Boulevard, Middleton, 608-824-9619, facebook.com/abarrotesyuremi, 9 am-9 pm Mon.-Sat., 9 am-6 pm Sun., $2-$9