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Mercado Marimar

Madison WI

2102 s park st, madison WI 53713
daily 9am-9pm

Mercado Marimar (Madison WI) - taco review

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Rating: 92
Price: $$

On what happened to be Most Beautiful Part of the Afternoon on The Most Beautiful Day of the Year, I departed the east-side headquarters and biked along the Capital City, Wingra Creek, and Quann Park bike paths. The experienced and nosy Madisonian will ask, 'Why such a circuitous route to a southern location?' Answer: my business associate Julia informed me as to the presence of some highly desirable tacos. Even further down S Park than the famed Taqueria Guadalajara is Mercado Marimar. As a 'maestra' in the neighborhood, my business associate happens to be a regular at Mercado Marimar, and had already acquired some Inca Kola by the time I arrived.

Unfortunately, my arrival was delayed by the good Mercado's lack of bicycle storage. With my NYC-style U-lock two most viable options would be locking to a signpost in the median of a 4-lane road, or to the chain-link fence of the next-door neighbors' house. Fortunately, Julia was in possession of a Madison-style cable lock, and I locked my bicycle to hers, which was locked to a telephone pole. The unsatisfying bicycle-parking-situation was overridden by an intriguing trailer in the parking lot. As a tiny house enthusiast, I find all things towable pleasing on some deep subconscious level. While neither the purpose nor function of the 'A Taste of Mexico' trailer was readily apparent, based on similar trailers encountered at other points during tacosmog's long and distinguished history, it is presumably a mobile taco-vending apparatus at the ready for deployment.

My mental tacometer being pulled on two diverging paths, I stepped inside. Mercado Marimar is a classic supermarket-deli-style taqueria, somewhat reminiscent of The Greatest Taqueria on Earth, with an added bonus: a tortilla-making machine on par with that displayed at Nixtamal (which was, at one point, ranked as the 'best tacos in NYC' before being surpassed by El Paisa). The same part of my brain that enjoys trailer-mounted domiciles also responds strongly to blatantly mechanical apparatii in which all functional parts are clearly visible. This tortilla press was a treat for me, as it had chains, conveyor belts, and a dough-dispenser on display for the ogling. After some confusion and crises, I placed my order for 2 tacos - one al pastor, one asada.

After a not-brief but not-lengthy wait, the tacos arrived, topped with cilantro & onions, accompanied by a couple limes. It's important, here, to mention that Marimar was targeted specifically on a Saturday due to the quality of salsas available. Upon our late-afternoon arrival, there were what could be described as 2.1 salsas available. The first was a tomatillo salsa with strong citrus undertones. It was green and spicy and provided a somewhat unusual taste sensation. Instead of a particular dominant flavor that was infinitely satisfying, it was somehow more appealing in the flavors it lacked. I have no words or comprehension to explain this flavor-void phenomenon - the basic interpretation would be that it was good because it didn't have any 'garbage' flavors present, but it's quite a bit more complex than that. The closest analogy may be musical. When shifting from a major chord to a minor on the piano, what stands out the most isn't the cohesiveness of the set of notes played, but the offsetting lack of finality to what's played.

The other 1.1 salsas were of the more traditional sense. We had a lightly smoky red, which in retrospect wasn't very smoky at all. This can be a good thing or bad thing, depending on your preferences and what meat you're topping; for me, at Marimar, it was a good thing. It had a biting tomato flavor with a medium-level spice following close on its heels. The final 10% of a salsa was what appeared to be a delicious Saturday-morning guacamole. All that remained was the pit and a few scraps around the edges, a testament to what had been there previously. I was able to scrape a bit out from the edges of the bowl, and it tasted surprisingly smooth-yet-spicy, but due to the expected differentiation of ingredients by density, I'm unable to assume that I tasted a representative sample of the salsa. For instance, hours earlier, had their been avocado chunks or more of a puree? How was the texture and homogeneity of flavor? Most importantly, was it the right balance between pourable and spreadable? While a guacamole-extrapolation algorithm has been in the works for quite some time now, it's looking like it will take a few more years to save up for sufficient carbon nanotubes to stabilize our algorithm-processing-supercomputer, so the guacamole will have to remain unreviewed for the present.

The tacos themselves were quite good, and notable especially for the freshness of the tortillas. As I mentioned, there was a squeaky tortilla press operating upon arrival, and our white-corn tortillas tasted fresh off the conveyor belt. They retained that 'just-cooked' balance between moistness and stability which is essential for preventing ruptures. They were perhaps slightly softer than I was used to, but while doubled up managed to hold together for 90% of my taco-eating experience - perhaps Fuzzy's should take a tip from the pros in this regard. The meats were quite enjoyable. The al pastor was not pineapple heavy, but had a jerk-influenced marinade that went very well with (the remnants of) the guacamole and tomatillo salsas. The meat was tender and not too soggy. I got a couple crispy fragments which were a little overly cooked and gave one of my bites a slight burnt-carbon taste, but the majority of the meat was more than satisfactory. The asada was a bit nondescript. It was tender and well-cooked, sliced in a thin Guadalajara-style (perhaps Madison-style?), but the marinade didn't have much kick to it. It was mostly a light salting, and could have used a bit more pepper influence.

Post-eating, we talked to a fellow named Marcelo who does not have a kitchen and, thus, is an expert in Madison's restaurants (also an expert in fixing cars). He gave the Taco-Futures Repository a few names to be added. Top priority, currently, is Guanajuatense on the West Side, with the caveat that we should only go after 3PM and order nothing but the Tacos Marcelos. Upon investigation of this lead, we should know whether the rest of Marcelo's recommendations are reputable, or should be taken with the figurative grain of borax. Either way, Marimar can be called 'damn good tacos'. They have taken the crown of 'Madison's Best Tacos' from Taqueria Guadalajara, and my business associate's taco-recommending name remains unbesmirched.

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