El Jarocho serves up street tacos and breakfast burritos in Valley Park

Last year, after running El Nopal Mexican Restaurant for nearly three decades, Miguel and Nikky Cortez expanded out of the same West County mall, opening a Mexican store and a taqueria, El Jarocho (25 Stonegate Center).

The low-key spot serves traditional street tacos made with corn tortillas and, most importantly, quality meats. “People might think our prices are a bit higher than other taquerias, but we go to great lengths to source high-quality meat, paying more than the average taco,” says Nikky. “That’s what sets us apart.”

Although pork options such as carnitas and al pastor are a delight, the beef options shine. The flagship is barbacoa. The slow-cooked meat is juicy but still has the signature barbacoa char. While many taquerias use brisket, Miguel uses shoulder. The meat is paired perfectly with double-stacked fresh corn tortillas, as well as perfectly fried whole green onions (shown at right), served unbreaded, salted and seasoned with a secret spice blend and a squeeze of lime juice.

Feeling adventurous? Take into account cow tongue tacos. One of the creamiest and most delicious parts of the cow, the lengua is cut into perfectly marbled cubes and exemplifies the merits of whole animal cuisine.

Three sauces are available: verde, avocado and red. Each leaves a tickling spice to accompany the fat and sour throughout your meal, along with the standard garnish of white onion and cilantro. Accompany it with a sweet drink from the cooler or fresh fruit water, homemade without syrups or added sugars (we recommend watermelon).

The carne asada torta might be the best in St. Louis. This is accompanied by pieces of seasoned beef, queso fresco from Oaxaca and sour cream wrapped in a fluffy telera roll.

Breakfast Burritos— as heavy as a small dumbbell and as tasty as any quick breakfast in St. Louis — are on offer all day. Try the chorizo, served with a filling mix of scrambled eggs, rice and black beans in a soft flour tortilla. Adding salsa would simply brown the lily.

Despite its relative newness, El Jarocho has become exactly what the owners envisioned: a laid-back market and restaurant where Nikky says people can “come and relax with family and friends and feel at home.”

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