Taqueria La Sierra
58-B West Church St.
Selbyville, DE 19975
How many of you have watched Tony Bourdain or Rick Bayless travel through Mexico extolling the virtues of true, authentic Taqueria food; you know Mexico’s street food. Well you do not have to watch TV while your mouth is watering anymore because Ocean City and the Eastern Shore have their very own Mexican Taqueria. Taqueria La Sierra is not much to look at from the outside, in fact it looks like what it is, a Mexican General Store for lack of a better description. The store front or “Tienda” sells clothes, shoes, DVD’s, music and much more with even a Barber Shop right up front. There is also a grocery store, with its own butcher shop, where you can buy pretty much anything for that Rick Bayless/Bobby Flay recipe you have been dying to try but just couldn’t find all the ingredients. Needless to say, it is a fun ethnic experience just walking into the store but the true joy is in the back.
I would whole heartedly suggest to a newbie to go for lunch before braving the dinner crowd. The Taqueria is owned, run by and frequented by the Latin community and that could be off putting to those people not accustomed to English not being the primary language spoken. That is not to say that the staff does not speak English, they do and they are very gracious and accommodating. At Lunch the dining area is just a few tables and an order window, most of their business seems to be carry out. At Dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the back dining room is opened and there is table service. The Dining room is brightly colored with beautiful hand painted chairs, banquettes and tables. The arch way, window frames and banquettes are of dark lacquered wood and the art work is all hand crafted. As stated earlier the service is polite and helpful to all customers with questions so don’t be afraid to ask about the menu items.
The fun really starts with the drink order (warning there is no liquor served). The beverages offered are the single largest selection of Latin American sodas I have ever seen. There is a glass front cooler with a good number of cold sodas as well as an entire grocery store aisle full of sodas to pick from. The best part is that a large number of the sodas are imported directly from Latin America which means that they are made with real sugar not corn syrup (ahhh the burning sensation of drinking a real Coke, brings back memories).
The menu is haphazardly written but fun to try and figure out with the best part being the prices, ex. 4 Chicken Tamales for $5.00, Tortas $4.00 and Tacos $1.50 ea. or $1.75 if you want avocado. And what Tamales, Tortas and Tacos!! The Tacos are served on warm, soft corn tortillas with common selections such as Azada (beef steak), Barbacoa (shredded Beef) and Carnitas (deep fried pork) all expertly prepared and better than chain restaurants like Chipotle any day of the week. But it is the offal cuts that really shine; the beef tongue and beef head tacos are a revelation in tenderness and flavor. The Tacos de Cabeza are especially unctuous due to the slow braising cooking process which breaks down all the connective tissue into lovely collagen glazed hunks of beef. The Tacos de Lengua are so tender and flavorful I dare you to eat just one. The Tamales are large and steamed to a delicious sweetness with a flavorful and moist shredded chicken filling. If you are in the mood for a sandwich I suggest the Tortas which you can order filled with either beef or chicken and come with lettuce, tomato, avocado and pickled jalapeno peppers in a soft Mexican long roll and then heated in a sandwich press. A few other items of note are the Pupusas and the Empanadas both of which are handmade and unlikely to be found anywhere of a better quality. The Pupusas are thick corn tortillas known as Arepas filled with cheese or pork and the Empanadas are flakey pastries filled with either cheese or chicken and then deep fried.
There are a few things to remember when eating food as authentically ethnic as this Taqueria; first of all the cuts of meat are not primary cuts. In other words, you will not find a filet or rib-eye steak on the menu. All the proteins are secondary cuts and cooked slowly with spices and broths to make them impossibly tender and flavorful. Also the portions are a good size but not huge and the entrees come with beans and rice and sometimes a salad. Two final warnings; first BEWARE the sauce in the red squeeze bottle, it is very spicy and secondly DO NOT order the Tripe.
Selbyville Delaware is a small community just across the Maryland border and very easy to get to from Ocean City. Its main industry is chicken processing and therein lays the large Latin American segment of the community. This is to all our good fortune when any community can generate a restaurant of this caliber. So be brave and go and get your “Latin on” at the Taqueria La Sierra, you will not be disappointed.