It’s a bit of amusing irony that two of Lafayette’s more appealing exotic restaurants are hidden in the average aesthetics of a Sagamore Parkway strip mall. Sharma’s Kitchen offers top-flight Indian and Indochinese cuisine on its buffet. Just a few doors down, there’s Taco Rico — which continues to maintain its low-key great status as one of the area’s best Mexican restaurants.
To that end, Taco Rico offers some of Lafayette’s most understated Mexican restaurant décor. Case in point: I’ve been there several times and only just recently noticed — amid all the muted earth tones — that the booth walls are fashioned to resemble windows onto a scenic view.
While you’ll find more adventurous chips and cantina salsa elsewhere, Taco Rico is smart to keep the spice a bit more egalitarian. You can always dose it with some of their no-fooling hot sauce. And if you go a bit overboard with that, you can get help from a bottle of Mexican Coke or glass of horchata — a sugared rice-based drink flavored with spices. Taco Rico serves theirs nice, light and just sweet enough, with a pleasant nutmeg aftertaste.
You can also upgrade your chip dipping with choriqueso. Tossing Mexican pork sausage with cheese dip could create a gloppy, drippy mess but the added meat instead offers texture, heft and flavor. Looking for something even a bit more different as an appetizer to share? Try the Mexican shrimp cocktail, served in a giant goblet of a souped-up salsa with chunks of avocado and tomato and stuffed with plenty of ready-to-eat shrimp.
My go-to meal has often been the chicken enchiladas with salsa verde — complemented, as are most Taco Rico entrées, by a surplus of rice, refried beans and “salad” of lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. The tacos asada (steak), al pastor (marinated pork) and carnitas (roasted pork) are also solid choices. This time around, I tried the chicken with mole sauce, a brown sauce sourced from chili peppers, fruits, nuts and spices. Unlike other moles in which those distinctive notes and flavors battle for supremacy, Taco Rico has their recipe down pat into a pleasant blend.
Seat yourself, pay at the register, fast service, good prices, mighty portions: Taco Rico is the definition of no frills and no complaints.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.