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Cheap Eats: Rodolfo’s Taco Shop

Once you get past the beans and rice, the food at Rodolfo's is uninspired.

Once you get past the beans and rice, the food at Rodolfo's is uninspired.

What: Rodolfo’s Taco Shop

Address and phone: 1708 W. Ajo Way, 741-1831

Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 7 a.m.-9 p.m Sundays

What was ordered: Fish Tacos Plate ($6.58), Steak Ranchero Plate ($6.58), side of guacamole (63 cents) medium lemonade ($1.37) and medium drink ($1.37) for a total of $17.87 including tax, well within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20.

Comments: So much for the bean-ometer.

There’s a longstanding belief among local foodies that you can judge the quality of a Mexican or fast-Mex eatery by the quality of the beans. If they’re clumpy, overly dark brown, and the taste of them has you visualizing someone twisting a can opener, the rest of the food will probably be similarly uninspiring.

But if the beans are smooth to nearly runny, have that certain gray pallor, and bring to mind a big pot of pintos soaking overnight, you’re probably in for good eats, no matter what the eatery looks like.

Rodolfo’s passed the bean test with flying colors and also did pretty well with the rice. The beans were home-cooked and nicely textured, and the rice was slightly crispy and not laden with salty stock. Both sides had us thinking we’d found a diamond in the rough, as this Southwest side taco shop is most definitely rough in the looks department.

The dining area is a mass of dingy white with fast-food booth units and nothing in the way of furnishings or enhancements. It’s just the kind of no-nonsense, no-effort atmosphere, hole-in-the-wall that can sometimes blow you away with authentic, vibrant fare. Given the quality of the side dishes, we were expecting to be impressed.

Boy, were we in for a letdown.

The Fish Tacos plate sported a pair of medium size, store-bought variety corn tortillas, stuffed with finger-sized breaded fish planks and topped with a dry, largely unseasoned pico de gallo. There was no Baja-style mayo or sour cream sauce, no salsa, no lime, no sprinkling of Cotija or Queso Fresco, nothing to jazz up the diced veggies and blander-than-bland fish, which had a preponderance of breading and not a lot of cod, if it even was cod. As the corn tortillas were merely warmed rather than fried, they sealed the whole deal on what was an exercise in nothingness. We tried to spruce the tacos up with the side of guacamole we ordered, but it was a mild, watery disappointment more along the lines of avocado salsa than serviceable guacamole.

The look of the Steak Ranchero plate made us a little more hopeful. It featured a good 6 ounces or so of cubed steak, covered with melted cheddar, diced onions and tomatoes. While it did sport at least a little bit of a flavor profile, the beef underneath the toppings was devoid of any payoff of charring, nor did it carry any notes of marinade or seasoning to speak of.

On previous visits, I’ve had a decent carne asada burro at Rodolfo’s and an above average bowl of Albondigas.

A steady crowd of folks come in for something to go, and there are probably some things on this menu that get done pretty well. Then again, lowly Los Betos gets a steady crowd and even does at least one thing somewhat well – the Carnitas gut-bomb burrito – for those so inclined.

Ask a regular what’s good, and you may get something that measures up to the beans and rice at Rodolfo’s.

Either that or order a beans-and-rice burrito.

Service: Order and pick up your food at the counter.

Bar: no

Children’s menu: yes

Web site: no

Most recent health inspection: A “good” rating July 7, 2008. Critical violations were reported for potentially hazardous foods not held at proper cooling temperature and for foods not correctly date marked.

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