Thursday, July 19, 2012

No-Frills Mexican Food Sans Sky-high Prices

Pros: Super reasonable prices, tasty tacos, and weekly specials. Easy transition from dinner to drinks night. (Well, it is Korea.)
Cons: Cave-like decor harkens to its (probable) past as a hof and doesn’t lend much to style or theme.

Seoulites might be wary of non-Korean food made outside the trendy capital, but its little brother to the west is proving itself just as ready to be food-forward. For expats and locals alike, Incheon’s Taco Cielo may as well be heaven sent. Situated in the Arts Center area of Guwol-dong, Taco Cielo opened fittingly on May 5th with a menu serving general Mexican food.

Taking the elevator up and stepping into the dimly-lit restaurant, I took a breath of relief. It was nice not to see sombreros and other kitschy knick-knacks that seem to plague Mexican-themed restaurants in Korea (and worldwide, for that matter). However, black dominates the scene and some of the booths are located under isolating, cave-like arches. The place is obviously the former home of a hof and left much to be desired, but hey, we’re not here for the decor.

To start, I ordered a side of guacamole with chips and almost regretted offering to share with my friends because the salty chips only invited us to dig further into the dip. It was gone quickly.

Their chicken burrito was much larger than I expected and bursting with sauce and flavor. I didn’t expect a “wet” burrito as it turned out to be, but I welcomed but the size and style of this dish. I’m not sure if they always slather on the sauce (my friend's pork burrito was decidedly naked in comparison), but I’m sure if you request it they can do it. The chicken wasn’t dry, as most chicken dishes tend to be in places like this, though this is probably due to the sauce.

The pork tacos are as close to a Cali-Mexican flavor as you can get, fresh and light. Taco Cielo’s sleeper hit is definitely their fish tacos, which abound with a creamy sauce, fresh lettuce and a flaky fish. To polish it all off, one of my friends ordered a Coke float-- an amusing addition to the menu for those of us who almost forgot ice cream floats existed.

There is a brand-new beer pong table for patrons, as well as a foosball table and online dartboards, all of which are great elements to keep customers hanging out well after their last bite.

Where Taco Cielo really shines is in their weekly deals, among them: 30 percent off Burrito Mondays, 1900 won Taco Tuesdays, and the potentially perilous Tequila Thursdays. The daily specials, no-frills service, and chill atmosphere make this a great place to stop by for a dinner with friends and chat over drinks even on a weekday.

It may not have to compete with the surprising flavors of Vatos Urban Tacos or the abundant plates of the On The Border cantina-chain, but Taco Cielo fills a niche-- nay, a need-- for Mexican food in Incheon and does it simply. Baby steps, my friends... baby steps.

Exit Incheon Bus Terminal on Incheon Line 1 and head out the side with H&M/E-Mart. After you cross the footbridge, head right. At the next corner, go left and walk up the street. You’ll find Taco Cielo to your right on the 6th floor above the School Food Cafe and Caffe Bene.

Incheon, Korea Namdonggu Guwoldong 1474-2,6F. Near Shinsegae Department Store.
인 천시 남동구 구월동 1474-2, 대광프라자6층. 신세계 백화점 근처.