Nestled in a residential neighborhood in a Hyattsville/Bladensburg no-man’s-land but lit up like the fourth of July is a little spot called La Placita. The parking lot was packed and people were waiting for spots. A gaudy, bejeweled statue of La Virgén adorned the entrance. A line of people snaked out the door and ranchera music blasted from inside. I was expecting mucha autenticidad, pero no así.
Across from the cashier was another booth which was selling homemade juices, Mexican chips, and baggies full of sliced mango for cash only. People were trying to push their way to the front of the line for their chance to shove money in the face of the cashier. In the dining area of the restaurant, patrons–99% of them Latinx–lined up against the wall to wait for their turn to grab a rare, unoccupied table. A young woman shouted order numbers in Spanish as she balanced plates of tacos on both forearms. La Placita is absolute chaos and I love it.
We ordered six tacos to split and then snagged a still-dirty table in the back. To be honest, I’m not sure the health department is aware of the existence of La Placita. It is not for the faint of heart. While my husband held the table, I went to stand by the prep line to wait for our food to come out. In doing so, I was able to watch, mesmerized, as a line cook chopped up a literal pig’s head. The guy standing behind the griddle was flipping fresh tortillas like it wasn’t no thang. I have never seen human beings work as hard as those cooks and I was working at Borders during the midnight release of Harry Potter 7.
Finally, order doscientos noventa y nueve appeared and we were in business. We had shied away from ordering any of the more adventurous animal parts but got a good variety nonetheless.
Carne asada (left) and al pastor (right). The carne was a bit chewy in spots but had a good grill flavor. The pastor was excellently tender and slightly sweet.
Lamb barbacoa–so much yes. Great lamb flavor with no chewy bits. Totally falling apart.
The final three: nopales (left), chorizo (center), and spare rib (right). The spare rib was nothing to write home about and actually had off-putting bits of bone, which made it really hard to eat. It was kind of chewy too. The nopales were also not super special. They were just kind of bland, nothing like the nopales at Ixtapalpa. The chorizo, though. OH. The chorizo. Spicy, porky, grease-soaking-through-the-tortilla goodness.
The waitress always shows up with a tray of pickles and hot sauces too. You know I put that red salsa on err’thang.
Price: $10 per person.
Bottom line: Taquería La Placita defines the term “hole in the wall” but the food was a bit hit-or-miss. Best tacos ever? No. Cheapest tacos ever? Likely. Most authentic experience ever? Resounding yes.