Lauren: [00:00:00] You're listening to Rhody Radio, Rhode Island Library Radio Online.
Lauren: We hope you have room for seconds. We had so many reviews that we created this bonus episode with another helping of Tacomania. This is a bonus episode of Rhody Eats, where we rank some of the best food in Rhode Island. For this episode, we'll be tasting some of the best tacos in Rhode Island using Rhode Island Food Fights Tacomania competition as a guide. We enlisted our colleagues around the state to help us try out all of the restaurants featured in the competition, and they've recorded their reviews to guide your own taco adventures.
Emily: Let's get to some reviews about the delicious places around the state that you can eat some tacos.
Heidi Blais: Hi. My name is Heidi Blais, and I'm the librarian at Cranston High School East. I visited Neza Mexican restaurant on Warwick Ave in Warwick. I was super excited to try out this restaurant since it's new. It just opened a few months ago during the summer and I love trying new places. Prior to heading out to Neza, I checked their Instagram, which is @neza.mexicanrestaurant, and the food looked absolutely amazing. Now, at the actual restaurant experience, my friend and I went on a Thursday evening, and we arrived there around 6:30 and we parked in the large parking lot right behind the restaurant.
That was super convenient having parking right there, and there's also a back door to enter the restaurant. My friend and I, we both liked the decor. It's simple, it's bright and clean-looking, and it's very attractive. They've got a row of yellow chairs that are lined up against the bar, and so just pretty colors, and it looks really nice inside. The restaurant was on the quieter side. There was music, but it was at just the right volume. I really like when the music is low enough that you can have a conversation without [00:02:00] having to shout and that's just how it was at Neza.
Immediately when we entered, we were greeted with friendly welcomes from two staff members, and our server was pleasant. She was able to answer our questions and she had just the right amount of attentiveness. We ordered drinks. My friend got the red sangria, which had fresh fruit cut up inside of it, and I got the Violetta which was so pretty. It had two different colors, and then, of course, I mixed it, and it was a delicious drink as well. We were also served complimentary chips and individual bowls of salsa which those little individual bowls, that was a really nice touch of not having to reach across the table to dip the salsa.
For the tacos, we were able to choose from any of the meats, such as chicken, carnitas, Al Pastor, steak, and chorizo. My friend and I both got one steak and one carnitas, and they were both perfect. Each taco had a double tortilla, fresh lime to squeeze on the tacos, and fresh onions. The pork was seasoned perfectly and it was in nice big chunks, and the steak was also delicious, and that was in smaller bite-size pieces. I definitely enjoyed them, and if I went back, which I hope to go back, I would order both of them again.
In addition to the tacos, we also got an order of chicken tamales. I love tamales. I could live on tamales, and these were presented in such a beautiful fashion as well, and they were delicious. The beans and rice both were amazing also. Just what you expect after looking at such beautiful photos online and seeing the presentation, the taste of the food lived up to the presentation, just delicious. I wish we'd saved room for dessert, but we didn't, so when I go back, I'm looking forward to trying the flan and the churros. They also have fried ice cream which I definitely have a sweet tooth.
I want to try all the desserts, and so I'm looking forward to doing that when I go back. What really stood out about Neza to me was the friendly and the top-notch service. Our server was great. She was really one of the best servers that I've encountered [00:04:00] in quite a while. The restaurant's very attractive. The parking was easy, and of course, most importantly, the food was delicious. I'd definitely go back, and I'd recommend it to families, friends, or really just anyone who wants a delicious night out. I'm definitely looking forward to trying Neza again, and thanks for the opportunity to review a great new restaurant.
Kelly: Hi. My name is Kelly, and I'm a teen librarian at the Rochambeau Library in Providence. I went to Dos Mundos, a family-owned Latin-Asian fusion restaurant located in Cranston. This restaurant is fairly new as it's only been in operation for about eight months. You can definitely get that sense when you walk inside because it's spacious, clean, and comfortable with a modern cafe feel. There are numerous table options depending on the size of your party, and even a small area with couches facing a TV, plus some outdoor seating.
The interior has a dark turquoise and yellow-gold color scheme that extenuates a beautiful mural on one of the walls that depicts imagery from Cambodia. Upon speaking to one of the staff, who happened to be the son of the owners, I learned that the restaurant is named Dos Mundos, or Two Worlds, because it's a combination of the family's Guatemalan and Cambodian heritage. The menu options very much reflect this as there are tacos, empanadas, and tortillas, but also egg rolls, lemon grass chicken, Cambodian coffee, and Thai tea.
The tacos come with protein options of beans, chicken, steak, Al Pastor, carnitas, shrimp, or pork belly. You can also make any taco keto by paying an extra dollar for a fried cheese bottom. For my two tacos, I tried steak and carnitas, both of which came with onions, crema, tortilla cheese, and cilantro and were wrapped in a thick white corn tortilla. It was nicely presented and everything tasted freshly made. I thought the steak was cut up into great bite-size pieces and was very tender, however, I liked the carnitas a bit better because it was a little less dry than the steak taco.
Both had a good combination of flavors with the meats and [00:06:00] cheeses plus the corn tortilla. As someone who's not a big fan of cilantro, I thought it was well blended because you could taste the cilantro, but it wasn't overpowering. In addition to the tacos, I ordered a chicken empanada and a mango drink. I also got to taste some of my friend's Cambo coffee. The empanada was delicious. The dough was clearly freshly made and freshly fried, so it was extremely satisfying bite, especially with tons of cheese on the inside and a flavorful sauce to complement the whole thing.
The mango drink was refreshing and not too sweet. The coffee was also nice with a beautiful swirl in the cup and layered so that you got a burst of sweetness with each sip. Overall, I had a great experience. The staff were all extremely friendly, helpful, and attentive. My only reservation was the restaurant's hours which I personally found tricky with my work schedule. I would recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for a cosy family-friendly atmosphere who also wants more variety to choose from as there are definitely unique options on this menu that you wouldn't see in many other taco restaurants.
Kevin Veronneau: Hello. I'm Kevin Veronneau the library manager at the Olneyville Branch of Community Libraries of Providence. Today I went to La Lupita. It is next door to the library, so the trip was short. I actually knew of this restaurant well before I worked at the library, so you can say I am a fan. La Lupita is truly a gem. It is open 10:00 to 8:00 every day and offers a variety of Mexican foods. I usually am all in on the tacos. My wife loves the beef bone soup. The restaurant is a bright blue inside with inviting flowers on the table, soccer on the TV, and soulful Mexican music in the background.
There is a variety of snacks and drinks to purchase as you enter. I mosied up to the counter. There are many options for the tacos, steak, pulled chicken, pork carnitas, chorizo, Al Pastor, [00:08:00] ground beef, Barbacoa, tripe, beef tongue, mixed steak in green salsa, and beef tongue in green salsa. Today I ordered two tacos, one tripe and one tongue. The staff at the counter asked if I wanted the tripe crispy and if I wanted hot sauces. I said yes to both and waited for the to-go. One minute later, I got back to the branch and opened the bag. They were double tortillaed and the meat came with a sprinkle of onions and cilantro.
They looked extremely appetizing. I tried the hot sauces, one smokey chipotle red sauce, a brighter green with some heat, and a thinner salsa style. The tripe was crispy and delicious and the tongue was superb, a touch crispy edge with some nice give. These are what I was looking forward to all day. Oh, and I forgot to add, they came with some lime wedges which added a nice citrus balance. They were 100% delicioso. I've never had a bad meal here and I highly recommend you stop in. I will be returning sooner than you think.
Host: We received a written review from Sarah, a cataloger at a library in Smithfield who went to Taco'n Madre in Pawtucket. Here's her review. The passport included a trompo and carne asada taco. I also ordered the carnitas and chorizo tacos and a quesadilla. The trompo taco was great. It was not an option at a lot of places and this was my first taco with trompo meat.
It's a rotating spit of stacked pork and the cook slices the outside of the meat off into the tortilla. The meat is crispy and spicy and it's like a shawarma or gyro but with completely different meat and spices. All the tacos were served street style with just raw white onion and a sprinkle of cilantro, and every single one was great. I think my favorite was the trompo, and my husband Sam's favorite was the carne asada, but they were all delicious.
They were [00:10:00] small and can be consumed in three to four bites, but that's what a street taco is supposed to be. The tortilla was soft and warm and held up to the generous amount of meat tucked inside. Not blowouts are messy taco hands. The trompo had a brightness to the space and I loved the occasional crunchy bit. Nothing was outrageously spicy, but the included salsa would put a huge kick in your taco if that's your thing. Sam also really enjoyed the quesadilla. His family's from Texas and we visit at least twice a year and for him to praise the quesadilla as much as he did was huge, a glowing review.
As with our experiences with Texas tacos, the best comes from the most unassuming places. Tacos a la Madre is a parked food truck outside of a closed auto repair shop. I parked at the shop, walked up to the truck window, and the proprietor came out to take my order. My research online said the place was cash only, but this must be old information because the chef had a square chip ready to go. He let me know that he'd take my order to my car as soon as it was ready. My only critique is that I wish it was closer so everything would be hotter once I got it home. We'll be back and I'd recommend this place to anyone looking for a true authentic Mexican street taco experience in Rhode Island.
Speaker 5: Hello, I am the collection and circulation librarian at Rogers free library in Bristol. I went to Macs Screaming Corn and Tacos which is based in Barrington Rhode Island. right up the street from me and Bristol. Barrington has a gorgeous library, by the way. That being said, the taco was fantastic. I had two tacos, I had a chicken taco and a beef taco. Both the meat were really, really good, the ground beef was just seasoned to perfection. The chicken was also well seasoned and really well cooked. It's that really good pulled chicken. Huge fan of that.
In addition, they had lettuce and cheese on top and pretty healthy amounts of lettuce and cheese which I personally appreciate in a taco served on corn tortillas. The tacos were simply [00:12:00] phenomenal, beautiful combination of flavors and textures. I would absolutely go back for the tacos. I would definitely go back to try the street corn because I didn't get a chance to. They've got a lot of options in terms of corn, they've got Mexican street corn, they've got sweet corn, so I definitely need to try some next time. I would recommend Macs Screaming Corn and Tacos to anyone who likes Mexican street corn, because while I didn't try any, I will tell you it looked fantastic.
Anyone who likes corn, anyone who likes a good taco who's very particular about the meat in their taco because that was the best part of the taco by far, really well seasoned meat in those tacos, and anyone who likes food trucks and likes that food truck vibe.
Tayla Cardillo: I'm Tayla Cardillo Branch Librarian at the Oak Lawn Branch Library in Cranston and I went to RaRa’s Surf Shack in Cranston. I got their chicken crunchy tacos, which was their hard-shell option for tacos. Your choices for protein options were chicken and beef. I did not see any vegetarian or vegan options for the tacos, but I did see on their menu that you can get a quesadilla with just cheese, so it looks like there is at least one vegetarian option on their menu.
When I got the tacos, they looked pretty good. They were covered with cheese, and you could see the little bits of pico de gallo peeking through and there was so much cheese that it was falling off of the tacos and into the container which to me I think is always a good thing because you can never have too much cheese.
Also their hard-shell tacos are done with flour tortillas that they crisp themselves. I was really expecting a corn tortilla like you'd buy in the aisle of [00:14:00] the grocery store, but it was really a wonderful touch to see a fresh, hard taco shell and it really gave the taco a nice crunch when you bit into it. The chicken was also very flavorful without being too spicy. If you're a person who likes mild salsa, definitely won't have a problem with the tacos at RaRa’s.
There was also lots of lettuce adding a crisp and light flavor to balance out the heavier meat, and like I said, lots of cheese, pico de gallo with red onions. Looked like there was a little jalapeno pepper in the pico de gallo too, but again, not too spicy. Really just perfect balance of that midi chicken flavor and spice. I would go to RaRa’s again for tacos. I can't speak too much about the actual vibe of the restaurant because I ended up having to order the tacos for delivery because RaRa’s is only open Tuesday through Saturday for lunchtime hours. Open at 11:30 and closing 3:30, 4 o'clock in the afternoon, so that made it really tough to go there as someone who works a 9:00 to 5:00.
Delivery was no problem. Food came great. The tacos traveled well. I would GrubHub these tacos again, or if it was Saturday that I was available to go over there for lunch, I definitely would.
Makayla Hutchinson: This is Makayla Hutchinson. I am the Youth Services Librarian at the George Hale Free Library in Warren. I live in Johnston though. I went to the Cancun Mexican Restaurant in Johnston. It's actually on the other side of the town from where I live closer to the north Providence area. [00:16:00] Immediately I was pleased by the restaurant. Has a great atmosphere, great decorations, great music, super friendly and pleasant waitstaff. Then I got to the menu, and as a vegetarian, Mexican restaurants are super hit or miss for me. I love Mexican food, but sometimes the options just aren't there for me.
Unfortunately, that was the case with this restaurant. There actually weren't any tacos that I could order. I ended up getting the Cancun enchiladas with just cheese. Unfortunately, the black beans and rice on the side were vegetarian, so I could have a whole meal. They tasted pretty good. The presentation was neat, but nothing super stood out about it. It was pretty run of the mill enchiladas with rice and beans on the side. I did really like the margarita that I ordered. I got the pomegranate Margarita. Had a perfect amount of salt on the rim to complement the flavors of the drink and I was also really impressed by the complimentary chips and salsa.
The salsa was great flavor, great texture, and great amount of spice because I like things a little spicy. I will say that my boyfriend went with me on this trip and he got the birria tacos and he really enjoyed them. If you are a meat eater, I would say absolutely go to this restaurant. There's tons of stuff for you to order, great options for tacos, but if your diet is more plant-based I might recommend only going here for drinks and maybe a side of chips and salsa.
Leanne Kelly: My name is Leanne Kelly. I'm the Youth Services Coordinator for North Kingstown Free Library and I reviewed Arooga's in [00:18:00] Warwick. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the tacos in Arooga's. Starting with the parking lot, honestly, the smell from the parking lot was fantastic. It was really welcoming. The lights were really nice right at the parking lot. We could see everything. We went inside. The staff was very nice, very welcoming. The bar side of the restaurant was very full. The seating area was not. That was fine. There were banks of TVs. It is a sports bar, so it was not like a traditional taco restaurant. I was very surprised at the quality and there was a lot of just college football and everything going on, but we were able to get some of the Bruins's game.
When we're seated, the tacos who were not given a choice of protein, the coupons were for chicken tacos and that's what we were given, but I did not have to modify it at all. I'm a dairy allergy, so I did not have to ask for no cheese, no sour cream, et cetera. The tacos do not come with that, and they came, and it was delicious. The chicken was very moist. It wasn't dry. It was very flavorful. It smelled good, and they came on a taco holder, so they were standing up. It was a hard taco. It wasn't soft. They need to be stood up and it wasn't displaying on a plate. The presentation was very nice.
I did split it with my husband, so we did get another menu option. I got the Italian chopped salad, he got the grilled cheese which is not just a grilled cheese. That comes with Gouda, provolone and American cheese with bacon. Sourdough bread. I honestly did not get to try that, but I did have the fries, which were delicious. The chopped salad was also very good. I liked it because you were able to get a little bit of everything on [00:20:00] each forkful. This is the first time I have ever been to Arooga's. I've been living in Warwick for three years. I've been living in Rhode Island my entire life. Rhode Island's not that big, and I've never been. I am, like I said, pleasantly surprised. We will be going back. I guess it's about 10 minutes from my house. Thank you for the opportunity and extending our restaurants. Thanks.
Emily: We'd love to hear your favorite taco place in Rhode Island. Please send us an email at email@example.com or find us on social media and send us a direct message with where else we should have gone to get some delicious tacos.
Lauren: You can find more info about Rhode Island Food Fights on their Facebook page, facebook.com/RIfoodfights, or on their website at rifoodfights.com. There are several food fights competitions each year, and we encourage you to participate in one or more of these and show your local restaurants some love.
Dave: Rhody Radio is proud to be a resident partner of the Rhode Island Center for the book and is brought to you by library staff and community members all around the Ocean State.
Emily: Rhody Radio is honored to have been funded in part by grants from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Library Association.
Lauren: You can find more from Rhody Radio on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you enjoyed today's episode, subscribe to Rhody Radio and rate or review us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to help us reach more Rhode Islanders.
Speakers: Thanks for listening.
Emily: Hope you are ready for seconds. Welcome back for Food Fights Tacos.
Dave: Course two. Food Fights Tacos Course Two.
Lauren: All great stuff.
Emily: This is why people have a writing team, and they workshop this before they-
Dave: Researchers, writers--
Emily: -get into the recording booth.
Dave: We just hit record [00:22:00] and we're like, "Ooh."
Lauren: One second. I’m going to type something up that way I don’t–
Lauren: Okay, I'm ready. Are we still recording?
Emily: Yes, we've been recording the whole time.
Dave: We recorded all of that. Whatever.
[00:22:23] [END OF AUDIO]