Of the many ethnic restaurants that clutter The Commons, one stands out as you drive down East State Street. This oasis, on the corner of North Aurora Street, is none other than the Mexican restaurant, ¡Viva! Taqueria. And believe me when I say there’s a reason why they squeeze that extra exclamation mark into its name: it’s just that fantastic.
Meals at Southern California styled Mexican restaurants are always an event, and a meal here is nothing short of an extravaganza. First off, ¡Viva! Taqueria is a two-part establishment: there is both a restaurant, called Viva Cantina, and a take-out Taqueria section, where you can order from a smaller menu and have your grub within 10 minutes.
For those of you who want a quick Mexican fix, the Taqueria will soon become your new best amigo. The downsized menu offers tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salads, and platters, and a choice of one of 4 main fillings: beef, chicken, chorizo (ground pork-sausage), or, for you vegetable junkies out there, calabacitas (a mix of zucchini, corn, lima beans, and onions). There are also generally 3 different ways each item is served: Super (sour cream, guacamole, and cheese), Regular (cheese), and Basic (stripped bare with none of the above). The first time I went, I ordered the Super Burrito and haven’t looked back since; it includes a meat of choice, rice, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and of course, the magical fruit, beans. The platters are a good choice for people who like to roll up their own burrito and mix up the ingredients, as the various contents are served on a plate with tortillas on the side. ¡Viva! Taqueria also features great communal dishes, such as the Chicken Taco Salad and the Super Beef Nachos.
The menu for Viva Cantina has all the other staples of a basic Mexican restaurant, including enchiladas, tostadas and whatnot. Definitely worth checking out are the Groucho, which is a quesadilla stuffed with cheese, refried beans and rice; the Chicken Pamalama, which is a Caesar salad with tomato wedges and chicken rolled in a flour tortilla; and my personal favorite, the chicken ranchero enchiladas.
Of course, if you’re a fan of margaritas, you’ll definitely be enthralled by the comprehensive drink menu. Choosing your poison for the night is an imperative task, and you won’t be let down by the ‘Green Iguana’ margarita, which is a mellow mix of melon margarita and Hornitos tequila. They are also well known for their sangria, which is a great complement to a spicy dish, and they have other semi-original Mexican drinks like ‘Tijuana Tapwater’, which is their version of a whiskey sour. It should be known that Viva Cantina holds Happy Hour every Monday through Friday from 4-6, providing $2 margaritas, sangria and beer.
One downside to the food is that they are often extremely messy due to many of the tortillas being too flimsy to hold in all its delicious contents and the various sauces soaking through the tortilla itself. I emerged from one particular large burrito looking like I had gone for a swim in guacamole. My advice as a self-proclaimed Mexican food connoisseur is to ask for the salsa on the side and then pour a little on every bite. If the range of salsas isn’t enough spice for you, there is a selection of color-coded hot sauces, included orange hot (habanero chiles), red hot (smoked red chiles) and green hot (jalapeno chiles). Stay away from the orange sauce, unless you personally enjoy the all-out immolation of your throat and esophagus (they do offer free water though).
Overall, ¡Viva! Taqueria is very inexpensive, and is a good alternative for those of you who are sick of eating Taco Bell. So if you are feeling the need for your innards to be set ablaze, thirsty for some cheap Mexican drinks, or just down for some great Tex-Mex cuisine, just head south of the border of Collegetown and embrace the burrito. ¡Long live the Taqueria!
Archived article by Ryan Moriarty
Sun Staff Writer