Post-massage meals are good. Post-massage meals that are affordable are better. Post-massage meals that happen by accident are most definitely the best. We headed to Gourmet’s Palate after a visit to the spa but parking was a pain in the butt so that plan quickly dissipated. Driving along Aguirre in search for an alternative, we happened to spot from a distance a wall painted with two words that never fail to pique our interest — TACO SHOP.
I think it is safe to say that everyone who reads about the Southern food scene has come across Drive-by Taco Shop in at least one article, me included. Besides the positive reviews, the biggest selling point for me was the fact that there is a dearth of quality Mexican options in the South. Might this humble shack provide a go-to place for a quick fix of South-of-the-Border flavors? Only one way to find out.
The thing that immediately struck me was the size of the work area. The kitchen is pretty small, and every member of the team has an area that he/she is assigned to. Watching them work together was like watching a perfectly-choreographed dance, in that despite the lack of space to move around, I do not seem to recall an instance of two people bumping into each other.
More importantly for our readers, though, is the fact that the dining area itself is limited. The inside has 2 tables (both small) and the bar, seating around 10 people in total, while the outside has 3 tables (2 small and 1 big) and a counter (but I doubt this is more than just decorative) that can seat around 12 people, meaning the maximum capacity is 22 people. There is a tendency for the place to get crowded, but luckily a table freed up right when we arrived. Fate shined brightly upon us that night!
With the menu being only two pages long, I made the mistake of thinking that picking what to eat would be a breeze. But between the street tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and the wittily-named Mexilog (Right? The name alone made me consider ordering it), it was difficult to pinpoint which among the choices to go for. It took us a good 10 minutes to finally decide on our orders.
The Beef Sirloin Steak Street Taco (Php 110) is loaded with strips of insanely tender beef, marinated in their signature Drive-by seasoning. Topped with chopped white onions, two slices of avocado, a bunch of fresh unchopped cilantro, sour cream, and drive-by special sauce, all laying on a bed of two of Mai’s homemade corn tortillas deep-fried to perfection, this dish instantly destroyed everything we knew about street tacos. It wasn’t too small that you need two orders to get full. It wasn’t mostly filled with everything else but the beef. Most importantly, it was well-worth the price of admission.
The Extra Spicy Pulled Beef Street Taco (Php 95) is the spice-lover’s dream. I am inclined to say that the beauty of it lies in its simplicity, but the flavors found on this little street-taco-that-could are anything but. Complexity can be found from the heat that tickles the throat, flirting between appetizing and unbearable, to the subtle undertones of classical Mexican spices which provide a lot of depth to an otherwise humble group of ingredients. The pulled beef is stewed to perfection, with the strands cooperatively submissive to the majestic chili tomato sauce.
I have to admit, the Homemade Pork Chorizo Quesadilla (Php 130) brought with it a multitude of surprises. The bad surprise was that it took quite a bit to prepare, which is quite strange because we’re used to the notion that quesadillas are appetizers. The good surprise, though, was that it was worth the wait. A hefty portion of Mai’s homemade corn tortillas with a salty, gooey chorizo center, topped with melted cheese and a bright tomato salsa is what constitutes the new standard for quesadillas. The confluence between all the flavors and textures had only one outcome; happy tummies. In all honesty, if you order this and don’t plan on sharing, there might not be room for anything else in your belly.
None of these amazing dishes would be possible without the magnificence of Mai’s homemade corn tortillas. These uniquely rustic discs of corn are much thicker and chewier than their commercialized counterparts and serve as the platform which allows the excellence of all the other ingredients to shine through.
Drinks are usually the overlooked items on the menu. Feeling adventurous (and since the food was really affordable!), we went ahead and tried two of their homemade concoctions. The House Horchata (Php 60) is similar to milk tea (but extracted from rice), with traces of cinnamon infused into the sweet, creamy beverage. It serves as the perfect partner to DBTS’s hotter offerings such as the Cheese and Jalapeno Quesadilla or the Chili Beef Bowl. On the other hand, the Homemade Minted Lime Juice (Php 60) is bursting with freshness, perfect for munching on Chicharones Street Tacos or Nachos Chorizo on a hot summer day.
Two things really stand out when getting your fix of Drive-by’s food; they are not at all pretentious, and that they like to have fun and experiment with their food. Not all is fun and games though, as their food boasts some serious flavor. Their team works so harmoniously in their minimalist kitchen that it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that they are classically trained.
Drive-by Taco Shop had a lot of hype and I am pleased to say that it not only lived up to it, but surpassed it. The ambiance was chill, the servers accommodating (and seemingly genuinely happy to serve), and the food legit. A new Mexican option is on the table and you’d be hard-pressed to find another place that will leave you as happy without putting a dent on your monthly dining-out budget.
Southerners rejoice, for great tacos are on the rise!
Drive-by Taco Shop can be found at 167 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Paranaque City (if coming from Elizalde, turn left, it is right before Bucky’s Counter and Outre).
Operating Hours: Tue-Thurs 4pm to 11pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-12mn, Sun 4pm-11pm