usually Startled by a woman's voice behind me asking, “What would you like to order?,” I realized that the man standing at the cash register wasn’t the one to talk to — but rather the woman doing the cooking in the kitchen. I told her what I wanted, and she quickly walked back into the kitchen and began to work. I felt like a little kid waiting for Mom to cook up my favorite lunch, reveling in the excitement and anticipation of the meal to come. I knew the food was almost ready when the smell of griddled tortillas and sounds of sizzling meats filled the small eatery. The cook soon came out and placed several Mexican specialties in front of me: a nopal (prickly pear cactus) taco ($1.50), a carnitas-filled gordita ($3.00) and a chicharrón plate ($7.50). My dining companions always laugh at me because I’m usually the one who ends up with several different plates in front of me, but with the affordable prices at Taqueria Corona, it’s almost impossible not to try more than one thing.
Next to my healthful, vegetarian cactus taco, sat a fat carnitas- and queso-filled gordita. You might think me ignorant for assuming, prior to visiting Taqueria Corona, that the gordita was the invention of Taco Bell rather than a traditional Mexican snack. The word "gordita" translates to “little fat one” in English, and Taqueria Corona serves up a light, flaky little gordita, pudgy with your choice of seven different fillings. A large dollop of crema as well as ample chunks of queso fresco (for an extra 25 cents) graced the top of the deep-fried masa pocket. Nothing about this portly delicacy remotely resembled its bastard fast-food counterpart, whose similarities stop at the name. Ignorance, in this case, was definitely not bliss: I didn't realize how good a gordita could be until I tasted the real thing.
The chicharrón, while fried, was actually soft rather than crispy, since it came swimming in a thick tomato salsa that gave it mildly spicy boost. Owner Carlos Corona confirmed that the rice and beans on the side were both homemade. The rice came out delicate and steaming, light-orange and perfectly cooked with little bits of tomato skin as evidenced that fresh vegetables went into its preparation. The refried beans played a background roll, adding a mild taste and thick texture alongside the fluffy rice and slippery strips of fried pork skin. For a little added flavor, the kitchen provided chilled squeeze bottles of red and green salsa, both medium to hot on the spice scale.
If I’ve learned anything from my time on Havana Street so far, it’s to not discount the camouflaged restaurants strewn among tire stores and car dealerships or next door to popular big-name chains. If anything, my mission to venture in and try these unemphatic places has helped overcome initial trepidation; I have yet to be disappointed, and often discover that the most bona fide and unique foods can be found in these establishments. Taqueria Corona is no exception, started from little more than a street stand and built with a dream to share a piece of the Corona family's home, culture and traditions, in food form.
Taqueria Corona is located at 2222 South Havana Street in Aurora and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call 303-755-1034 for menu information and takeout orders.