by Adam Holland, The Unorthodox Epicure
LONGVIEW, TX - Los Papagallo's is on South Green St. in the building that housed KN Root Beer for generations. They've enclosed the structure and added a boardwalk-type porch for customers to be able to sit and eat. Good job on both attempts.
The atmosphere is nothing special -- textured orange walls and fluorescent lighting -- but it's immaculate and comfortable.
You place your order at the counter, then seat yourself. If you aren't quite up to speed on authentic Mexican dishes, there are full-color photos of everything on the menu on the wall next to the register. The gentleman at the counter was also happy to answer my questions.
The food here is a real find! I ordered two barbacoa tacos on soft corn tortillas, a bean and cheese tostada and elote -- juicy corn on the cob that's been dressed with mayonnaise, cheese and chile powder. Oh, and I had a Mexican Coke.
The barbacoa is lean yet tender, with just enough seasoning to not overpower the meat. I had a couple of bites Reynosa-style (only cilantro - no onions though) and these little jewels proved legit. Warm soft corn tortillas giving way to the ever-so-slight chew of slow-cooked beef, with the bright flavor of fresh cilantro leaves. The addition of the house red and green hot sauces only made them better.
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No two people make elote exactly the same way, and I really enjoyed Los Papagallo's version, which is common on the streets of Mexico. The corn is boiled (or steamed), then dressed with mayo, chile powder and crumbled cheese (queso fresco). It's served on a stick. It was perfectly cooked - tender but with some bite. Though I had fresh limes to season them, it wasn't necessary. It was sweet, tangy, buttery and creamy -- all at the same time. Muy delicioso!
As is common for me, I also ordered a plain tostada, with beans, lettuce and cheese (queso fresco, in this case). It was also topped with slices of avocado and a drizzle of sour cream. (I held the tomatoes because I'd rather use salsa.) The refried beans are a little too thin for my taste, but that's not to say they aren't good. The lettuce was cold and crisp; cheese pleasantly salty-tangy and avocados nicely ripened. Again, Los Papagallo's has it down.
If you've read any of my reviews on Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants, you know that the house salsa is the make/break point for me (mostly break). There are plenty of restaurants that could take some queues from the folks at Los Papagallo's, because these guys produce a red salsa that's fruity (tomatoes), zesty and just ... alive with additional flavors of onion and cilantro. They also use black pepper in it, which is not so uncommon, but they actually succeed in using just enough so that it doesn't overpower all of the other wonderful flavors.
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I placed my order and took a seat around 11:30. By 12 p.m., all of the tables were filled and at least 3-4 people had come for to-go orders. -- If you're looking for a true mom & pop joint with delicious food and a friendly staff, Los Papagallo's is your place. You might even see me there, as I am already planning to go back again and again.
Los Papagallo's is located at 1620 S. Green Street in Longview. (903)212-2808.
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