Where to: La Victoria Taqueria in Belmont.
Why: For tilapia tacos and towering tortas on the go.
The backstory: Owner Alex Barrientos came to the United States from Veracruz, Mexico, at 27. His first culinary job was at Tango, a special-occasion Argentinean restaurant that helped put Arlington Center on the map. It has since closed, much to the neighborhood’s dismay.
Today, Barrientos runs La Victoria Taqueria just around the corner from his first job (he also lives nearby). In addition to Arlington, La Victoria has branches in Beverly and now in Belmont, at the old El Centro space on Leonard Street. It’s an enviable location, close to a book store, beer hall, boutiques, and the ever-crowded Rancatore’s ice cream parlor.
His orderly, compact storefronts are popular with people on the go: families hurrying to practice, kids wandering into town from the high school, solo diners scarfing down dinner after work.
It may seem an inopportune time to launch a new venture, but thanks to a revamped online ordering platform — and a walkable town center with plenty of foot traffic even during the pandemic — the opening proceeded smoothly.
“We have loyal customers from Belmont, and they kept encouraging me to open a location here. Business has been steady. Not crazy. Steady,” he says.
What to eat: La Victoria’s menu is consistent across locations. Mexican sandwiches called tortas ($8.50) are a signature item and husky enough to make two sizable meals. Some versions call for fluffy telera bread, but Barrientos prefers squishier, yeastier rolls. Bread is spackled with refried bean puree and stuffed with pickled onions and jalapenos, avocado, chipotle mayonnaise, crispy Oaxaca cheese — “it tastes like mozzarella,” Barrientos says — and generous portions of your chosen protein (beef tongue, chicken, chorizo, ham, pork skin).
A duo of baked, marinated tilapia tacos ($8.50) are another favorite, double-rolled in warm, soft corn tortillas from Cinco De Mayo in Chelsea. They’re saucy and fat, heavy with chipotle mayonnaise and a sweetish salsa verde, cut with pickled onions and a nest of crunchy coleslaw. Ask for a side of creamy jalapeno salsa for extra dunking.
Other tacos ($3.25 apiece) are simpler — savory protein adorned with a shaving of onions and cilantro, no bells and whistles. Grab a thimble of habanero salsa for more heat.
Chips are another strong point: tough, sturdy, just a trace of salt. Guacamole always tastes fresh and is appropriately chunky. Enchiladas ($9.50) are of the loosely rolled, sparsely sauced (rojas or verde) variety; don’t expect a heavily baked, volcanically cheesy platter.
What to drink: Grab an Horchata (creamy, cinnamon rice milk); Jarritos soda; or Mexican Coke.
The takeaway: A consistent, fairly priced spot for speedy meals in a prime location.
66 Leonard St., Belmont, 617-484-1515, www.victoriataqueria.com