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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Where the doors never close

    Ashlee Salamon
    Ashlee Salamon/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

    It seems to attract crowds like moths to a flame, that dimly glowing yellow and green sign on 1350 E. Broadway Blvd. At Taco Shop Co., the sign never shuts off, the doors never lock and the customers never stop coming, no matter the hour.

    The floors are worn, the plastered walls are losing their color and the menu is fading. The yellow and green color scheme has suffered the ill-effects of the Arizona sun, and the interior has aged under the influence of time. Taco Shop Co. promises authentic Mexican food but delivers more.

    There is a rush at lunch, and it does get busy at dinner, yet the true colors of this locally-owned Tucson restaurant aren’t realized until the late, weekend hours. When the bars lock their doors at 2 a.m., the masses must move, and many end up here.

    The line is visible from a distance, veering out of the single doorway in the front of the restaurant.

    Crooked and disheveled, all walks of life are represented in the line, from the Gothic girl with fake wings to the guys from Greek Row standing behind her. One simple thing they all share is an appetite. It is thus ironic and troubling that the parking lot is packed, full of cars arranged with the same care with which the line seems to have been assembled.

    Inside, patrons order in a language of their own. The menu is extensive, and in cursive, a challenge for many. The entire menu is available all 24 hours, including the flan, far more popular at this early morning hour than one would expect.

    One can choose from 14 burrito options under $4 or upgrade to one of 10 combo options reasonably priced from $5-$7. Carne asada, chicken, fish, shrimp, carnitas and al pastor can be consumed in any form, from tacos to tortas.

    You can make any item “”wet”” with enchilada sauce and cheese for 99 cents, or chimichanga deep-fried for $1.49. The condiment bar hosts three original sauces as well as complimentary shredded cabbage and lime.

    Authenticity in Mexican food is the Tucson standard, and Taco Shop Co. delivers. The food is hot, cheap and available, which is all that matters.

    At varying volumes, pitches and levels of respect, orders are yelled over the collective hum of the assembled crowd, comparable to the hum of a jumbo jet. The cashiers and cooks operate in unison, with mixed looks of determination and desperation on their faces. In fast-paced Spanish, orders are taken and relayed to the kitchen, which at the same pace throws tacos, burritos and flan back into the hands of the hungry.

    Outside, wrappers and napkins are scattered over tables and benches. Each cup spilled into the rubbish adds to the signature aroma of the shop, a blend of beans, cheese, peppers and beer.

    Taco Shop Co. has found a niche with a need for a feed. However, the late-night/early-morning visit offers more than horchata and burritos. For many, this experience has grown from a simple food run into a tradition.

    It has become a modern Arnold’s Drive-In from “”Happy Days,”” a more realistic version of The Max from “”Saved by the Bell.””

    For these dedicated customers, Taco Shop Co. is regular, permanent and reliable. The hours don’t change, the crowds never thin and the party never ends.

    It’s a community, this late-night parade, united under the promise of authentic Mexican food and the faint glow of that yellow and green sign.

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