Living in North Alabama these last few years, I've had the opportunity to explore many local culinary possibilities, including chicken killing and cooking with weeds, like the ubiquitous Spring onion that grows in the front lawn and along the edges of the woods. While many of these experiences have been interesting and delicious, ethnic food hasn't exactly been a common option. I love the new, and foods made with spices and techniques not native to my immediate experience are always welcome. So when I discovered downtown Russellville, Alabama's Latino block, about forty minutes away, I was ecstatic. Several restaurants, bakeries and a supermarket owned by immigrants from Central America serve fare with the specific know-how of a native. You can find dishes from Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua, and the breads and pastries are unlike typical American treats, less showy and not cloyingly sweet. Now that Taqueria Juarez has opened shop here in Florence, I am easily sated.
Juarez is a family owned business, nestled in the back of a Mexican grocery where they share the building with a small laundry mat and liquor store. A large cooler stands at the left of the dining room, holding queso fresco, fresh chorizo, liver and flour tortillas for sale. The restaurant's walk-in cooler anchors one side of the single room cafe, with the grill in plain view behind the counter, and a few tables and chairs sitting under a couple of televisions that broadcast Mexican game shows and futbol (AKA soccer).
The one page menu is written in Spanish, with English translations (a recent addition) that come close to the accurate. Taco options include chorizo, beef cheeks, tongue, pork al pastor, which is cooked with pineapple, among others. A plate of sliced cucumber and radish with lime wedge are placed on the table after ordering, alongside two house-made hot sauces, one red, one green, both hot.
I tend to order the same thing every trip. One develops a craving for certain flavors and habit reigns. On the tacos, fresh chopped onion and cilantro top the meat with grilled green onions on the side. They don't have a beer license, but the Mexican soda, Jarritos, is available, though I'd go for the horchata, an opaque, sweet beverage made with coconut milk and sugar (this one's a powdered mix) served over ice. Horchata refills are free and generous.
Also on the menu are tamales, sopes, tortas, and on Sundays, menudo (tripe soup). The food is delicious and cheap. Closed Mondays, open Sundays, and every other day of the week, from 10 am to 9 pm.
Go hungry and take cash.
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