Every neighborhood should have a little hangout that serves cheap tacos and cold beer. And the Sewell neighborhood, at Broadway and Wilmot, has been lacking since the local El Charro closed (and I wouldn't call El Charro's tacos cheap, anyway). Enter Calle Tepa, a cozy and festive Mexican street-food joint run by the same folks who own Guadalajara Grill.
Calle Tepa has a great vibe, with brightly colored walls, simple Mexican décor and a fairly open seating area given the compactness of the space. It is surprisingly spacious for being in a strip mall, and the servers and bartenders are friendly enough.
Calle Tepa has a limited breakfast menu—just a burrito and a torta, with your choice of meats (both $5.99). The rest of the dishes are available both at lunch and dinner, and there are plenty of options, including quite a few vegetarian dishes.
Ted and I first visited for an early lunch on a weekend, and the place was pretty much empty. We ordered a few Negra Modelos on tap ($4.50 each, $2.50 during happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m.), and the bartender let us know that draft beer and liquor/mixed drinks aren't always available during lunch hours. It depends upon whether there is someone working who is authorized to pour. Otherwise, you can get beer in bottles during those hours.
For lunch, we decided on Sonoran dogs ($3.49), a grilled shrimp quesadilla ($7.49), and manchego street quesadillas ($5.99 for two; or with your choice of meat for $6.99). The Sonoran dogs were definitely the highlight of the meal, with soft, authentic buns, crispy bacon (but not too crispy) and the usual beans, onions, mayo, tomatoes and mustard. It lacked the spice factor from some of the other Sonoran dog purveyors in town. The shrimp quesadillas and the manchegos (we went with carne asada for the filling), were OK, but were lacking in salt or any other kind of seasoning. The shrimp quesadilla had too much cheese, and after just a few bites, our stomachs were full of grease.
The food on the second visit was much improved. The buzz about Calle Tepa has been all about the street tacos ($1.99 each). We decided to order all of the options, since they're relatively small: chicken asado, chicken adobada, chorizo, carnitas, al pastor, carne asada, barbacoa, grilled mahi ($2.49) and shrimp ($2.49).
The chicken asado and carne asada tacos were unimpressive—the chicken was moist enough but not seasoned. The chicken adobada was much better, shredded and moist, with a nice adobada sauce that had a hint of heat. The chorizo was the spiciest, and was very tasty. The carnitas and al pastor were the most flavorful and juicy of all the tacos. The grilled mahi taco and shrimp tacos were tasty, with a tangy mayo-based sauce.
We also ordered a torta ($6.79) with carnitas as the meat choice, and it rivaled the tacos in the tastiness department, with moist meat and lettuce, onion, a generous slather of guacamole, mayo and a handful of cilantro.
So while Calle Tepa might not have the absolute best or most authentic street tacos in town, they're filling and pretty tasty. Portions are generous and prices are reasonable. Pair that with the cold, inexpensive beer and you've got a pretty good neighborhood joint to enjoy.