Maplewood, NJ 07040
- Cost: $$
- Alcohol: BYO
- Parking: Street
- Take Out: Yes
May 7, 2011
Could Maplewood (headquarters of EthnicNJ.com) really be getting an authentic Mexican restaurant? I was very excited to spot the coming soon sign last month. Real tacos would be a major ethnic addition to the hyper-local food scene. Maplewoodians have to go all the way to West Orange or Springfield for decent Mexican. Shouldn’t every town in Jersey have it’s own taqueria?
Cactus Charly opened four days ago. It’s a colorful storefront restaurant, just off of Maplewood Avenue on Highland Place, in the former location of New World Catering (which has moved to Springfield Avenue). Inside, there are spectacular murals covering almost every wall – always a good sign – and twelve tables for four. I went in looking for a menu to take away, but so many people had taken them, they were waiting for more to be printed. Turns out the owner of Cactus Charly also owns the Blue Coyote Grill in Union, according to the guy at the counter.
Glancing at the menu, there’s a range of Mexican fare including burritos, enchiladas, a chile relleno and even some ceviches. Only three taco variations – beef, chicken and lengua (beef tongue). Kudos for lengua, but no tacos al pastor (marinated pork)? I hope they add some kind of pork taco. There was no lengua in the kitchen today, so I got an order of beef and an order of chicken tacos to go. Each order has three, pretty good tacos, served on a single soft corn tortilla, with cilantro and chopped onion. The tortilla does not appear to be homemade. Too bad, since a homemade tortilla makes all the difference for the best tacos. The meats are good, but barely seasoned. Use the lime wedge or the very hot homemade salsa to add some kick.
All in all, I’ll still head to Bound Brook or Clifton for some of the best Mexican tacos in New Jersey, but I’m happy to have a decent taco close by, and looking forward to eating in at Cactus Charly sometime soon.