Park yourself in front of Tacqueria Rosita for a true taste of Mexico's finest fast foods

Ramiro Alvarez, owner of Taqueria Rosita, one of the several white burrito buses set up along Rainier Avenue South, served tasty, inexpensive and surprisingly fresh Mexican food when I stopped by for lunch during one of our sunny days last week. Despite being in the middle of his fourth consecutive 14-hour workday, Alvarez wore a warm smile. The one-man band hustled to take orders, plate taquitos and make change for customers while bouncing along to Latin American music.

Alvarez's long hours have apparently paid off, as he said business has grown steadily over the past year since the stand's opening.

The food's authenticity has clearly played a huge role in the eatery's growing success. Alvarez grew up eating at his grandfather's restaurant in Jalisco, Mexico, and brought many of his favorite recipes with him north of the border.

The resulting fare satisfied the picky palate of this Southern Arizona native. Following the owner's recommendation, I opted for the Super Burro ($5.50): a giant flour tortilla generously stuffed with Spanish-style rice, cool sour cream, refried beans, white cheese and fresh avocado. Hot homemade salsa added just the right amount of kick to complement tender chunks of beef seasoned with red chili. Other meat options include steak, pork, chicken and tongue; a vegetarian version is available, as well.

Also on the menu are taquitos ($1.08) consisting of meat and spices on a bed of soft corn tortillas. Other specialties include cheesy red-enchiladas, chicken fajitas and bistek (beefsteak) ranchero, each of which is served with rice and beans for about $7.

When Alvarez isn't too swamped he'll also make time-consuming sopes, cornmeal cakes doused with chicken broth and topped with sour cream, lettuce, onion, tomato, Mexican cow's milk cheese and a choice of meat, for $2.50 each.

Customers can cool their tongues with imported bottles of Jarritos brand Mexican drinks in tamarind, grapefruit and mandarin flavors or alcohol-free Senorial Sangria for $1.50.

Those who manage to save room for dessert can pick from flan or arroz de leche (rice pudding) for $1.75. I chose the latter, and my disappointment in the discovery that it was pre-packaged was quickly allayed by its satisfying sweetness and just-right chunky consistency.

There's no space on the warm bus for diners, but Alvarez has set up a pair of outdoor tables, one of which is sheltered by a green plastic roof. A string of red, decorative lights, two potted plants and fruit-patterned tablecloths add a touch of ambience.

Taqueria Rosita is located next to a carwash on the southeast corner of Rainier Avenue South and Rose Street, but its name has another source: Alvarez's mother. The stand's true test came when Rosita visited Seattle in December and got to judge her namesake for herself.

"She loved it!" Alvarez exclaimed, beaming.

Rosita's not the only one.

Taqueria Rosita, parked at 8300 Rainier Ave. S., is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Take-out orders may be phoned in at 722-0735.

Denise Miller may be reached via

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