I had heard legends – whispers, if you will – of an authentic Mexican taquería hidden in the Millison Plaza in Lexington Park, just past Sake Japanese Restaurant and your friendly neighborhood Rita’s. I was curious to sample its flavors, as I couldn’t believe that such a place could exist in little ol’ LexPark. The name of the place, I had been told, was Los Primos Mexican Grocery. Since the name means “The Cousins,” I assumed it was a family-owned business, and I’m always down for supporting those mom-and-pop places.
Feeding my yearning for tacos recently was the fact that this August I will be moving to Los Angeles, a city rumored to have the best tacos this side of the border. The reviews on Yelp looked promising, so I decided I would get a leg up on my taco knowledge by going to Los Primos, the closest thing Southern Maryland has to California (no, not the town with Target and Walmart).
At first glance, the interior of Los Primos resembles an unfinished space. I’ve seen emergency rooms with a warmer ambiance. The walls are completely bare, and the actual grocery section, which sells such items as tamale wrappers, a wide array of hot sauces, and Mexican soda brands like Jarritos and Squirt, is blocked off from the restaurant by a little wall.
A few friends had beaten me to Los Primos, and they were already snacking on warm tortilla chips and spicy red salsa when I walked in. The menu featured a wide range of taco choices, which included taco staples such as carnitas, chicken, steak, and pork, as well as some unexpected carne choices like tripa and lengua: tripe and tongue! One of my meal-mates tried the tongue tacos, and said that they were quite tasty despite the odd choice of meat.
Other items on the menu included enchiladas, quesadillas, gorditas, and sopes. This last one had me confused, since my friend and I thought it might have been another word for sopas (soups), when in fact they were kind of like mini Mexican pizzas – small rounds of fried corn tostadas topped with all manner of meat, beans, vegetables, cheese, and salsa.
The tacos al pastor stuck out to me on the menu, as they were billed as a mixture of pork and pineapple in a savory sauce, and they were just a delicious as the description promised they would be. The tortillas were warm and fresh; the pork was incredibly tender with the pineapple adding a pop of flavor, and it was all sprinkled with cilantro leaves. I enjoyed them immensely. We were also given a choice of three salsas to put on our tacos. The bright green one was incredibly spicy, while the red was just less so, but the dark green salsa had just the right amount of kick for those wary of spice.
One friend ordered a chicken taco and a steak taco, and she said afterwards that she enjoyed the steak much more than the chicken, which was a bit too moist and made the tortilla fall apart. Another one of my less adventurous chums gave a thumbs up to his cheese quesadilla with a side of rice and beans – but not so much the beans, which were a little runny for his taste. My friend who ordered the enchiladas verdes to-go, as she had to help out at the Twain Lecture, said that it was a bit too mushy. So the verdict seems to be: stick to the tacos, but not the chicken ones.
I should also mention that the service at Los Primos was excellent, possibly because we were the only customers eating in the restaurant at the time. Our waitress brought everything out very quickly, especially our one to-go order. As for the price range, everything on the menu was under 13 dollars, which isn’t a bad deal when considering the freshness of the food and the fact that it’s a small business. I got three mini-tacos al pastor and a bottle of Jarritos for eight dollars, and there was even a deal offered in which you could get three mini-tacos, a side of rice and beans, and a soda for $9.75.
Overall, I would recommend Los Primos to the college student who gets the feeling they should go back to the hallowed roots of the taco and leave those 2am Taco Bell runs behind. Eat tacos the the way they are supposed to be eaten: with love and fresh ingredients.
Addendum: The establishment formerly known as Los Primos is now run as El Taco Feliz, but the restaurant is still located at 21703 Great Mills Road, Lexington Park, MD.