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Desert Companion

Meat & Veggie: Taco Times Two

At Santos Guisados Tacos & Beer, to interpret the flexible Spanish culinary term guisado, General Manager Michael Carlisi goes with “stewed.” The meats in the guisado tacos are cooked for hours, adding water and letting it reduce again to the desired flavor and texture. As for the vegetarian and pescatarian guisados, the shrimp and mushroom are chopped, seasoned, and sautéed — aligning them more with the “braised” meaning of the term. We sent our staff taco enthusiasts — one a meat-eater, one a vegetarian — to report back.

1. Mole sauces vary from region to region, even from family to family. On the shredded-chicken Holy Mole, the sauce is mole negro, a dark version derived from Mexico’s Oaxaca area.

2. The key to the Hongos taco, according to Carlisi, is the freshness of the mushrooms. “We approach vegetables with urgency,” he says. Braised in a savory sauce, their just-shy-of-crunchy consistency makes them the perfect taco-meat substitute.

3. Light one of Santos’ faux-saint bottle candles (I’m not saying Mariah Carey and Marc-Andre Fleury aren’t sacred; they’re just not dead yet!) to the simplicity of this taco’s toppings: guacamole, cilantro, onions, salsa verde. Boom. All you need, nothing more.

4. Handmade daily, these tortillas make the dish. This commitment to freshness reflects Carlisi’s attitude toward the mini-menu: “There’s always a temptation to go bigger, but ... I would never want us to have more at the risk of having something bad.”

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5. The onions may look primarily decorative, but they flutter in with the aftertaste, adding a final clarifying note that underscores how multilayered each bite is.

If there’s a taco on this menu that carnivores and pescatarians can agree on, it’s the Fish Santo, on which the mango habanero sauce is neatly complemented by the lightest touch of sweetness in the fish’s batter.

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