East Bay Bite of the Week: Flacos' Vegan "Taco Especial"

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Molly Gore
Flaco's magically meatless "Taco Especial"
This week marks the beginning of our new weekly series, East Bay Bites, focused on bringing you our favorite edible discoveries from just over the bridge.

Flacos is a quaint spot, a tiny brick joint with mismatched tablecloths and outdoor seats, serving old family recipes from Mexico. Think taquitos, pozole, and banana leaf tamals. But here's the catch: everything is vegan (this is Berkeley, after all). The idea of making and selling his own vegan Mexican food came out of owner and chef Antonio Magana's boredom with standard vegetarian burritos, sparking a decision to retrofit his grandmother's recipes as vegan dishes. Unless you were told, you probably wouldn't know the difference. It helps that Flacos had 10 years' practice as a farmer's market stand to hone its textural mastery and meatless recipes before opening a brick-and-mortar in 2011.

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And let's not forget to mention, Flacos is cheap. Adjacent to the Ashby BART station, there a few better places to stop for post-workday taquitos. Eat them outside while the sun sinks down the sky.

The "Taco Especial" distills everything that's good about Flacos. It's thoughtful, balanced, and spicy, wrapping a bevy of textures into a dish the size of your palm. The meat is a textured soy protein, shredded and slathered with almond- and chile-based homemade mole, resting on a bed of crisp cabbage, radish, and cilantro. The handmade tortilla might be the best part: thick, soft, and discernibly fresh. Dosed with the creamy kick of avocado salsa, it's as perfect a marriage as they come. Other highlights include the pozole -- hominy in a fiery chili soup -- and the huarache, a tortilla laden with all the classic additions: avocado, pinto beans, rice, cilantro, and more. The effect is like something ripped from a garden, not the deep fryer. And on a sunny Berkeley day, there's little else we'd rather have.

Flacos, 3031 Adeline St., Berkeley

Hours: Tue-Sat 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun-Mon 12-6 p.m.

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