by Jac Bergenson
Main Street in Beacon is in the midst of a culinary revolution. A locale less known for its food than for its art, Main Street has flourished as of late with a flurry of new (and newish) food shops and restaurants.
A short walk from the Metro-North Station, the west end of Main Street is bookended by a duo of food establishments. On one side stands Bank Square Coffeehouse; on the other is Tito Santana Taqueria, the best Mexican-style restaurant in the city.
Now, “best” is a lofty moniker to give a restaurant. A lot of things go into the experience—the ambiance, the hospitality, and the food chief among them. Tito Santana isn’t in the business of wowing its customers with frills and fancies; they simply make good food.
That is not to say that the restaurant lacks ambiance. On the contrary, a large anterior wall in the restaurant is adorned with what can best be described as an epic mural. With sugar skulls and every color of the rainbow, it is evident that the owner of Tito Santana is a student of Mexican culture. In my three trips to the Taqueria, every customer has stopped to admire the art, even if only for a moment.
But the cuisine steals the show. On my latest trip, I went for the black bean and rice burrito combo served with blue-corn chips and house-made guacamole. My guest chose the chicken quesadillas. I could smell the smoky aroma of the grilled tortilla before it ever left the kitchen, and it arrived soft, fresh, and most importantly, hot. The rice and beans on the inside were perfectly cooked, fluffy, and well-seasoned.
The burrito arrived with a side of chipotle sour cream, which has come to be a favorite of mine in all my visits. In another basket, fresh-fried blue-corn chips and a suitable-sized portion of guacamole. The bright green and yellow color of the guacamole evidenced the ripeness and freshness of Tito Santana’s produce.
The flavors of every component were spot-on, and by the end of my meal, I was full—an accomplishment, to say the least. I stole a bite of the quesadilla as well. Though it didn’t have a metric ton of chicken, it didn’t skimp on the cheese, and went well with a squeeze of lime.
To accompany the meal, both my guest and I selected a mango-flavored soda that was served in a glass bottle and imported from Mexico. The assortment of flavored beverages is a nice touch, and does well to offset the lack of alcoholic beverages.
In the past, I have had the pleasure of sampling Tito Santana’s tacos—a must for a taqueria—and the pulled pork variety certainly lived up to the name. Foregoing the expected Tex-Mex toppings of cheese, sour cream, etc., Tito Santana serves their tacos with coleslaw, pickled radish, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. The result is savory and refreshing, and unique among the pickings in the area.
The biggest draw to Tito Santana for the humble college student is price. Even in today’s market, it’s easy to gouge for good food. Tito Santana’s prices are more than reasonable. My entire check came to $22, and it’s never been much more than that for two people. Compare that to the $47 I paid before tip at another Mexican restaurant in the area, and the fix becomes that much more attractive.
Worth noting is the sheer variety of hot sauces available—from green habanero, to chili garlic Cholula, hot sauce lovers will be thoroughly satisfied with the offerings. Vegetarians and vegans will also love the place, as they are making a clear and visible effort to offer options for both.
The experience, though it seems so, wasn’t entirely perfect. Many of the hot sauce bottles were empty or near empty, and though they seem to have added Corona as an alcoholic offering, beer connoisseurs would appreciate a larger variety of Mexican beers than Tito Santana offers. My gripes amount to nothing more than nitpicking, though, and didn’t take away from the pleasant experience on the whole.
All things considered, Tito Santana is the place to go in Beacon for fresh Mexican food. With flavorful food warranting a quick stop, and a cozy, colorful décor warranting an extended stay, Tito Santana is worth a trip. At their prices, that trip becomes a must.
Verdict: 4.5/5 Stars
Tito Santana Taqueria
Where: 142 Main St., Beacon, NY
Hours: Mon-Wed 12-8 p.m.; Thu-Fri 12-9 p.m.; Sat 11 a.m – 9 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Price Point: (Under $10 per entrée)