Michael Hall ‘19
Coming in hot off of a human trafficking scandal, the Harris Teeter parking lot is being revitalized by Sabor Latin Street Grill. Dropped cellular shades are best enjoyed on the inside—where they filter light pollution to emphasize the bright colors and sports highlights—than from the outside, where one is likely to perceive the restaurant as closed. My friends and I snaked between sleek booths and under hanging light fixtures to the rhythm of Porro Bonito by Orquesta Ritmo de Sabanas (read: song from Narcos). Sabor lives up to the name, incorporating Venezuelan (or Colombian, depending on who you ask) arepas, Mexican gorditas and elotes, and other Latino staples such as empanadas. Strolling in on a lazy Sunday afternoon, our group decided on each ordering an array of tacos and then bolstering the table with a gordita and an arepa.
While my workload prohibited me from enjoying a personal favorite of mine—Modelo Negro—I was entranced by two well-stocked merchandisers that included a tamarind-heavy selection of Jaritos, and canned Inca Kola, a bubble-gum flavored soda that I haven’t been able to procure since leaving Peru.
I ordered two chicken “Autentico” tacos, one grilled, one shredded, and one tilapia taco adorned with a curtido slaw, a vinegary cabbage slaw I’ve only ever had with Salvadoran pupusas (a missed opportunity to not include on the menu). By the time I carried over samples of each of the six salsas our food had arrived. Half the salsas were forgettable, neither disappointing nor particularly engaging. The “pineapple habanero” salsa fell flattest, incorporating no heat into the morass of pineapple. The “salsa arbol” salsa tasted as though it had ketchup, something that wouldn’t surprise me when I found out that the “rosada” salsa was simply a ketchup-mayonnaise sauce. Best of the bunch, the “charred habanero” salsa was worth smuggling out of the restaurant: spicy, smoky, and a complement to every taco we ordered.
All tacos were served on two tortillas—something I’ve never encountered before, in the U.S. or Mexico—fundamental to transport the hefty portions given the price points. The “Curtido Talapia” taco had a strong sear, but the slaw’s muted flavors were outdone by the shredded chicken “Autentico,” by far the most flavorful we tried. The grilled chicken “Autentico” was less pleasant: dry, half-inch cubes of chicken begged for an additional two lime wedges.
After giving an elevator pitch on the ethereal maize-dough of arepas, I was disappointed to see the dough fried. This left me in an unfamiliar middle ground between thin/crispy and thick/velvety that was only made more unsettling by a heavy dosage of the “rosada” salsa.
Overall the tacos were solid, but raw onion and cilantro didn’t bring the invigorating freshness I anticipated, and the arepa brewed a mayonnaise-ketchup-cheese trifecta that would have left Pepto-Bismol as the ideal dessert. The gordita, nonetheless, was phenomenal. Black beans meddled with sour cream to create a comforting base for spiced shredded chicken and slivered iceberg lettuce; the gordita is reason enough to go to Sabor, and lathering it in the charred habanero salsa—for those not adverse to spice—leaves a product I could see a group of students devouring before, during, or after a frolics-level hangover.
Michael Hall ‘19 is an Economics and Latin American Studies double major from Savannah, GA. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.