I was at the taco truck Taqueria Los Chilangos in Bellevue’s Crossroads neighborhood this past week to grab tacos ($11.50/three plus rice and beans) and, as a last-second afterthought, I added a bean and cheese burrito ($5) to my order. I ate the tacos immediately, and the chupa cabras, a combination of tender grilled steak and crumbly chorizo, was a definite highlight. I didn’t even think about the burrito until the next day.
I heated it in my toaster oven and hedged my bets, which turns out was completely unnecessary because this simple bean and cheese burrito was probably the best thing I had eaten overall. No hyperbole. Perfect simmered and seasoned black beans and shredded mozzarella cheese, all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. It hit me in the face with its simplicity. I called Los Chilangos to make sure that’s all it was and the woman who answered the phone told me yes, indeed, “black beans and mozzarella cheese, that’s it.”
Los Chilangos also has a very good mild salsa with chipotle and a mouth-numbing hot salsa with tomatillos and habanero peppers that were quite enjoyable.
Also on the taco-truck front in Crossroads is El Maestro del Taco, the only place I will be going when a craving for cabeza tacos strikes. A taco plate ($9) includes a charred jalapeño and onion, radish slices and lime scattered atop four small double corn tortillas with your choice of meat. The cabeza, an incredibly tender, succulent beef cheek, is the only play, in my opinion, simmered in its own flavorful fat and spices. A fresh green salsa served alongside is fire-kissed and provides a great slow burn.
With both spots, the tacos are best eaten as soon as possible. El Maestro has a small, covered outdoor seating area as well as a small parking lot for tailgate tacos. Just be sure you park next to the truck just off Northup Way and not in the neighboring church parking lot. Los Chilangos is in the parking lot of a Shell station with no easy space to eat. However, if you’re not heading directly home, Bellevue Highlands Park is less than a mile away to the north.
Taqueria Los Chilangos: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; 14008 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue; 425-221-7623; loschilangos.com
El Maestro del Taco: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; 1836 156th Ave. N.E., Bellevue; 425-240-7708
Tacos (and more importantly, burritos) aren’t the only great things I found in Crossroads this past week.
Ten Seconds Yunnan Rice Noodle
Squeezed into a strip mall across from the Crossroads Mall (and one of my favorite doughnut shops, WesternCo) is this slick Chinese chain with hundreds of locations across China (and a few in the U.S.). It’s sometimes named Shi Miao Dao, which roughly translates to “ready in 10 seconds” — a reference to the amount of time it takes to finish the restaurant’s signature dish, Crossing the Bridge Noodles.
The dish, famous in Yunnan, is named for a folk tale of a woman who crossed a bridge nightly to bring dinner to her husband, keeping the noodles and ingredients separate from the soup so he could heat them when he wanted. When served to-go, the original version ($13.99) features a rich, cloudy broth with just about everything but the kitchen sink thrown in, save for the rice noodles, which are packaged separately. Slices of ham, romaine lettuce, black and white wood ear mushrooms, corn, fish tofu, a hard-boiled quail egg, slices of tender beef, chives and a chicken wing were all bobbing in the flavorful broth. The lettuce reminded me of an Italian greens soup I ate growing up, and the white wood ear mushrooms provided a wonderful crunch. For dine-in — back when this was a thing! — you can customize this soup a bit more, as everything is delivered separately in small dishes. The soup is offered with a spicy or tomato-based broth. Also excellent is the super-crisp popcorn chicken ($7), an ample portion for an appetizer and, strangely, wonderful when dipped in the soup broth.
11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1299 156th Ave. N.E., Suite 135, Bellevue; 425-698-1633; tensecondsbellevue.com
Across 156th Street from Ten Seconds is Thaal, an Indian restaurant that explores the regions of India, changing the offerings in its thali platters weekly. The Grand Thaali ($18.99) features an appetizer, four curries, choice of bread and a dessert. I’m sure it’s designed to feed one person, but it’s ample enough for two, especially with the addition of an order of samosa ($3.99) and perhaps an extra naan. The curry choices lean vegetarian. I especially loved the dal lahori, its lentils still had a little bite to them, as well as the spicy kadai paneer with plenty of green pepper. The dhuan chicken was also delightful with a tender bone-in chicken thigh and a rich, tomato gravy. Samosas come in an order of two and are slightly spicy — cooled or kicked up with accompanying tamarind and green chutney sauces.
11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 5:30-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 15600 N.E. Eighth St., Suite 0-09, Bellevue; 425-590-9281; thaalseattle.com