Most everyone would agree that for college students, the price of the food matters as much as the taste. How fortunate, then, that a restaurant in Goshen offers food that is both inexpensive and delicious.As a cash-strapped college student working at nearby Camp Friedenswald last summer, I found myself with a carload of hungry counselors who were looking for something other than chicken strips and macaroni. As we neared Los Primos, we were a little concerned. The restaurant didn’t look like much more than an apartment building converted to business, and we had to squeeze our way through the small seating area to the counter.
After ordering the first thing I saw on the menu, I headed outside to wait in the sun. When my order was ready, I dug into a $1.50 chicken taco, covered in fresh cilantro, crisp onions and lime juice. This was no Taco Bell. I knew then that I would never again consider Taco Bell to be Mexican cuisine.
Since that day last June, I have revisited Los Primos, located on Clinton Street and 15th Street, just a block down from Olympia, several times. If customers are lucky enough to find an unoccupied table (there are only 10 in the restaurant) when they enter, they are soon met with a smiling waitress ready to get them drinks.
In keeping with the economical approach, I strongly suggest the ice-water with a hint of lime juice. Shortly thereafter, a full basket of chips—thin, crisp and not overly greasy—is brought to the table along with a bowl of salsa.
Students know that chips and salsa are the part of the meal where they can fill up without breaking the bank, so eat up. The red salsa is juicy but not watery and is mildly spicy while refreshingly cool in temperature. But don’t eat too much because meal portions sizes are significant.
The menu is easy to read for both native Spanish speakers and those who would prefer to read in English — beside or below each item listed in Spanish is a clear description in English. In fact, the whole middle insert is written in Spanish on one side, but when flipped over, reveals the exact same options translated into English. The owners know Goshen’s market well and have numerous vegetarian options available. Additionally, they were careful with my order when I requested items without cheese or sour cream because I’m lactose intolerant. I received exactly what I ordered, which is a rarity in any restaurant.
Ordering off the menu can be a challenge simply because there are numerous appealing options. The quesadillas, grilled and topped with sour cream, can be ordered with or without meat, which pleased my vegetarian friends. The Aztec Burrito, filled with cactus and chorizo (Mexican sausage) is surprisingly spicy, leading a dining companion to declare, “I don’t need a decongestant anymore!”
The Burrito Norteño is a surprise—filled with rich goat meat that isn’t too dark in flavor for my sometimes-picky taste. Burritos can be served as meals, with a small mountain of rice (not too sticky or dry) and beans (a smooth texture and not too salty).
For only $8.95, customers receive enough food that many leave the restaurant with doggie bags. For about the same price as a meal at Taco Bell, you receive much larger portions.
Bottles of salsa verde and salsa rojo are delivered along with the main courses. The salsa verde is a milder sauce that still edges up the spiciness, while the salsa rojo has some real heat to it. Both sauces enhance the flavors of the dish rather than to mask them. Each ingredient in a given dish accentuates one another instead of competing for dominance.
The best meal option, though, is the tacos. Two small corn tortillas envelop a heaping portion of meat, then are topped with cilantro, chopped onion and lime juice. While the pollo and carne asada are both delicious, the carne molida tastes more like sloppy joe meat than anything I’ve ever eaten at a Mexican restaurant. Still, these tacos leave me feeling satisfied, and the extra money in my pocket simply added to my pleasure.
Then, to finish the meal. Fried plantains and cheesecake are the desert options offered. Unfortunately, the fried plantains are chancy. Sometimes the plantain is little more than a greasy, waxy treat leaking frying oil. Other times, the plantains are crisp on the outside and still hot and smooth, perfect when paired with some sweetened condensed milk.
Los Primos is an ideal location for college students, young families and others strapped for cash to eat. However, it’s also the place to go if you’re looking for a delicious meal, no matter the size of your wallet. Go in, munch on chips and salsa and order one of the best meals in your life. Or call and place an order for takeout. Just don’t forget to leave your leftovers in my Yoder 3 fridge.