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Qué Rico Taquería Pop-Up Draws Crowd to Essex

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Tripe taco - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Tripe taco

We missed out on the whole fried snapper with bone marrow salsa and the tortas, which were "smothered in refried beans, avocado, mayo, grilled quesillo, shrettuce, salsas, pickled things and garlic crema," according to the menu.

Thankfully, we reached the front of the line at Qué Rico Taquería's February 28 pop-up at the Double E Performance Center in Essex in time to order a taco trio ($3.50 to $4), snapper ceviche ($14), guacamole and chips ($8), and the beef rib in red mole ($12.50).

I also saw chef Stephen Coggio pop out from the kitchen to ask his mother to run to the supermarket for a couple more heads of iceberg for that "shrettuce."

His mom, Sarah Moran, founded Cloud 9 Caterers, where her son is executive chef. His Qué Rico Taquería pop-ups are test runs for a separate restaurant that Coggio, 28, plans to open when he can find an affordable spot for his counter-service Mexican street food concept.

"Think Al's with booze," he said, referring to Al's French Frys in South Burlington.

Qué Rico was not responsible for the strong but pricey margaritas ($14), which came from the event venue bar. The drinks did help ease the wait, as did movies of performances by the late, iconic Mexican singer Vicente Fernández.

Beef rib in red mole - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Beef rib in red mole

Coggio, a Culinary Institute of America grad, returned home in 2019 after working in California, Italy and Mexico as a chef and farmer. His ambitious February 28 menu demonstrated that depth and breadth of experience, but it also pushed the limits of a small kitchen unfamiliar to Coggio's team as they served a crowd he estimated at more than 200.

When our order was called, we inhaled the citrusy, chile-flecked ceviche and perfectly balanced guacamole. Everything was qué rico — that is, "delicious."

Tacos of slow-cooked carnitas, braised-then-fried tripe and marinated pork shoulder delivered complex flavors and luscious textures thanks, in part, to a variety of chiles that Coggio grows and dries himself. He also grew the tomatoes for the meltingly tender beef rib in red mole. It came with lip-smackingly good beans, a reminder that beans can be more than a plate filler.

Coggio plans to continue popping up two to three times monthly through at least June. On March 16, at the Archives in Winooski, Qué Rico will offer a seafood menu including ceviche and oysters with housemade salsas. Follow @quericotaqueria on Instagram for more information.

The original print version of this article was headlined "¡Qué Rico!"