Picture your favorite hometown taco truck. Give the operator a larger indoor kitchen — in this case, where the Sinclair station used to keep the slushy machine. There you have Chile Verde Express, quietly crafting must-taste Mexican food at the fringes of the southern Las Vegas suburbs. It’s fast-service Mexican at its full potential.
The most popular dish is carne asada fries. The fries themselves are nothing special, just crisp and tasty: but, oh, the toppings! Asada is tender with some char marks, cheese thickly layered on. Pico de gallo is fresh with ripe tomatoes; sour cream and guacamole are applied with care and generosity. The styrofoam package in which it comes seems to weigh five pounds.
Chile verde is a huge pile of tender, fresh carnitas drowned in perky tomatillo chili sauce and covered with cheddar, jack, and Cotija cheeses. All that dairy mellows the heat and acidity of the sauce. Accompanying rice and beans are fresh and balanced in flavor, the beans tinged delicately with smoke.
The fresh, ungreasy carnitas are very good in the chile verde plate, but their quality is even easier to appreciate in a taco. Made with fresh corn tortillas and overstuffed with juicy hunks of pork the tacos are topped with guacamole and finished with cilantro-heavy pico de gallo.
The meat in an adobada burrito is thoroughly marinated, virtually glowing red-orange from achoite and spices, with a sharp hint of mustard. It shares space with a bit of rice, beans, and pico. To complement the burrito, there are excellent salsas in squirt bottles. Green is spicy; red is fiercely hot, almost entirely made of crushed chiles. It’s something like a smokier sambal.
Being a gas station, Chile Verde Express offers nothing in the way of tricked-out ambience. It’s food is familiar, but beautifully crafted using fine ingredients. This is one of those place you find on the road that exceeds your expectations so much that you find yourself singing its praises to the guy next to you who is waiting to buy car-freshener, unconcerned.