Photos by Kevin Gibson.
Photos by Kevin Gibson

The menu is small and the atmosphere is, shall we say, eclectic, but the tacos are darn tasty. That pretty much sums up Café Aroma, an out-of-the-way place on lower Brownsboro Road just a couple of stone’s throws from Kroger.

The small restaurant and grocery is in the odd-looking row of small businesses where Blimpie’s used to sell sandwiches (in fact, Café Aroma’s location is that space, if I’m remembering correctly; the address is 2020 Brownsboro).

I always thought Aroma was just a grocery with baked goods until recently I saw a banner out front that read “tacos and burritos.” They had me at tacos.

Aroma 1
Café Aroma is located on lower Brownsboro Road.

I met my friend Chuck for lunch, and we sat at the only booth available in the “dining room,” which consists of four or five booths and tables, one of which was stacked with overstock groceries. The little space has a TV in one corner that was showing Spanish soap operas, and a wall of soda by the entrance. Behind the counter is a small kitchen; nearby, flannel shirts hang for sale. In a corner beneath the TV sits a toy rocking horse.

Told you it was eclectic.

But the Hispanic woman running the show cleared off our table and quickly brought us a couple of drinks. The service was quick and friendly. The menu mainly features tacos, burritos, tortas, tostadas, quesadillas, enchiladas, tamales and the like. Filling choices for most items are very basic: chicken, pork or beef. The only non-standards on the menu are pipian, an-Asian-esque chicken dish, chicken mole and a Mexican steak dish.

Meanwhile, we noticed three specials on the board (which weren’t priced): chilaquiles, mojarras (a fish dish) and gisado verde, which is a Mexican-style stew.

The four meat choices for tacos were carne asada, pollo, pastor (marinated pork) and chorizo. To my disappointment, they were out of chorizo, so I ordered one taco each of the other three. The server told me tacos come with double corn tortillas, onions and cilantro like classic street-style tacos, but also are garnished with house-made pico de gallo. She offered up cheese as well, so I took her up on it, just for kicks.

To wash it down, you can get tea, canned soft drinks or bottles of Jarritos Mexican sodas. Chuck ordered a single chicken taco along with a pork burrito, and we were off and running.

Aroma 2The tacos came out first (with the tiny kitchen and only two people running the show, it’s no wonder), and they were packed with fillings. At $2 each, it’s quite a bit of food, especially for lunch. I probably should have stuck with two, but whatever.

“Oh my god,” was Chuck’s reaction to the first bite of his taco, if I remember correctly. He had topped it with the lone house salsa, a spicy jalapeno sauce that had a fresh, satisfying flavor and was nice company for the chicken, which clearly was fresh and hand-pulled.

The pastor taco I had was especially good — I ate it without any sauce, and to be honest, it was so well marinated and seasoned that it didn’t need it. I snagged a bottle of Valentina salsa picante from a nearby table for my carne asada taco, which was packed with chopped beef that was nicely seasoned and cooked to the point of crispy edges (I love that).

The fresh pico was what appeared to be hand-chopped veggies. Big chunks of tomato and white onion (and I could have sworn I found a couple of chunks of green onion in there) were less pico and more a mini salad. But it worked. Well, it worked if you like onions as much as I do; if you don’t, I’d suggest skipping the pico. The cheese, meanwhile, was traditional Mexican white cheese, likely of the Chihuahua variety.

Chuck’s burrito was predictably gigantic and packed with pulled pork, black beans, cheese, rice, tomato, cilantro, lettuce and guacamole. He said it was very good, but that the taco trumped it by a little. He ate every bite, though.

Yes, there isn’t much seating and the place is a bit, for lack of a better term, disheveled looking, but it got an A from the department of health and the food is worthy and affordable. I would recommend it for a nice carry-out option. I just wish I had checked it out sooner.

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies.Email Kevin at [email protected]