Tacos -- a spicy new addition to S. African fast food

Boerwors, mealie meal, and . . . tacos?

Si. Mexican fast food has come to South Africa. Just opened in a new suburban shopping center on the outskirts of Johannesburg is a Mexican fast-food restaurant - called Senor Pico.

Although Mexican food probably won't replace the popularity of boerwors sausage for white Afrikaners, or cornmeal porridge for blacks, it is proving a success across the black-white color line.

The proprietor, a South African and former accountant who developed a taste for tortillas and tacos while living in California, says his is the first Mexican fast-food establishment in South Africa.

South African whites, no strangers to spicy foods with the Indian and Malay influence, are slowly warming up to the exotic new food.

Many approach the restaurant warily, trying to place the character with the sombrero that adorns the restaurant sign. A few take the plunge, ordering with some difficulty an en-chi-lada or one of the other tongue-twisting menu items.

The restaurant owner says his greatest local following so far is among blacks. The food is relatively inexpensive compared to other fast-food fare, and African blacks seem to have no trouble whatsoever with the spiciness of Mexican food.

''They love it,'' says the owner, recalling with some astonishment how many patrons smother their already well-spiced food with extra hot sauce.

The owner of Senor Pico is still fumbling a bit with the menu. The first batch of hot sauce, though tasty, was too thick and would not pour. He wants to add nachos - Mexican corn chips - to the menu but is not sure of the proper topping.

The owner also plans to offer the uninitiated some important advice. New menus will include a detailed diagram of just how to eat a taco - bite by bite.

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