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Tacos in America
August 24, 2007 1:12 PM   Subscribe

The history of tacos in America. As reported entirely by the comments to a brief blog post.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders (89 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man I still remember the wondrous experience of my first proper fish taco in San Felipe about 15 years ago. Otherworldly.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:27 PM on August 24, 2007


Oh wow! That's awesome. I love these kinds of discussions.
posted by Kattullus at 1:27 PM on August 24, 2007


Oh, incidentally, the best Mexican food I ever had was in Iceland. Don't scoff! It was called Mama's Tacos and it was run by a Mexican physical therapist who, upon noticing the paucity of good Mexian food in Iceland, imported his mama to make tacos, burritos etc. I'm telling, everything she made was like a manna coming gift-wrapped from heaven. Then once it became successful, mama went back home and the owner hired Germans and Croatians to work there instead. I, and everybody else, stopped going and the place went bust.
posted by Kattullus at 1:32 PM on August 24, 2007


When we came back to the US (from Berlin) for a couple weeks of visiting family and friends last month the first thing we did in Austin, TX., was to get some Mexican food.

Neither of us had any idea how much we had missed it. God bless CurryWurst, but it ain't a taco.

this post is so far my favorite. It is a facinating topic (immigrants and food). One that certainly deserves to be here on the blue.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:35 PM on August 24, 2007


Tacos are Pretty Great.
posted by sciurus at 1:36 PM on August 24, 2007 [6 favorites]


I scoff at those who insist New York is devoid of good Mexican food. Meanwhile tacos in Redhook are endangered by bureaucracy.
posted by yeti at 1:40 PM on August 24, 2007


I live in Brooklyn in 88/89, and remember having a hard time finding Mexican food even then. The one place I did find was a fairly fancy sit down kind of place, somewhere in the village. It was OK. We used to drive out to Long Island to go to Taco Bell, which I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole now.

In the Bay Area new varieties of Mexican seem to keep popping up. I had a torta for the first time a couple years ago, not realizing when i ordered it that a standard size torta is bigger then your head.

I love living in the Bay Area just for the food. Within easy driving distance of my house I have several Asian and Indian markets, and one excellent Japanese organic market I can walk to. It's a beautiful thing.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:41 PM on August 24, 2007


Very interesting. Some novels I've read from the 40s and 50s mention spaghetti as being food strictly for Bohemians. Also, vague memories of 80s tv shows where Perrier and quiche were potent cultural identifiers.
posted by otio at 1:48 PM on August 24, 2007


We talked about something similar a few years ago. What I said then is still true--it's hard to find good Mexican food in the DC area. Great Salvadoran, oh God yes, but that's a different animal.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:54 PM on August 24, 2007


Real Men Don't Eat Quiche.
posted by ericb at 1:55 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


vague memories of 80s tv shows where Perrier and quiche were potent cultural identifiers

On that front, the first time I ever laid eyes on sushi was in Molly Ringwald's lunch box in The Breakfast Club.
posted by gompa at 1:56 PM on August 24, 2007


My kisses taste like tacos.

Tacos are pretty great, but I hardly order them. I'm really into the chimis, rellenos and always a good enchilada. But I grew up in SoCal, where if the booths aren't orange naugahyde, it ain't Mexican food.

Oh, I'm glad Rubio's was invented, though. As a mostly ppescatarian, it's nice to have in the fast food options.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:01 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


In 1967 my wife's family, Californians, went for an auto camping trip on the east coast. They intended to fix enchiladas, but the only tortillas they could find for sale in any of the grocers they tried on the Atlantic seaboard were in a can.
Posted by: Jay C. Smith on August 22, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK


AAAAAAH! Tortillas do not go in a can! NoooOOoo! NO!

Oh, I'm so upset right now.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:04 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


RIP I Love Tacos.

He Loved Tacos.
posted by Justinian at 2:05 PM on August 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


That's great! Thanks for posting!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:07 PM on August 24, 2007


"...I live in Brooklyn in 88/89..."

The first time I ever tasted Mole sauce was around then at "El Guanajuato" on Franklin St. in Greenpoint (it's gone now). It was not a great restaurant but it was food from 'home,' made for friends and relatives and anyone else who came in.

On Saturday nights they sometimes had a 'band' which was pretty great, the few times I saw them.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:07 PM on August 24, 2007


Tacos Rule.

"However the best tacos come from a truck called El Matador, which usually parks on Western near the 101 in L.A."

I miss that truck.
posted by bam at 2:10 PM on August 24, 2007


Ambrosia, my mom grew up in Chula Vista, walking distance from the U.S./Mexico border, and even there enchiladas and tortillas came in cans. This was the 50's/early 60's though, and I get the impression that everything was canned back then. Thank god that long national nightmare is over.
posted by lekvar at 2:15 PM on August 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


What a fine way to waste an hour. Thanks stupidsexyFlanders.

What sucks about living in Israel is the total lack of Mexican food. The first thing I did when I got back to Chicago was run to Irazu on N. Milwaukee for a burrito and an oatmeal shake.
posted by felix betachat at 2:15 PM on August 24, 2007


Kattullus - was your Iceland place this guy's?

I live in the Missions, surrounded by taquerias, but I still miss the taco truck that used to come by a place I used to work near the Port of Oakland. Them was some fantastic tacos.
posted by rtha at 2:17 PM on August 24, 2007


Is $31 too much money for a tapatio taco sauce tanktop? I've gone back and ogled it like four times.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:26 PM on August 24, 2007


Oh, incidentally, the best Mexican food I ever had was in Iceland.

There does seem to be a strange Scandinavian affinity for Mexican food. I work for a Danish family, and they once shipped a pallet of (business-related) electronics to some relatvies back home in the same business. Perched atop the pallet were several flats of Rosarita refried beans. Apparently you can't buy them there, and these folks were hooked.

I'll buy you the tanktop, darling. You only had to ask.
posted by contraption at 2:28 PM on August 24, 2007


# Kraftmatic, how do you define “proper fish taco?” I love fish tacos, but your comment makes me feel like I might be missing something?
posted by ijoshua at 2:29 PM on August 24, 2007


Can I say Mi Hogar in Norfolk, Virginia one time? Oh god, that place makes me so happy. Anyone been there?
posted by chinese_fashion at 2:31 PM on August 24, 2007


I love tacos, enchiladas, flautas, taquitos, tostadas, mole poblano, chilies relleno, and anything remotely similar. My toddler is already asking for more when I give her a jalapeno; Last night's dinner was homemade chicken enchiladas with homemade (as in boiled a chicken carcass for the stock) tortilla soup. Having established a little Tex-Mex cred (I am very aware of the difference between Tex-Mex and actual Mexican food and love them both) I just want to say that I also enjoy a nice quiche, and have always felt that real men don't let other people tell them what to eat.

Cool post, thanks.
posted by TedW at 2:32 PM on August 24, 2007


It's derailing, but I want to mention tamales; they seem more Mexican to me somehow, or maybe it's just Tex-Mex. I remember walking around the supermarket in San Antonio as a little kid and seeing the pigs' heads in the meat department and the end-caps on the aisles full of masa harina (corn flour) for making the holiday tamales. And then the masa trigo (wheat flour) for the flour tortillas, too.

In college freshman "speech communication" class we all had to give at least two speeches. Someone gave a speech about how to make tortillas. I wonder how many Tex-Mex households still do this these days?
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:34 PM on August 24, 2007


ijoshua: I'll chime in on that one. Good, batter fried cod chunks with a mayo sauce and cabbage is nice and all, but I feel that the more authentic (but what do I know?) taste comes when the fish is cooked basically in a carne asada style, with lots of juice and they probably add some salt. Then it's laid on top cabbage shreds with a simple cilantro and onion pico (tomatoes ok). On two grilled corn tortillas, not flour, not fried.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:35 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also -- I had a torta at Tacos Pepitos in Adams-Morgan for the first time a few years back. I have never seen a sandwich that uses a hot dog as an INGREDIENT before. Like Homer Simpson south of the border, and so, so goooood ...
posted by chinese_fashion at 2:35 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tamales

posted by TedW at 2:39 PM on August 24, 2007


In the Bay Area new varieties of Mexican seem to keep popping up. I had a torta for the first time a couple years ago, not realizing when i ordered it that a standard size torta is bigger then your head.

Hmmm... I've been eating tortas here since high school, and that was a long time ago. So, not exactly a "new" variety of Mexican food. You just have to get away from the Mission taquerias and head to places where they serve more traditional fare. Fruitvale in Oakland, part of El Camino in Redwood City, and East San Jose (actually I haven't been there in years, maybe it's gentrified) are good bets.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:41 PM on August 24, 2007


uneponysterical
posted by blue_beetle at 2:43 PM on August 24, 2007


Two of my favorite Mexican restaraunts (outside of Mexico) are in L.A.'s Koreatown: El Cholo and Guelaguetza.
posted by ericb at 2:46 PM on August 24, 2007


ijoshua: I'll chime in on that one. Good, batter fried cod chunks with a mayo sauce and cabbage is nice and all, but I feel that the more authentic (but what do I know?) taste comes when the fish is cooked basically in a carne asada style, with lots of juice and they probably add some salt.

An authentic Baja fish taco is filleted fresh fish, dipped in egg batter and fried. There are plenty of ways to eat fish in a tortilla, but Baja street food is just as legit. What I personally would call "proper" would be the fish having been caught minutes before eating, but I can't speak for Kraftmatic.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:58 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


There hardly is such a thing as authentic Mexican food. Mexican cuisine is an active thing, not something written about in a book. It's a culture of invention and re-invention, taking things in, re-crafting them and putting them back out in the world.

Bacon-wrapped hot dogs? Mexican food. Those "hot cakes" you can now buy all over Mexico which are basically small pancakes filled taco-style with jam? Mexican food.

Even the ancient tamale varies from region to region. I, having been raised in Mexico, didn't see a fish taco until I was a teenager because those are coastal things and my parents are from Central Mexico. It was freshly caught grilled fish in Ensenada wrapped in a handmade tortilla with a bit of lettuce and some chili. It was awesome!!

I have no fucking idea what an "authentic" fish taco means and I'd gather most Mexicans dont either.
posted by vacapinta at 3:12 PM on August 24, 2007 [6 favorites]


When someone says "No good mexican food in New York" What they actually mean is "No good Mexican food in Manhattan south of 59th st" and even that statement is false.

If it's being eaten anywhere on the planet, you'll find it in NYC. That goes double for tacos.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:14 PM on August 24, 2007


oneirodynia: come down and try one of Taqueria Vallarta's here in Santa Cruz. I'd love your take on it!

vacapinta: I can't agree with you more, which is why it's odd that some things taste authentic to me or not. Refried rather than pintos, por ejemplo. Mayo and Mexican just aren't that way to me, even though it's as Chicano as can be and twice as delicious!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:23 PM on August 24, 2007


One of the main differences between Mexican food in the U.S. and Mexican food in Mexico is the size of the portions. Tortas are not supposed to be bigger than your head. A typical San Francisco taco has enough meat for 6 normal tacos.

The way I am used to eating tacos, is to start with the chorizo and carne asada test. If the carne asada is not stringy, though or overcooked, and the chorizo is not the cheapest artificially colored type, you can be sure the rest is going to be good. If the test succeeds, you order 1 or 2 more carne asada. You follow with 2 tacos al pastor, and start moving to the steam side of the cart. 1 cabeza, 1 cachete. 1 or 2 lengua. And for the finale, 2 sesos. A full spectrum of flavors and textures in a single meal.

If still hungry, flan, jericalla or arroz con leche.

In San Francisco, I have to pick carefully. 2 tacos are more than enough for me. Only 2 types of meat! Take your favorite picture, and photoshop it until you have only the brightest greens and the darkest magentas, all the rest washed out. That is the effect.
posted by Dataphage at 3:28 PM on August 24, 2007


I love Choco Tacos.
posted by Poolio at 3:35 PM on August 24, 2007


Finally, a thread I can use for my own selfish purposes. I hereby publicly declare: I love Taco Supremes (Tacos Supreme?) from Taco Bell. Yum. Love em. Mock me if you will. I don't care. My love for Taco/s Supreme/s is not ashamed.

I also love Del Taco's tacos. Their mild sauce is awesome. Very sweet and yummy. When I get tired of Taco Bell, I go to Del Taco. Then switch back when I am tired of Del Taco.

Now, are they as good as a taco from a good Mexican restaurant? No! And yet. Yummy still.

There. I said it, and I'd do it again.

posted by The Deej at 3:51 PM on August 24, 2007


Don't believe there's good food in Manhattan? Go to the corner of Columbus and 96th on a Friday or Saturday night and look for the big truck with the line of people standing in front of it. Yes, Super Taco. It's one of the few things that make me wish I still lived in NYC.
posted by slogger at 3:52 PM on August 24, 2007


Er, good Mexican food. Duh.
posted by slogger at 3:52 PM on August 24, 2007


ericb: I recently had the pleasure of eating at El Cholo, the food was quite good. The experience was made melancholy, however, because it was there, sitting across the table from my younger sister, that I learned she didn't know what a tamale was. Grew up in SoCal, same house and parents as me. she's 26 and now lives in Pasadena. How did the system fail her?
posted by contraption at 4:03 PM on August 24, 2007


I didn't say "authentic" fish taco, I said proper. I'm no food expert and I don't really know if they were "authentic" but I do know they were good and that I've never had one quite like them on the US side of the border. They tasted good: that's what I mean by proper.

oneirodynia describes what I mean: filleted fresh fish, dipped in egg batter and fried.

I think the difference may be that in Mexico they fry the fish in lard, while in the US they're probably using some sort of plant-based oil. But I could be wrong.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:25 PM on August 24, 2007


I got to spend two weeks in San Louis Potosi with a native who would drive 30 miles for tacos, if they were good enough. We saw al the best waterfalls of eastern SLP, Edward James' Las Posas in Xilitla, and we ate like fucking kings. Each day was pretty well predicated by where the secret tacos were located that he thought we should eat that day. i saw some dodgy mercados, ("They make them with mushrooms here!") some out-of-the-way villages, ("They wrap the tamales with banana leaves here!") and a couple of really classy hilltop restaurants. It was without a doubt the best vacatiion of my life. Comida corrida, how I love thee.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2007


Great post.

I recently did a website for a Mexican restaurant, which got me more interested in the food. I bought myself some Maseca and have now mastered real tacos. No more Old El Paso, mungie-cake gringo tacos for this guy! Last night I served them to a drunk friend after a wedding rehersal and he was most impressed. Right now I'm marinating a steak I shredded up for carne asada tacos.... 1 large steak shredded, juice of 1 lime and 1 lemon, 2 tsp dried chipotle powder, 1 garlic clove minced, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tbsp olive oil. Gonna make dinner in 1 hr. My mouth is absolutely watering.
posted by autodidact at 5:00 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh and one slice of a large onion, minced.
posted by autodidact at 5:07 PM on August 24, 2007




Great post!

The improvement in food over our lifetimes (or since the 80s) everywhere in the West (EU, US, AU etc) has been enormous and is so little remarked on.

It's made our lives so much better.

It's not just mexican food. Thai food, sushi, Tapas, Indian and good coffee (i.e. espresso) are all recentish appearances in much of the West. Perhaps these things were available in big cosmopolitan cities but today they are everywhere.

chinese_fashion: I used to go to Mi Hogar in Norfolk - that place was great. A mexican guy I worked with was well into it.
posted by sien at 5:14 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


BayAreaTards -- you all know what happened to La Rondalla?

Of course, one went for the margaritas, not the food....

Signed,

Yes, I Ate There
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:35 PM on August 24, 2007


Autodidact: in my experience, carne asada shouldn't be shredded -- are you thinking of desebrada or something like machaca?

I really like tortas, and really enjoy how they are so different in different parts of Mexico, and from one vendor to the next. The two best I've eaten were from a place a block off the zocalo in Mexico City, and from a cart two blocks off of Av. Revolucion in Tijuana. "Authentic" in that they were being eaten exclusively by locals (and myself), but in both cases the cooks had given personal twists to the food. I'll take "superb" over "authentic" any day of the week.

Just like the quality of the tortilla is a major factor in whether a taco or burrito is good, tortas need decent bread. Most of my local taco trucks use overly fluffy tasteless bread, so even though their fillings are great, their tortas are pretty unexceptional.
posted by Forktine at 5:40 PM on August 24, 2007


I'm going to use this forum to mention that I am vegetarian and lo[hold down the 'o' to emphasize]ve Mexican food. There's plenty of good places for me to eat in plenty of cities around North America, but my current city - Dallas - is not one of them. I miss a proper vegetarian Mexican restaurant meal more than I'll ever miss anything else - more than loves lost, more than innocence lost, more than the ass I wasn't born with.
posted by item at 6:30 PM on August 24, 2007


If anyone wants to taste what Mexican food in America was like in the 1970s, order a taco from Jack In The Box.
posted by dw at 6:31 PM on August 24, 2007


stupidsexyFlanders,
Great post, provokes lots of discussion.

Fish tacos are among the many Mexican foods I relish. The Baja style that you get in Ensenada is the battered fillet with cabbage and white sauce. What I know as Vera Cruz style is the grilled fish, often dorado, with salsa and lettuce. Tortillas de maiz are the only genuine article IMHO, flour tortillas are strictly a del Norte invention.

La Superica Taqueria on Milpas in Santa Barbara was mentioned as one of the best in CA. Julia Child said that it was her favorite for Mexican food.
posted by X4ster at 6:32 PM on August 24, 2007


Funny, Kevin Drum is like 50. I'd think he'd know as much as I do that you couldn't get Mexican in NYC until the 1990s (most of the Hispanics there are, or were, Puerto Rican), and that the Midwest had barely heard of tacos in the 1970s. Oh, if you were granola-ey and subscribed to Sunset magazine, you'd get all the Tex-Mex (or Cal-Mex) recipes, but you'd sort of skip past them as unbelievably exotic.

My first taco was Taco Bell, and we had to drive halfway to Florida before we encountered one. (In those days, it was really slightly more traditional, rather than being FourthMeal-ized.) Still miss Cinnamon Crispas, the snack they had before they went with the cinnamon puff things they have now.

Since then I've had much better Mexican, of course. Even real Mexican.
posted by dhartung at 6:50 PM on August 24, 2007


There is really good Mexican food, made by Mexicans, in Brooklyn now, mostly because there are a shitload of Mexicans in Brooklyn now, all praise due to Allah. You want an amazing mess of shrimp tacos, green or red tamales (I like the green ones) or steak in salsa verde, hit up Tacos Nuevo Mexico in 5th ave and 12th street in Park Slope, next to the OTB, play some Narcocorrido for me.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:52 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


There used to be a great place to eat in Tecate near the bus station. I wonder if it's still there.

It's always a delight to discover a Mexican restaurant that has handmade tortillas, it's almost always a sign of good food. Last year while working in the Northwestern most part of CA, Eureka, where excellent sea food is plentiful I stumbled across a little place that had hand made tortillas. Pollo con mole was on the menu. When I asked about it mamacita said that I could have it but it would take a long time to prepare. Another good sign; mole is a complicated thing and to make it right takes lots of time. It was delightful.

I have yet to find real Mexican machaca con huevos served in in restaurant in CA, but there is a place, within walking distance of home that serves birria de chivo burritos. They're perhaps an acquired taste but authentico.

I do grow my own tomatillos for homemade chili verde.
posted by X4ster at 6:54 PM on August 24, 2007


Oh and I've been eating fucking amazing tamales in New York since at least the late '80's. You just have to leave pinche mid-town Manhattan and take a little bit of a fucking trip, me entiendes?

California, Texas and New Mexico has amazing Mexican food though.

Don't front on Caribbean Latin food either, mofungo, pigeon peas, tostones, pernil, sofrito...

Fuck, I'm so hungry now.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:59 PM on August 24, 2007


there are a shitload of Mexicans in Brooklyn now, all praise due to Allah

Keep your immigration comments in some other thread, please.

I forgot to mention that I have a book on how to write, full of minutia about preparing typewritten copy for publishers and how to make over-the-transom freelance pitches to magazines. The example text they use to teach copyediting symbols is a treatise explaining what a pizza is, from the dough up. That's ca. 1950. I'm pretty sure it was not tongue-in-cheek.
posted by dhartung at 7:19 PM on August 24, 2007


Keep your immigration comments in some other thread, please.

Huh?
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:24 PM on August 24, 2007


For us poor canadians, egullet is an excellent resource for finding Mexican food in Vancouver. Sadly the "big name" Chilo's has come and gone already, but there are still a few great places for Mexican, they're just damn hard to find crammed between all those sushi restaurants. :P
posted by mek at 7:37 PM on August 24, 2007


I grew up in Toronto, but I don't think I understood what Mexican food really was until I moved to Chicago.

Now it has all but replaced Caribbean food for me (actually there is plenty of Caribbean food in Chicago, but it is all Puerto Rican- no Jerk, Oxtail or Roti).

This thread is making me want to get some posole tomorrow morning, but I know I have to get up early to watch soccer. I hate it when my addictions conflict with each other.

Stupid sexy Flanders.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:35 PM on August 24, 2007


the Midwest had barely heard of tacos in the 1970s.

sw michigan HAD heard of them and much else ... grand rapids had and has several mexican restaurants and the place i went, emilio's in battle creek, was based on san antonio style ... he served huge portions and always had buttered tortillas on the side to scoop up the extras with ... i never tried the salsa or the picante sauce, it was plenty hot enough

alas, emilio passed away 20 years or so ago and his sons didn't keep it going
posted by pyramid termite at 8:41 PM on August 24, 2007


...no Jerk, Oxtail or Roti...

No access to roti is a terrible thing. Is there a Singaporean or Malaysian restaurant around? They serve roti, too.
posted by rtha at 8:42 PM on August 24, 2007


I will pose this question here, because it is on topic and unworthy of askmefi:

Why are the tamales all the same??

I get tamales from a cart on 39th&8th in NYC. Also a Mex Restaurant on 38th near 8th. They are identical: corn meal wrapped around a little chicken or whatever, wrapped in one turn of a leaf, then in foil. They cost a buck, but have gone up to one-fifty recently. No mystery here--they probably come from the same little factory.

But how come I got the IDENTICAL tamales at the IDENTICAL price in Santa Rosa, California? Is there some USA-wide tamale monopoly? Should we fear the tamale barons?

WWN is gone and only the internetworks can reveal the TRUTH!
posted by hexatron at 8:49 PM on August 24, 2007


My search for the best fish tacos in Los Angeles have been hampered slightly by the place called "Best Fish Taco in Ensenada" which is in LA. Are they in fact the best fish taco? If not, where is? Only very recently has the idea of a battered and fried fish taco even become appealing to me and now I find myself on a mission.
posted by hindmost at 9:08 PM on August 24, 2007


Man, I miss tacos. I lived in Texas for my first 37 years, then moved to Oregon. They don't have tacos in Oregon, just burritos. And restaurants don't make tortillas here. If you ask them if they do, they look at you like you have two heads.

Yesterday I got a burrito at Mucho Gusto, a trendy "fresh Mex" place run by and for gringos. There's a lot of Mexican-Americans in this town, but you don't ever see any in Mucho Gusto. Whenever I come out of there I say, "That was okay, but I'd rather have had Mexican food."

Breakfast tacos are the best.
posted by neuron at 9:12 PM on August 24, 2007


hindmost,
I think the chain 'Baja Fresh' makes a pretty decent fish taco, but the rest of the stuff on their menu is just meh. Cabo San Luis in SLO makes a good one too. I haven't had any in the LA area in years but I'm sure that if you get some local opinions you can find good fish tacos there in LA.

There's a really great Mexican food place where the locals eat in Capistrano near the Mission. It's an order at the counter and take it to a table place - delicious comida.

Tamales? How 'bout the tamal de elote or de elote con pina from the roadside vendors between Maneadero and Colonet on Hwy 1 in Baja Norte.
posted by X4ster at 9:39 PM on August 24, 2007


rtha: "Kattullus - was your Iceland place this guy's?"

Nope! I've been to Serrano (einarorn's place), though not in a long while, living in Rhode Island, like I do, and I didn't particularly like them. That's not their fault, as such, as I simply don't care for San Francisco style Mexican food. The place where I went for my burrito craving was called Mama's Tacos. At the height of its glory that place served rolling orgasms wrapped in flour dough.

Incidentally, I've heard that the standard issue American style Mexican food originated in Chicago, does anyone know more?

Oh, and anybody have a recommendation for a good taco place in Providence other than Cilantro? (don't like Taqueria Pacifica, heard good things about La Excelencia on Cranston Street but not had any luck when going there)
posted by Kattullus at 10:28 PM on August 24, 2007


Now it has all but replaced Caribbean food for me (actually there is plenty of Caribbean food in Chicago, but it is all Puerto Rican- no Jerk, Oxtail or Roti).

Down on the southside there used to be a great jerk chicken place called "Island Delights". They were on 51st St until they moved south to 75th or something. As recently as 2 years ago, I still saw their delivery truck in the neighborhood. But last month I phoned their number in the phone book to try to get a delivery and it was disconnected.
posted by felix betachat at 10:28 PM on August 24, 2007


A chain of taco outlets in the UK would easily corner the post-pub quick spicy food market here. This market must be worth $10billion each Friday and Saturday night, and that's just in my home town. Somebody at Taco Bell needs their heads examining for not trying to set up over here.
posted by vbfg at 11:12 PM on August 24, 2007


I live in Tucson. Texas has nothing to do with Mexican food. New Mexican is hot hot hot. The only good Mexican food in California comes from the taco trucks. I lived about 10 years ago at a place, where from my backyard you could see topless women making flour tortillas at 6 am at the tortilla factory, it's hot here. Want good food? Carne seca isn't real unless you leave it drying on the roof for a few days. Pico de Gallo...closed for Lent any any other minor Catholic holiday. I admit though i do enjoy a good carne asada breakfast burrito now and then
posted by atomicmedia at 1:25 AM on August 25, 2007


So, not exactly a "new" variety of Mexican food. You just have to get away from the Mission taquerias and head to places where they serve more traditional fare. Fruitvale in Oakland, part of El Camino in Redwood City, and East San Jose (actually I haven't been there in years, maybe it's gentrified) are good bets.
posted by oneirodynia


I meant new to me, but the place I had the torta is in San Jose on 10th street near SJSU. Look for the bulding with the neon yellow and orange paint scheme.

Oh and I've been eating fucking amazing tamales in New York since at least the late '80's. You just have to leave pinche mid-town Manhattan and take a little bit of a fucking trip, me entiendes?

I was in the Navy, poor, and mostly on the subway. Exploring Manhattan was about all I had time for. Also, most of my Navy buddies were less than adventurous eaters. They would actually go to Pizza Hut in Brooklyn, which even at the time seemed sacreligious to me.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:11 AM on August 25, 2007


Man, I miss tacos. I lived in Texas for my first 37 years, then moved to Oregon. They don't have tacos in Oregon, just burritos. And restaurants don't make tortillas here. If you ask them if they do, they look at you like you have two heads.


You need to go over the mountains to some of the agricultural towns in eastern Oregon and Washington. Superb Mexican food, mostly in the styles of Jalisco, Guerrero, and Michoacan, and sometimes from Mexico City. Although most places don't make their own tortillas; there are tortillarias here and there that supply the taco trucks and restaurants, so the tortillas are usually pretty good.

I would have thought that there were starting to be enough mexicanos in Portland and some towns on the I-5 corridor to ensure good food, but maybe it isn't so visible as on the east side?
posted by Forktine at 5:51 AM on August 25, 2007


Note that there are only two kinds of tacos; All else is heresay and an abomination to the Lord.

In no particular order, because both are delicious and holy:

There are fish tacos. The varieties of these are endless, but Baja style fish taco is the best. (As if there were any other.) Especially with crab or lobster. Breaded or blackened fish. Fresh fish. Lemon. Cabbage. Sometimes Quesa Fresca or something like it. Here, creativity and a well balanced interpretation is king.

Best washed down with Pacifico Claro on a hot day after surfing or otherwise being in the salty water. Do not shower between ocean and taco - the sea-salt and sand is key.

(Go to: The original Wahoo's Fish Taco location at Placentia in Costa Mesa, CA - or even better, the Taco Mesa just up the street to the east on !6th. Their salmon taco is the most incredible thing this side of a shark taco in Rosarita from a beachside grill.


Then there are tacos. The only true taco. Meat tacos. Small, inexpensive meat tacos in large quantities. Meat, diced onions, cilantro, salsa. That's it. Brains, tongue, stomach, steak, pork, bbq pork. Meat. Lots of meat, in lots of styles - all of it diced and chopped. Two small, steamed corn tortillas, meat, diced onions cilantro, and salsa verde or salsa rojo or both. Cheese? Iceburg lettuce? Fucking tomato? Seasoned ground fucking beef? Run like hell. Now. It's not even a taco.

Best washed down with a giant vat of horchata after going out drinking all night. Look for the dive joints like Tacos Mexico or the El Matador trucks, or any place lit up with red neon and filled with urban vaquero at 2:30 in the morning.

Me? These days I'm all about the Mission burritos in SF. So huge their's some for now, some for later.

I reiterate once again that Texas doesn't know what salsa is. Hot sauce, yes. Salsa, fuck no.
posted by loquacious at 7:02 AM on August 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


Loq,
I fired the taco rocket off for you, buddy. It should be coming over the horizon any minute now.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:58 AM on August 25, 2007


aptly named loquacious,
Right on all counts. I'm so old that I remember the tacos you're talking about as being 4 for a dollar at the taco stands in Baja. It's Saturday morning and I wish I could get me some real machaca con huevos, and some real fresh squeezed juego naranja.

I never had a class in Spanish, just picked up words and phrases here and there. I wouldn't be surprised if I've spelled stuff wrong here.
posted by X4ster at 8:01 AM on August 25, 2007


I reiterate once again that Texas doesn't know what salsa is. Hot sauce, yes. Salsa, fuck no.

WHAT?

Due to the freaking yanqui invasion, "salsa" is about all you can get west of I-35 in this town any more. Restaurants are afraid to serve Hot Sauce to the northern transplants for fear that they'll get harmed and never return. Fortunately, there are still a few adventurous new restauranteurs who will (upon request) still put down on the table a bowl of green sauce that will dissolve nose hairs and cause temporary blindness, like Vivo Cocina, though they're few and far between. you've got to seek out the seedy roadside taco shacks in East Austin, mostly, to get real hot sauce any more, as opposed to the ketchup-based shit they meekly identify as "salsa" in the bleached-out 'burbs.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:33 AM on August 25, 2007


I never had a class in Spanish, just picked up words and phrases here and there. I wouldn't be surprised if I've spelled stuff wrong here.

Juego is "game" or "kit." Juice is jugo. Besides that you're doing fine.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:22 AM on August 25, 2007


I almost hate to let others in on it, but Tehuitzingo, on 10th Ave. btw. 47th & 48th in Manhattan serves incredible tacos of all kinds- from your classic carne asada to tripe and huitlacoche.
posted by mkultra at 9:30 AM on August 25, 2007


I reiterate once again that Texas doesn't know what salsa is. Hot sauce, yes. Salsa, fuck no.

No one in Texas would ever suggest that hot sauce is salsa or vice versa. Hell on the Red, which strattles the border between the two, brands itself as a party dip.

Due to the freaking yanqui invasion, "salsa" is about all you can get west of I-35 in this town any more.

OTOH, even recently I'd ask for salsa with my eggs at Seattle breakfast places and they look at me like I want apple pie with chipped beef.

I miss Territorial House salsa. Pace bought them out. Sigh.
posted by dw at 9:34 AM on August 25, 2007


"Run like hell. Now. It's not even a taco."

I call your taco snobbery ("bullshit" is what I call it, but that'd ruin the metaphor I'm going for here) and raise you Roosevelt's Tamale Parlor on 24th. If that ground beef taco ain't a taco, I don't want any fucking tacos.
posted by majick at 9:43 AM on August 25, 2007


Here in Minnesota we REALLY know how to make a taco.

1. Take a small bag of Fritos

2. Put some ground beef on top (DON'T season it, you'll get kicked out of church if they see you using spices).

3. Have a couple ounces of sour cream handy.

4. Enjoy your "Uff Da" taco!

(seriously though, El Tequila in Faribault, MN serves amazing mexican food).
posted by annasbrew at 10:56 AM on August 25, 2007


I reiterate once again that Texas doesn't know what salsa is. Hot sauce, yes. Salsa, fuck no.

Reminds me of the Abbott-and-Costello routine I went through when I made the mistake of seeking out Mexican-style (i.e. chunky) salsa at a hotel buffet in Miami Beach. The Cuban waitress offered me ketchup, hot sauce, and A-1 before I begged her to just forget the request.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:32 AM on August 25, 2007


Uhm, majick? That place sucks. Taco joints aren't Zagat rated.
posted by loquacious at 12:03 PM on August 25, 2007


Uhm, majick? That place sucks. Taco joints aren't Zagat rated.
posted by loquacious at 12:05 PM on August 25, 2007


Hm, further research turns up that the place changed hands a couple of years ago. I retract my statement, it probably does suck now.
posted by majick at 12:38 PM on August 25, 2007


oneirodynia: come down and try one of Taqueria Vallarta's here in Santa Cruz. I'd love your take on it!

AmbrosiaVoyeur, I was actually thinking of taking a road trip to Watsonville to eat Mexican food. Sounds like maybe I'll have detour through Santa Cruz and eat more Mexican food. which can only be a good thing. :)

Wait, is that the place just off River st? I may have been there, but I haven't had the fish taco...
posted by oneirodynia at 12:47 PM on August 25, 2007


There are a couple locations for Vallarta, and one is fancy-looking and right on Pacific. They're A+ all around. The place right off River is Los Pinos, which is so-so, imo. Taqueria Santa Cruz (also several locations) has some amazing menu items, and is a point of contention over whether their burritos are better than Vallarta's i this household. But Tacos Moreno on Water is a line-out-the-door every day kind of taco place. Legendary. (For the asada I think. I don't eat beef anymore!) Then there's La Cabana which really really does vegetarian tacos justice: hongos, espinaca, or nopalitos, really miraculously good meat-free tacos.

I've never been, but my San Diego native co-worker swears by Cilantros in Watsonville. (Can you really go wrong in Watsonville? Ain't nothing but 1st or 2nd generation Mexicans there.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2007


Oh, yeah, love nopalitos at La Cabana! I hadn't heard of Cilantro's; I'll be sure to add it to the ever growing list of places to eat a taco. My plan was to hit up Fiesta Tepa Sahuay and then head over to some farm stands... but it's pretty amorphous right now.
I'll have to shoot you an email when I'm actually going to the coast; it probably won't be for a few weeks, since tomorrow is going to be a day of gluttony in the Fruitvale before and after an Oakland History walking tour. Here's hoping I'll be able to ride my bike home afterward- it all depends on whether or not I can resist getting a hot caramel filled churro after eating a pile of barbacoa.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:56 PM on August 25, 2007


hit up Tacos Nuevo Mexico in 5th ave and 12th street in Park Slope

Having just done this, I can confirm their continued deliciousness.
posted by mkultra at 6:50 PM on August 25, 2007


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