A Call for Mexico City Taco Recommendations

It is with sad hesitation that I must report: unless time comes to a sudden and spectacular halt, mikesnotes has a mere 46 days to go.  That means, of course, that it’s time to start posting all of the pictures that I haven’t gotten around to posting….

And it also means that my time in taco heaven is about to end.  In 8 months, I’ve scoured the internet, newspapers, and local magazines for suggested taquerías and asked everyone I can find for their recommendations.  I’ve walked the city north to south (yikes!) and tried every stall, restaurant, and street-side grill that offers meat in a tortilla.  Heck, I’ve even tried making my own.  

But, in a city with 27 million people and, it seems, an equal number of taquerías, there is no chance that I could really try them all.  I would appreciate your suggestions.  If it’s a hole in the wall or the second-coming of El Califa, mikesnotes would be ever-so-appreciative if you would leave a comment, here or on any one of the other taco-related posts.  I’ll give it a try.

 

Oh, and at some point in the next month, I’ll be posting my own list of recommendations.

The count so far?  951.

 

México, D.F.

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12-cent tacos

Mexico specializes in many things, but nothing may be better than then promotion, especially when it comes to cheap eats.  These tacos in Jalapa work out to a nearly-infinitesimal 1.5 pesos each… about 12 cents.  Oh my!  (They were so-so.)

10 tacos al pastor for the grand price of 15 pesos... less than a buck-twenty.

10 tacos al pastor for the grand price of 15 pesos... less than a buck-twenty.

The record for cheapest taco (that I’ve seen) is 1 peso, albeit for a pre-made taco de canasta at La Merced, here in the D.F.

 

México, D.F.

The Art of the Changarro

It’s hard for me to imagine what México, D.F. would be like without the ubiquitous street vendors.  Throughout the city, on corners, plazas, empty lots, and in front of popular “permanent” businesses, vendors set up shop selling everything from gum, to tchotchkes, to home repair kits, to food like tlacoyos, tacos(!), and tortas.  Some stalls are nothing more than a tray set of a small stand, while others involve a couple of plastic chairs set around a charcoal grill.  And, of course, other stalls are so fixed to the spot that they become as permanent as the more “official” buildings.

The term changarro refers to a single “unofficial” business, one of these small stands or a stand-alone box, while tianguis, which means “market” in nahuatl, signifies a group of stalls.  These local marketplaces aren’t just convenient businesses, but they can become de facto centers of culture and cuisine, whereby local residents, students, and employees descend on a tianguis during meal hours to peruse the cornucopia of dishes and socialize.  These changarro stalls, in one sense are a perfect example of economic and culinary “survival of the fittest,” where the best cooks and the cheapest meals are the ones that survive the competition.  If you know where to go, you can find tacos so heavenly they defy gravity, giant tortas (Mexican sandwiches) with steak, beans, and avocado, and even fresh ceviche (though choose wisely with the last one!).

Tacos Don Memo is one of many changarros in this tianguis that is popular as an eating and socializing hangout with students from nearby Tec. de Monterrey.

Tacos Don Memo, a changarro near Tec. de Monterrey in Mexico City, seems quite popular with students.

Another, less publicized element of these street businesses is the “changarro mafia” that organizes many of the streetside tianguis.  It’s sometimes possible to identify such groups because they all have the same-colored awnings.  Typically, the stalls in a mafia tianguis are run independently, and the shop owners pay a small fee which might range from 20-100 pesos per day, depending on location and size of the stall, to the local mafia representative.  In turn, the mafia provides protection not just from vandals and crime, but also pays off the police — street vendors are, technically, illegal — and ensures that there are no other vendors selling the same product in the tianguis.  If you try to set up your own illegal business too close to a tianguis, just be careful or you might find yourself (hypothetically speaking, of course) at the wrong end of the Mexican version of a baseball bat!

 

México, D.F.

Mixiotes on a Saturday morning

Mixiotes are a style of Mexican cuisine in which marinated meat or vegetables are cooked in a bag made of banana leaves or waxed paper.  The food comes out moist and tender, with a strong flavor from the herbs and sauce that it’s cooked with and similar to a stew but with better texture.  And it’s great when used to fill a taco!

Taco #700

Taco #700

There’s a place over in Roma Sur that does a nice weekend brunch with mixiotes (it’s on the interactive map).  Sure, they don’t use banana leaves any more, but the food is so awesome I doubt anyone minds.  The chicken, combined with some cheese and an avocado, makes for an excellent blue corn taco… #700, as it turned out!

 

México, D.F.

Our brush with the great taco record

Los Arbolitos refers to a group of taquerías on Calle Veracruz near mikesnotes’ office at ITAM in San Angel Tizapán.  It’s not clear whether they are different places or just many restaurants run by the same guy, as they all serve tacos al pastor, have the same name and the exact same advertising, but have different prices for the same product.  

Last week, a couple of us (el güero, ZP, and I, mikenotes) met up there to settle a challenge as to who could eat the most of these “silver-dollar”-sized bites of taco love.  Ok, it wasn’t that serious of a challenge, but we tried, nonetheless.

Oh, you know you want one (or ten)

Oh, you know you want one (or ten)

Anyways, hats off to ZP who took home the prize:

ZP…………….. 34
mikesnotes….. 31
El Güero…….. 20

I have to admit that although the picture above makes my mouth water now, after 25 or so, they really don’t taste so good.  And after 31, I just couldn’t bring myself to not enjoy another taco.  ZP, on the other hand, kept pushing on… I heard that the rest of the day was really touch-and-go, but that he did make it home.

Of course, most every taquería in Mexico City has a record of who has eaten the most.  The record at (this) Los Arbolitos?  85.  Somebody ate 85?!?  If you do the math… you’ll see that’s as much as the three of us put together.  Yikes!

 

México, D.F.

Tacos Arabes

Puebla is renown in Mexico for it’s cuisine, la comida poblana, which includes it’s own take on tacos: los tacos árabes.  A taco árabe is a flour tortilla with pork roasted on a vertical spit, as with a taco al pastor.  Tacos árabes are larger than the al pastor variants in Mexico City and use a different combination of spices including onions, avoiding the orange seasoning that is ubiquitous elsewhere.  And, most notably, tacos árabes are served rolled rather than flat.  A smaller version with a corn tortilla, called a taco oriental, is also served.

Tacos at Bajo el Cielo de Jalisco

Tacos at Bajo el Cielo de Jalisco

Tacos árabes have a nice meaty flavor, with good spice, and are very filling.  Of course, it didn’t help that I took a liking to having my árabes served with cheese.

Oh, my!

Oh, my!

Now that’s some cheesy goodness…..

 

México, D.F.

Chilpancingo Food Stalls

One of the better places to hunt for street food is the collection of food stalls, or puestos, around the Chilpancingo metro station.  The area right around the station, at Insurgentes Sur and Baja California, is dominated by magazine, music, and sunglass sellers, but just a block away, west along Calle Chilpancingo or north on Calle Tlaxcala, are dozens of street food vendors.  To those passing by — including me for several months — the ubiquitous forest of tarps hides the sheer number and variety of taquerías and torterías, fruit juicers, and sellers of massive fried quesadillas, Russian-style “empanadas,” and traditional tlacoyos.

The taquerías, alone, are reason enough to visit, with those specializing in carnitas, grilled meats, al pastor, as well as guisados including octopus, bacalao, and chiles en nogada, which are chiles stuffed with meat and dried fruits and covered in a sweet paste of ground walnuts.   

 

México, D.F.