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The taco is one of the few traditional Mexican dishes readily available in the United States. Though we've taken our liberty with the taco, filling the shells with everything from ice cream to octopus, the classic original which predates the Europeans exploring (and invading) Mexico, was most likely a small maize soft shell filled with small fish.
Although we've come a long way since then, our love for the taco remains. Though available everywhere from the finest dining establishments down to the fast food drive through, there are some tacos that simply stand out. Salsa Fiesta was our choice for best taco of 2012. Here are ten other favorites. The best part about tacos? They're small enough to try all of them!
10. Latin Burger & Taco
food truck's take on the taco could leave you scratching your head. An
oversized flour tortilla is filled with chicken, pork, beef, or fish ($5
each) then rolled up. True, it looks like a burrito, but they call it a
taco. We call it lunch. We're especially fond of the chicken mole with
the perfect blend of spices. Added bonus: by rolling the tortilla, we
don't get the mole all over our pants, which is great for meals grabbed
on the go.
in the days when the great lizards walked the earth there were no taco
stands. Thankfully, we've evolved and bikini-clad beauties on South
Beach can grab a few fresh tacos at T-Mex. Choose beef, chicken, bean,
rice, or fish in a soft or hard taco. Can't decide? Go for broke with
the Guaco Loco, a hard shell taco wrapped in a soft shell taco, covered
in guacamole. Prices range from $2.95 - $6.25.
8. El Carnal 2
hole in the wall in Little Havana serves up some of the best al pastor
tacos this side of the border. Three tacos ($6) are served with a little
lime wedge on mismatched plates. All the better to not take away from
the incredible sensations your taste buds are experiencing.
7. El Taquito
other Coconut Grove establishments come and go, little El Taquito
stands firm. Maybe it's the close proximity to both sports bars and
private schools that keeps the storefront stand in business...or maybe
it's the simple, homecooked flavors. For two bucks you get a chicken or
steak taco from meats slow cooking in the pot or on the grill. You're
basically in the kitchen as you chow down on one of the four bar stools
that make up the dining room. There's no decor, no music, no air
conditioning. Want some of that? There are plenty of cafes in the
neighborhood. If you want to just commune with your food, using couch
change, El Taquito is your place.
6. Jefe's Original Fish Taco & Burgers
Fish tacos are the thing to eat in California. Fresh fish is lightly battered, flash fried until golden brown, then served inside a tortilla with some lime and house made crema. They're the perfect protein-rich snack for surfers, skateboarders, and sun worshipers. Don't hop a jet, just get over to Jefe's taco truck and pick up a few Ensenada fish tacos ($2.35 each). Beer battered fish lie on a fresh corn tortilla, then are topped with green cabbage, pico, crema, and fresh lime. It's a taste of the west coast a little closer to home.
5. Mr. Taco
Where do chefs at four star restaurants go to get a nosh on their way home from a grueling shift? We were told by more than one their go-to place for authentic Mexican was Mr. Taco on Miami Beach. Giant cast iron pots are slow cooking the sauces and meats used to fill the fresh tortillas. Tacos start at $3.25 for beef, chicken, or veggie and max out at $5.50 for fresh fish and avocado. We love the al pastor ($3.50) with meat freshly sliced straight from the spit. Whatever you order, you'll enjoy authentic flavors at a reasonable price.
4. Purple People Eatery
Sure the truck has an adorable monster on it and the dishes have cutesy names. Try to go beyond that because this truck uses the freshest ingredients in innovative ways. The Mahi Miami taco bathes local fish in a ginger beer batter then fries until golden brown. Placed in a corn tortilla, it's topped with pineapple-jalapeno salsa then finished with radishes for a traditional breath of fresh air. Equally good are the pork carnitas tacos, made with slow cooked pulled pork, kimchee crema, and cilantro. $5 each, but you'll want the three for $12 deal. Trust us on that one.
3. The Bazaar by Jose Andres
The menu is so large, items can get lost, but allow us to point out the Japanese taco at The Bazaar. The tacos arrive on a chrome frame. The taco shell is so thin it's almost transparent. Inside, you'll find grilled eel, shiso, cucumbers, and a hint of wasabi. Finally, some pork chicharrones give a little crunch and texture. At $10, it's our trendiest and most pedigreed taco on our list.
2. Mercadito Taqueria
Sure Mercadito is all lovely, but we like to go next door to dog-friendly Mercadito Taqueria and grab three tacos for $9 (they're $3.50 each). Pollo cooked in adobo, fresh pescado, or al pastor with a hint of sweet pineapple are all good choices, but when the weather is this warm, we stand by the calabacitas, made with grilled zucchini, black bean hash, and cactus salsa. Wash them down with fresh and cold agua frescas in flavors like watermelon and lime ($3.5), made daily.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. Redland Market Village
It's a schlep...but make a day of it and go to Redland Market Village where you can buy everything from car stereos to bootleg copies of videos. After you've had your fill of haggling for t-shirts and pinatas, make your way to the food stands where you'll find rows of pork on revolving spits, topped with pineapple. Though we like Lucky Tacos' version of the al pastor ($1.50), feel free to try more than one. Some stands have lengua, some tripe, some fish. They're all delicious, authentic, and cheap.