Sunday, October 9, 2016

In Search of the Perfect Taco

National Taco Day was this past week but who needs a reason to stop by your favorite T-joint for a plateful of delicious tacos? Honesty, I could eat them every day.
Single or doubled, flour or corn, complex or simple, fried or just off the grill, there are never-ending possibilities for a perfect taco but we like this one, the Lamb Shawarma taco, available from The Restaurant at Sabores San Miguel.
 
The catch of this taco tease is that Sabores is an annual event so you have to wait until 2017 rolls around to get another fix.
 
A taco can be whatever you want it to be and that’s the beauty of it. The simplicity is that you don’t need silverware; tacos fit conveniently in your hand and can be devoured in a single bite or two or three. Need breakfast, lunch or dinner? There’s a taco solution for that.
 
The holy trinity: the tortilla, the filling, and the salsa; every element of the taco must be perfect. From sunrise to sunset, here are six spots that deliver the perfect taco with a prevailing taste of the motherland. Bring small change and a big appetite.
 
We’ve been known to eat more than our fair share so when it comes to tacos we only have one rule: never do the math.

Buen Apetito!
 
 
Tacos worth getting out of bed for, The Taco Lab (in Doce 18 Concept House at Calle Relox No.18) has a three crispy taco combination listed under appetizers. I get one pork belly, one fish and one short rib taco for one of the best and tastiest taco deals in town. The crunchy shell provides a perfect contrast to the fillings. My go-to place on Sunday morning, the fastest way to size up a taqueria is the salsas. This place has three worth tasting; my favorite: the amarillo (yellow) made with tamarind and habanero chili peppers. You wouldn’t need a cup of coffee after this morning jolt. Messy, sure, but who cares? Daily from 10 AM.
 
La Azotea, Umaran 6, has the best artisan taco in town. A texturally adventurous bite, the shell is a thin slice of Jicama that is topped with lightly breaded shrimp, chipotle mayo and a tamarind sauce. The fried leek finish put this taco in a class by itself. From 3:00 PM; closed on Sunday.
 
It’s not a taco expedition in SMA without Arrachera and Muro (Loreto 10B off Insurgentes) has some of the best. The magic here is the flavorful arrachera, melted cheese and caramelized onions; the best combination of ingredients. These next-level tacos are served in something you don’t see every day: flour tortillas. 5 stars for the food AND the service. As Bon Appetit once wrote "in a perfect world, our favorite restaurants would serve flawless food every time but in the real world? Sometimes all you need is to feel like you’re at home...and Muro feels like home. This SMA classic moves to a beautiful, new location before the end of the year, just in time to inaugurate the fireplace. From 9 AM daily; closed on Wednesday.
 
Ground zero for the taco culture in SMA , you won’t need a map; just follow your nose. What makes these porky bits so addictive is they are simmered in lard until fork tender. Guadiana #2 is the kitchen where all of Bautista Brothers carnitas are cooked, so drop by on Monday, the local market day, when the line at this converted garage is shorter than usual. Their textbook salsas deliver a fiery punch; add a peppering of jalepa├▒os to enhance the experience. From 7 AM, they run out early so skip the Cherrios and make it a breakfast. It’s a revered eating experience you wouldn’t find anywhere else. This Bautista Brothers location is one of the best kept secrets in SMA.
 
Don Santos Tacos, Clavel 8 off Refugio Sur, earns its accolades with authentic Mexican food; the real deal is their Taco de Res. A Colonia San Antonio tradition, this taco joint claims a devoted following among Mexicans so you know it’s good. Even Matteo Salas, San Miguel’s top chef, dreams of staging here. Thin strips of beef are cooked in a pile of intestines and chorizo; it’s so well flavored and tender you can’t resist the call for a second helping. Heap on a mound of onions, cilantro and their spicy salsas; the kick adds a whole other layer of flavor to this dish. Don’t forget you’re on Mexican time; Don Santos opens at 6:00 PM but time your entrance for 30 minutes later as they are a bit slow at the start. The communal tables are the place to meet the locals. If you run into more than two gringos in a given night, it’s unusual.
 
Andy's Tacos, on the corner of Insurgentes and Hidalgo, was written up in the Wall Street Journal and owns the show when it comes to Tacos al Pastor in SMA. With both early birds and night owls, this SMA institution caters to enthusiasts of every age. Unlike the other pastor vendors in town, Andy caramelizes the meat to an almost-crunchy texture, shaves the pork off a vertical spit and fries it, adding a splash of red-hot salsa, and kisses it with thin, wide-slices of pineapple. I’ve never found another place in SMA, or Mexico City for that matter, that does better al Pastor. It’s a hard act to follow and if the juices aren’t dripping down your arm by the time you finish, you’d better order another helping. From 7:30 PM to 7:00 AM, Andy's is a favorite of partygoers searching for an after-hours feast. This is one of the best tacos in SMA; we’ve eaten enough of them to know.