Taqueando: The Centro
To start off the New Year, Good Food in Mexico City goes back to basics and presents a multi-part taco tour, focusing on different areas of our vast urb. Most tacos in this bloodthirsty town are carnivorously oriented and meatless options rarely offered. Vegetarians be warned: this isn’t for you. The term ‘taco’ arguably originated in the 19th century silver mines, where a piece of rolled paper resembling a tortilla and called a taco was used in the extraction process. Tacos are anything wrapped in soft tortillas. It’s a concept as wide open to interpretation as the term ‘sandwich’. The Americanized hard shell hamburger meat version purveyed by one Mr. Bell, is, if heard of at all, scoffed at in Mexico. The two basic taco categories are tacos de guisados, those filled with prepared or stewed fillings, and tacos de carne, based on meat such as carnitas (chopped pork roast in its own fat), barbacoa (pit-roasted sheep or goat), or a la parilla (grilled meats) and the celebrated D.F. specialty, spit roasted tacos al pastor. But you knew all that.
Tacos ‘El Buen Gusto’ is a free-standing stall on Bucareli just north of Donato Guerra (1 block south of Reforma; view map). A crowd of hungry newspaper folk from the nearby Excelcior offices gather 6 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to down smoky campechanos which are generous tacos of arrachera and chorizo.
Mi Taco Yucateco Aranda 137, south of Ayuntamiento; view map. This tiny taquería, which purveys excellent tacos of cochinita pibil, used to be located in a pushcart until the delegación decided to arbitrarily clear the sidewalks of vendors, tossing many babies with the bath. Fortunately Mi Taco relocated to its current hole-in-the-wall a few doors below the hipster hangout Pulquería Duelistas. Each spiky bite of chillied pigmeat bursts with flavor and the salsa could grow hair on a bowling ball.
Up the street on Ayuntamiento is the prize-winning original venue of El Huequito, always worth a stop for a taco al pastor or three.
Tacos de Canasta Las Especiales Ayuntamiento 52, next to the old XEW radio station and around the corner from the revered Mercado San Juan; view map. Tacos de canasta, named for the basket in which they are traditionally presented and out of which they are hawked, are sometimes called tacos sudados or sweaty tacos. Sweaty they’re not, oily they are. But Oh what grease! Try those of mole verde or carnero en adobo. This beloved venue is located in the same building as the old XEW radio studios where many famous musicians got their start. Perhaps ranchera great Lola Beltran downed a few tacos while she was waiting for her big break.
Tacos El Flaco, on Cinco de Febrero just north of the corner of Uruguay, view map, is located in the handsome turn-of-the-century “Edificio Castillo", and is recognizable by it’s dark blue awning and crowd of canasta fans gathered outside.
Taquería El Guero Republica del Salvador 42, between Bolivar & Isabel la Católica; view map. El Guero is actually a motherly lady who doles out such heartwarming tacos de guisados as albondigas – well, you just get one meatball, like the song goes, but it’s a big one - or picante longaniza en salsa verde - sausage in spicy green sauce.
Los Cucuyos Bolivar 56, near Uruguay; view map. Open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. This stand-up only spot features every part of the cow you’ve ever heard of and a few you haven’t.It’s been lauded on TV by one well known and vociferous food maven and for good reason – it’s top in its category. Try a taco of chewy but flavorful suadero – brisket - or melt in your mouth molleja – sweetbreads.
Taqueria Arandas Mesones 15-B (entrance on Bolivar, view map) Arandas is a locally legendary changarro, (eating joint) housing a few tables, that specializes in tacos de cabeza- beef head. One can choose lengua – tongue, trompa – snout, molleja – sweetbreads, cachete – cheek, , ojo – eye (for the more adventurous), or surtida, which is a bit of everything. Sweet/spiky salsa, onions and cilantro are then liberally applied.
El Torito Isabel la Catolica 83 (at Mesones, view map). A crowd forms to procure tacos of suadero (brisket), tripa or campechano, which is a bit of both. The hand-mashed salsa roja has a healthy bite and a lovely sheen.
Taquería del Paso Isabel la Católica 16, just north of Cinco de Mayo, view map, is a small restaurant open almost round the clock (if you arrive at 5 a.m. you’ll have to wait unitl 7 while they refuel.) Single tacos al pastor or of tender beef with grilled nopales can be taken standing or more comfortably in the ‘comedor’ and washed down with an icy horchata. Next door, Gillipollos, which does unbeatable tacos of roast chicken prominently occupies the corner.