The Taco Hunt

The taco is a traditional Mexican dish composed of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling.

Hispanic have, to say the least, had an important influence on Californian culture. So it’s no wonder tacos are amongst the best food you can eat in the Golden State!

The original sense of a taco is a “plug” or “wad” used to fill a hole. In my case, an empty stomach loves nothing more than to be filled by a tasty taco!

Hard shell tacos, soft shell tacos, American Tacos, Mexican tacos, Korean tacos, Vietnamese tacos? (Uh-huh!), fancy tacos, damn-good tacos, chicken, beef, pork, fish, you name it: we’ve had it all! The craze is so common; you can even book taco-tours  where they will take you to the best taco spots the Bay Area has to offer!

But just for you, we’ve sacrificed our taste buds and went on a little taco tour of our own. Below are the addresses I wanted to share:

KogiBBQ, L.A. 

In late 2008, Korean Chef Roy Choi changed the face of tacos by adding some korean flavor to one of California’s favorite dishes and took it to the streets. Two years later, Food & Wine Magazine named him Best New Chef 2010; his taco truck was also featured in Bon Appetit and Times Magazine.

KogiBBQ's Tacos and Blue Moon Molita

We tried:

The Spicy Pork Taco

Kim (that’s me) says: Packed with those korean tastes you just love, but served on a soft taco shell. Witty pairing indeed. Not too spicy that you won’t want to finish it or order a second: really just enough! The caramelized meat balances out perfectly that little heat.

The Chicken Taco

Side-kick Gen says: All my friends know that I don’t like to eat vegetables…especially raw vegetables! However, one bite of this taco and I knew I was missing something if I didn’t take a complete bite. I wasn’t disappointed! Kogi brings tacos to a whole other level, presenting surprising Korean flavors, yet maintaining the essence of what a Taco should be: good meat !

Blue Moon Molita

Kim says: Holy S#*t! This is freaking delicious! Who knew I could enjoy the mix of blueberries, sesame, chicken, and cheese. Should we get a second one Gen?

Side-kick Gen says: Surprise, surprise … I’m usually not a fan of sweet and salty, but this quesadilla was simply delicious and full of flavors. The blueberry sauce just made it amazing !

Prices: 2$ a pop.

Where to find them: follow them on twitter @kogibbq

La Taqueria, San Francisco:

Miguel Jara’s little 26-year-old taqueria has been recommended by the Lonely Planet, and many of our friends who have visited SF. No need for a website, it’s the combination of a simple menu, great ingredients and getting the tastes spot on that has allowed  this no-nonsense joint to keep and to expand their clientele through word of mouth. FYI CA$H only!

Prepping the tacos: that's a lot of carne asada!!!!

We tried:

Carne Asada Taco

Kim says: Fresh pico de gallo and guacamole, moist meat, and overall yummy. Wolfed it down in about 2 minutes. A tad disappointed though as I was expecting to taste a little of the charcoal/grill on the meat…

La Taqueria: Carne Asada Taco

Carnitas Taco

Kim says: Probably because I didn’t actually have time to realize that I was full, but I got back up and ordered another taco (and they are quite big). This time, I got it right! The grilled beef was good, but the pork was way better! The flavors really felt like they infused the braised meat. Almost sinful… No need for cheese, nor sour cream, just fresh salsa and add the avocado puree for the extra $1.20.

Beef burrito

Side-kick Gen says: A perfectly balanced burrito, with all the authentic flavors you’d expect .

Prices: 3.75$ for tacos, 7$ for burritos. Not cheap but much bigger than what you can expect to get from a street vendor.

Where to find it: 2889 Mission St (between 24th St & 25th St)

Chipotle Mexican Grill: the locals do it, so why shouldn’t we?

So we cheated. Not what you’d expect I know, but all for a good cause. The USA gave birth to fast food and it’s an intricate part in defining the country. So naturally, we wanted to put it to the test. We discovered a player who strives on reinventing fast food and changing the way America eats. Props to Ell’s (Founder and CEO of Chipotle)!

Chipotle’s mission is to serve “Food with integrity”! And to my surprise, this fast food chain, who’s menu is only one page long, serves damn-good fast food! Yes, you read right, delicious and healthy! So much that The Wall Street Journal magazine recognizes Steve Ells as the year’s top innovator in the food industry. Note that Chipotle is also the country’s biggest vendor of naturally raised and sustainable meat.

Prices: Anywhere from 6-10$ for your meal

Where to find it: 1,131 locations nation-wide. We dropped by 723 State St. in Santa Barbara.

Gott’s Roadside, St. Helena

Brothers Joel and Duncan Gott took over Taylor’s Refreshers in 1999 and created quite a fuss when in 2010, they changed the name Gott’s Roadside Gourmet. The brothers took the landmark hamburger joint and turned it into an iconic mini chain, expanding it to San Francisco and Napa. As always, in line with the NorCal way of life: Gott’s serves up fresh ingredients, harvested from their St Helena garden.

We tried:

Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos:

Kim says: Like my brother would say, it’s Poke worthy of the Hawaiians. For me, it tastes like the epitome of Californian food: the perfect balance of Asian and Mexican influence using local and locally grown produce.

Side-Kick Gen says: Amazing! Tartare in a taco… you can’t ask for more!

Gott's Roadside Ahi Poke Crispy Taco

Fish Tacos:

Kim says: You can taste the grill on the super juicy marinated Mahi-Mahi filets. A little too much Mexican slaw, but every bite is packed with flavor, texture and punch!

Side-kick Gen says: Roadside at it’s best! The perfect compromise between posh St. Helena and street food!

Gott's Roadside Fish Tacos

Price: Higher up the scale than most, between 13-16$ (for 2 or 3 tacos)

Where to find them: 933 Main Street

We  drove over 498 miles (or 801 kms), ravaged 5 cities, ate at least one to two tacos a day, maybe gained 2 pounds (who knows) and spent a week and a half hunting down tacos.  While sharing this tale with my brother, he told me in all loving support that a taco a day keeps the doctor away. Haha!

I’ve figured it out, so now I ask you: what exactly makes it the best taco?

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Saint Helena: Still Under My Skin « Confidences Gourmandes…

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