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What makes a taco "street?"


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I've had street tacos.  Or, at least what I thought were street tacos.  I considered them street tacos because I bought them from run-down carts and food trucks on the streets of places like San Diego, Flagstaff, Tuba City, Los Angeles, and TJ. 

But I've noticed that even restaurants with entrees pushing $75 offer "street" tacos.  That's not exactly my concept of "street."

So, what makes a taco a "street" taco?

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40 minutes ago, editor said:

I've had street tacos.  Or, at least what I thought were street tacos.  I considered them street tacos because I bought them from run-down carts and food trucks on the streets of places like San Diego, Flagstaff, Tuba City, Los Angeles, and TJ. 

But I've noticed that even restaurants with entrees pushing $75 offer "street" tacos.  That's not exactly my concept of "street."

So, what makes a taco a "street" taco?

When you're risking Montezuma's revenge but it's so, so good that you do it anyway.

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Posted (edited)

It refers to the types of tacos sold by street vendors in Mexico, soft tortillas, with the common filling types these street vendors serve. It's meant to differentiate them from the common American understanding of a taco as having a crispy shell, ground beef, and iceburg lettuce. The term is meant to connote authenticity to traditional Mexican food, rather than Taco Bell.

Edited by Reefmonkey
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Tacos Laguna #4 on 301 W. Alabama convenience store has a truck that sells what I consider street tacos. They have other bigger ones too but the small ones are delicious. They opened a second one at Montrose and W. Alabama Chevron station.

https://www.yelp.com/biz/tacos-laguna-4-houston

La Calle Tacos downtown and Midtown has what they call tacos chilangos, which are the small street tacos. 

https://www.lacalletacos.com/home-1

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When I think of street tacos, I think small size (4"-5" tortillas), with two tortillas used per taco. The small size makes it easy to eat them on the go, after you've purchased them from a street vendor. 

The tacos at La Vibra on Yale may or may not be street tacos, depending on the strictness of your definition, and they're definitely not at the lower end of taco pricing, but they are unlike any other taco in Houston and come a lot closer to living up to Torchy's motto "Damn Good" than Torchy's does. 

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Posted (edited)
39 minutes ago, mkultra25 said:

When I think of street tacos, I think small size (4"-5" tortillas), with two tortillas used per taco. The small size makes it easy to eat them on the go, after you've purchased them from a street vendor. 

The tacos at La Vibra on Yale may or may not be street tacos, depending on the strictness of your definition, and they're definitely not at the lower end of taco pricing, but they are unlike any other taco in Houston and come a lot closer to living up to Torchy's motto "Damn Good" than Torchy's does. 

Yeah, I'm mehh on Torchy's, found a lot of better places over the years. Jarro Cafe was great, and after they closed their brick-and-mortar on Gessner, they had a truck right across the street from my neighborhood until recently. Will have to try La Vibra.

Edited by Reefmonkey
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La Vibra is really good.  Torchy's went from being pretty good to absolute garbage as the franchise expanded from a few stores to being in every new strip mall in any suburb with a median income approaching six figures.  

The only real common denominator for a real "street" taco is that the base is almost always a small corn tortilla.  But people will go on for days about what is a real corn tortilla.  There is a big difference between commercial tortillas and hand ground corn masa made into tortillas by hand.  Some of the commercial corn tortillas in the US are so bad that they are like eating drywall.  

Beyond that, you could go on for days talking about what is a real "street" taco in terms of fillings because there is so much diversity in Mexican cuisine depending on where you are in Mexico.  You have trompo and al pastor, which are spit cooking styles that Middle Eastern oil workers brought with them to Mexico in the 1950s and were adopted by Mexican cuisine.  You have various stewed meats like guisada and birria.  And then there are the grilled meats like asadas and barbacoa.  The one that is rarely done right in the US is carnitas.  Carnitas in the US are often dry and inedible because they are made more like a pulled pork.  Carnitas are slow cooked in pork fat.  

The most basic street taco will be meat and tortilla with a salsa.  But many street vendors will have different vegetables, beans, potatoes, etc. and a selection of salsas and a sprinkle of queso fresca on top.  

A lot of arguments over what is an authentic street taco is really just about different places having different styles of Mexican foods.  Most of the really authentic Mexican taco stands in Houston are run by people from NE Mexico (Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, etc.) and most of their customers are from the same area.  But if you are in CA, you will run across more people from Baja, Sonora or Chihuahua.  Nestled amongst those groups will also be people from Central Mexico, which is a bit of a melting pot of styles and not to forget the very diverse cooking style of Oaxaca, which has deep roots in indigenous cooking styles.  

So, most everything you will find at a taco stand in Houston is arguably a street taco.  But these vendors are in it for the money and how authentic they are can vary wildly as mass produced Mexican food can be pretty bad and taco trucks can get everything the use from a large commercial kitchen.  So, if you find one that is grilling their own meat or has a spit going, that is a pretty good sign you will get something decent.

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The people that run the Tacos Laguna trucks are from Torreon, Mx. They are the small double tortillas that they slightly grill which makes them so much better. Grilled onions, cilantro and a little baggie of hot green sauce. Delicious. The guy that opened La Calle Tacos is from Mexico City. They both also sell what I call gringo tacos too.

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I got into making my own corn tortillas from mass harina during lockdown. So easy, and so worth it compared to store bought. Next want to try fresh masa. My mother is from Miami, it’s like a second home to me, and masitas is one of my favorite Cuban foods, very similar to carnitas, so I just make that. And my wife made suadero. Sooooooooo good. 

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4 hours ago, editor said:

So I guess when I see "street tacos" at a restaurant like Flora in Buffalo Bayou Park (https://www.florahouston.com/menu), I should regard that the same way as "fun size" candy bars:  Nothing to do with the street, or fun.  Just another way to charge more money and give less product.

Anyone with the temerity to unironically use the term "street tacos" on the menu of a place that charges $16 for guac or $20 for queso deserves to be horsewhipped.

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48 minutes ago, mkultra25 said:

Anyone with the temerity to unironically use the term "street tacos" on the menu of a place that charges $16 for guac or $20 for queso deserves to be horsewhipped.

You better get a set of good horsewhips together...you're going to be wearing them out quickly. 😃

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7 minutes ago, august948 said:

You better get a set of good horsewhips together...you're going to be wearing them out quickly. 😃

On the plus side, I expect all of my upper-body workout needs to be fully addressed. And then some. 

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