May 3, 2013 at 9:14 AM ET
There’s no better way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo than by eating some tacos and chasing them down with tequila. American chefs are taking the staple dish and adding their own creative twists to it. Take a look at some favorites from Food & Wine, and tell us below, who makes the best taco?
Native Texan Rene Ortiz looks to Mexico for both La Condesa’s design (a collage of vibrantly colored Mexican billboards adorn one wall) and its menu. Ambitious tacos and taquitos hew both authentic, such as the Tecate-style fish taco piled with rustic charred corn-chipotle slaw, and inspired, like the Arábicos, a bacon-fat crisped tortilla layered with seared venison, pickled cucumber, chipotle harissa and fennel pollen yogurt.
Newport native Thomas Carson grew up working on fishing boats; now he runs this fish market renowned for its fresh seafood and stellar fish tacos. Diners have a choice between the signature panko-crusted Basa (an Asian catfish) and a selection from the fish counter, including scallops and wahoo from Baja. For heat seekers, Sriracha and Indonesian sambal complement the mayo-based house sauce.
“Tacos, whiskey, hillbilly music” is how star chef Paul Kahan describes the ultracasual Mexican spot he opened in Chicago’s Wicker Park in 2009. Though he calls the place a dive (it’s not), the classic tacos—excellent spit-roasted pork and beer-battered fish—are impressively fresh, and the beer list is one of the city’s best. One way to battle the seemingly endless crowds: head over to the takeout window.
Alex Stupak cut his teeth as a pastry chef at landmark avant-garde restaurants WD-50 in New York City and Alinea in Chicago, but he’s shifted directions and traded the hydrocolloids and xanthan gum for the more time-honored Mexican techniques at Empellón. Yet he doesn’t shy away from pushing limits—after all, empellón translates to “push” in Spanish. Among Stupak’s adventurous taco combinations: sweetbreads with maitake mushrooms, and beer-braised tongue with arbol chile salsa.
The best fish tacos in Miami come by way of another coast. Jefe’s bright orange truck serves classic California-style tacos: lightly fried beer-battered fish is topped with crisp shaved cabbage, fresh pico de gallo and house-made Mexican crema, all bundled in two corn tortillas. Jefe’s changing Miami locations are constantly updated on Twitter.
Santa Barbara, Calif: La Super-Rica Taqueria
Julia Child was famously a fan of this cash-only ’50s-style aqua-colored taqueria. The house-made tortillas are a specialty: Masa dough is rolled into a ball, pressed, then grilled just moments before it’s filled with simple, straightforward toppings like chorizo, tri-tip and sautéed strips of chile pasilla. Locals know to go on Mondays, when the lines are shortest. 805-963-4940
Star chef Ken Oringer’s talents range from traditional Japanese at Uni to Barcelona-style tapas at Toro. At La Verdad, he skillfully takes on Mexican, with a menu of plates like braised pork belly with red mole, along with stellar tacos like the Benny Lengua (tender cubes of braised beef tongue with salsa arbol, cilantro and red onion).
Click here for more of America’s best taco spots
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