Tacos are getting a lot of love lately. And why shouldn't they? Fresh, warm, tortillas filled with our favorite well-seasoned meats a sprinkle of cilantro and a squeeze of lime is the stuff simple foodie dreams are made of. The taco has nestled itself onto the top of our favorite foods pyramid right next to a slice of pizza and a heaping helping of french fries. We buy $65 sweatshirts with bedazzled tacos, post endless memes with taco puns, and wait with bated onion-stenched breath for the next #TacoTuesday. For the love affair we are all having, there is a bit of discrepancy on where one should choose to be full with tacos instead of emotions. Are you really getting the best experience by trekking over to Tijuana Flats? I have no love lost for any taco that fills my belly, but like many Americanized cuisines, you aren't doing yourself any favors if you don't as Birdman would say "put some respeck on it".
The history of the taco is actually pretty interesting, dating back to silver mines in Mexico in the 18th Century. According to an article from the Smithsonian.com "the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face." Sounds like a normal bathroom experience to me after Taco Bell.
A professor at the University of Minnesota even spent 20 years traveling the world eating tacos and exploring the history that you can read all about in Planet Taco: A global history of Mexican Food. From Silver Mines to mass-produced fast food, the journey of these little folds of scrumptious heaven is interesting, but even more so is why we settle for anything less than the best authentic taste we can find, no matter where we live.
Don't get me wrong, you'll see me from time to time rolling through the Taco Bell drive-thru, and I'm not ashamed of it, but in Central Florida the Hispanic population is staggering and continues to grow, so why not check out some places that might not look like much from the exterior, but so far, have not let me down in fantastically good food and welcoming service. I lovingly refer to these spots as "Hood Tacos". Often found in the less manicured parts of town, Hood Tacos can be found in places that might seem a little gritty, possibly even leaving you feeling exposed in the cut while you eat, but like my momma always said, "What comes out of the hood is always good."
There are two locations, Orange Avenue South of Downtown and Orange Blossom Trail. Here lies a platter of four different meats, Asada, Barbacoa, Carnitas, and Chorizo. Each one better than the last. Tacos were $1.25 each and took less than five minutes to get to my table. The toppings bar came with a variety of sauces, a mix of cilantro and diced onions, and of course the almighty lime wedge.
This old Checkers building was converted into a small street taco drive-thru palace. They offer far more than tacos, but I usually stick with that and get a variety of meats. Their chorizo packs a powerful kick that isn't for those tha can't handle their spice. I finished mine with tears in my eyes, but it as worth it. A few ladies are working away inside and they were helpful, hospitable and quick. We passed up the drive-thru and sat outside while the sun set and enjoyed our bounty. Sure, some sketchy looking characters rolled by as we ate, but don't let that scare you off. In the hood, we all fam.
You can't miss this spot on OBT. A huge chili pepper with a sombrero is on the side of the building and greets you as you drive southbound. It's a family affair here, and again all the tacos are a knockout. Prices range depending on the meat, but are all around $1.25-$1.50 each, and don't forget a helping of their guacamole. Their horchata is a little too sweet for me here, so I usually opt for a Jarritos soda.
Don't you dare forget to explore Apopka when looking for good tacos. Also on OBT, you'll find Taqueria Taco Riendo, hidden away in-between easily missed shops. Good horchata, cheap tacos without missing the mark on savory flavors, and a welcoming staff that don't mind if your Spanish is terrible and you are a disgrace to your heritage.
Much like doughnuts, I'm always on the hunt for delicious tacos, and I'm sure I haven't found them all, but for any of you hungry ones out there looking for your next taco fix these spots shouldn't disappoint.