In Mexico — especially after nightfall — taco stands spring up like mushrooms. As you walk by each one, the air grows thick with the aroma of grilled meat, cilantro, and chili.
Each little cart and hole-in-the-wall eatery calls out to me. But how can a non-local know which stands are best? And (as someone who has spent two days of a Mexican vacation with the worst food poisoning of my life must ask) how can you know which stands are serving safe, clean food?
Eat Mexico’s Late Night Taco Tour eliminates the uncertainty, providing a walking tour that steers you away from the mediocre and speeds your access to the city’s very best tacos. With gleeful, enthusiastic guides and a van to cover ground faster, the tour allows you to hit six or seven food stalls between 7:00 and midnight — plus a stops for craft beers and mescal (the other alcoholic beverage distilled from the agave plant).
We love the tour so much we’ve taken it twice (and I’d gladly queue up for a third go). Both times, our guides appeared right on time. Both times, they gave us great insider information on the food and restaurant scene. Both times, our tour of late night taco stands delighted us.
On our first stop, we squeeze into a sidewalk table. Inside the small shop, the owner — who’s been serving tacos at this location for years — makes quick work of carving pork from a massive spit.
A fresh tortilla (thick, like a pita), a lot of meat, a little onion, a little sauce: done. The resulting taco is simple — but the interplay of soft tortilla, hot pork, and fresh onion is delicious:
Near the end of the tour, we made what would be our favorite stop — El Visito, or, as locals refer to it, “The Taco Garage.” By day, this unassuming location is an auto repair shop, but by night, it’s packed with locals and tourists alike, and the bright lights and big crowds give the place a carnival atmosphere.
Tacos al pastor — my personal favorite — feature pork cooked on an upright spit over open flames. The top of the spit is crowned with hunks of pineapple, so that sweet, golden juice soaks into the meat as it cooks. At the base of the spit are onions, so their aroma wafts upward. The men carving the meat work at blinding speed, giving the whole business of taco making the flair and drama of a magic act:
I’ve never had tacos like these: tender and juicy, savory and sweet, and fresh and hot all at once. In fact, this is the only place I take our guide up on the offer of seconds — and even thirds. (Americans, used to white flour tortillas, may also want to order “gringa style” — the same fillings, but on a white tortilla with a generous ladle of white queso on top.)
We make other stops, including one last stand serving tacos filled with more exotic cuts of meat, including cow cheek and beef tongue:
But after El Visito, these gristly treats just don’t stand a chance.
You’ll also stop for craft beers (with a local expert who, after questioning you about your tastes, matches you with the beer or cider of your dreams) and mescal, the suddenly popular alcoholic beverage that tastes a bit like jet fuel. As you sip, you can even nosh on fried chili grasshoppers, if you like:
For me, though, the Late Night Taco Tour was and forever will be about the tacos. Trust me: after this tour, you’ll come home happy. Climb into the van, hit the streets, and eat the way the locals do!