Posted by Tara Stanton
Trying to nail down the ingredients that make the perfect taco spot is like trying to pin down the ingredients that make the perfect taco. Opinions differ widely, and any claims you make are bound to be controversial.
Many will argue that the best tacos come from stands or food trucks, far away from the usual foodie congregations. Food & Wine claims the best tacos in the country come out of New York City, an idea that would enrage many connoisseurs across the country.
While there are hundreds of ways to make the perfect taco, great taco restaurants have a few things in common. The four key elements they share can be broken down as follows:
Atmosphere — The taco is most at home in a casual, unassuming environment. Though it’s food fit for royalty, it has no place being served on a silver platter. For this reason, it’s best to keep your taco joint low-key and unassuming. A taco restaurant should have amazing taste and a no-frills atmosphere — it’s part of the democratic spirit of this wonder food.
Meat — While it’s possible to find a delicious vegetarian taco, the foundation of a great taco is in the meat. Like barbeque sauce or marinara, there are thousands of secret recipes for the perfect meat marinade. Hot, spicy, tangy or sweet, whatever your specialty, make sure the meat falls apart and melts in your mouth. No one has yet raved about a taco with tough meat.
Simplicity — There aren’t too many ingredients in a taco: meat, spice, some sort of vegetable, all held together in a tortilla. What really makes a taco stand out, then, is how you handle those ingredients. For instance, you can use hand-pressed and freshly fried tortillas rather than the shelf-stable variety you can buy in bulk. Additionally, freshly prepared vegetables make a big difference. While tacos give you a lot of room to experiment and get creative, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make some great grub.
Peppers and spice — There is a reason why tacos and other Mexican food took some time to be accepted by a country that was used to bland Anglo and Northern-European cuisine. Equally as important as the tortilla, spice and bold flavor are cornerstones to any taco. You don’t have to make them spicy-hot, but you do have to make them distinct and memorable.
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