When it comes to tacos, my take has always been: the simpler the better. Maybe that’s because – growing up on the East Side of Cincinnati – my exposure to them was limited: a grease-stained bag of beef hard-shell tacos from Taco Bell (or, Zantigo, RIP), or a replica of those tacos via a cardboard boxed kit at home.
While my taco tastes have “evolved,” so to speak, those versions still bring me comfort. On a recent visit to Agave and Rye’s new location in Rookwood Commons, for example, I was impressed by the sea of ingredients on the menu, from white cheddar grits to honey-lacquered duck, but wound up going with a Plain Jane: hard-shelled, filled with ground beef and topped with shredded cheese. Along with an ice-cold Coke, it made for a perfect, albeit not that adventurous, lunch.
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But my tastes aren’t just limited to what I grew up with. Yes, I’ve traveled; yes, my palate’s, what’s the word? Evolved? Which is why I love Tortilleria Garcia in College Hill, where the tacos don’t just satiate you, they transport you to Omar Garcia’s childhood in Michoacan, Mexico, where Omar’s grandmother would make tortillas with corn from the family farm and fill them with carnitas or shredded chicken.
And while I’m still new to the local taco scene, I’ve found a few other standouts: the Tacos Dorados at Mazunte in Madisonville, the fried beer-battered cod taco at Django Western Taco in Northside, the fish perfectly firm; the batter as light as can be, the fresh cabbage adding just the right crunch.
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Mazunte’s beet and mushroom, huevo verde, chili relleno, al pastor, carnitas and barbacoa tacos photographed at Mazunte Centro on Main Street in downtown Cincinnati on Friday, March 6, 2020. (Photo: Meg Vogel/ The Enquirer)
I’m also open to innovations, as long as they pay off. In fact, one of my favorite things to eat right now is the burrito-taco-torta-tostada hybrid “turtle” from Gomez Salsa, namely the carne asada version, where the tender meat is perfectly seasoned, the tortilla fried in a crunchy shell of caramelized cheese.
There are others, so many others, I need to try, but for now, it’s you, the readers, who chose your favorites. With National Taco Day coming up on Sunday, Oct. 4, we polled our Twitter followers at @ENQThingsToDo on who has Cincinnati’s best tacos.
We opened up voting on some local heavy-hitters: Mazunte, Bakersfield, Django and Tortilleria Garcia. Mazunte ran away with this one, getting 46.8% of the votes. Bakersfield came in second with 27.8%. Tortilleria Garcia came in third with 13.4% and Django wrapped it up with 12%.
Several other taco joints got mucho respect with write-ins via reply: Agave and Rye, Condado, Taqueria Ramirez, Veracruz, Chilero, La Mexicana, Los Cabos, Taqueria Mercado, El Rio Grande, Mi Tierra and Cancun.
No matter how you choose to celebrate National Taco Day, hopefully it’s filled with lots of tasty tacos and salty margaritas. Enjoy.
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