Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses and bringing up the rear of every funeral that I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to Utah (or California or Chicago) as soon as I can. So that's what I did one restless weekend last month.
I arrived in Salt Lake pretty late on a Friday night but Cindy was a saint and picked me up and drove me to her house, allowing for a quick Beto's (I know that's not its name anymore) pick up on the way over. What a wonderful meal of taquitos to tuck into before turning in for the night.
Saturday morning I went with all the Beans to Hector's for breakfast burritos. It was great and we barely beat the burrito brunch crowd there. I'd never been to Hector's before. It's like one of those restaurants that is like a Beto's. Someday I've got to find out what happened to all the Beto's and why there's so many places in Utah like a Beto's that aren't a Beto's.
After breakfast I got to go with Cindy to DI and see a DI pro in action.
Something I learned at Cindy's house is there's lots of great Star Wars stuff for kids, like Golden Books of the whole original trilogy. Young enough to have loved Wicket and the Ewoks, I just don't get people who have a problem with them.
That afternoon Andrew came down from the mountains to run a taco circuit with me and Melissa and Emily. Now I'm going to tell it how it is here and be real about these restaurants. First stop was Chego's, which I had been to before about 5 years ago. This is the number one taco place among so many Salt Lakers.
My Verdict: Overrated but fine. Two and a half stars out of four.
Next we went up the street to Rey de los Tacos, which I had also eaten at with Andrew one time five years ago. We drove by it on the way to Chego's and I was like "That's that van we ate from that one time!' So back up the street we went.
My kind of place. Didn't get a picture of my tacos, though. Would like to come back and try all the meats. I knew a breakfast burrito would slow down my afternoon taco consumption, but what was I going to do? Three stars.
Here's Andrew and Melissa.
And Andrew and Emily.
And Emily and Melissa with Andrew in the background.
Then we drove down and over to the Latino Mall to visit Tortas y Jugos el Morelense.
What a great place El Morelense is and what a tight operation. Wish I had had it in me to eat more than one taco. Probably my top choice for tacos north of Provo? But who am I? Just an enthusiastic visitor! Thank you for having me, Utah! El Morelense: Three and a half stars.
Then we headed over to downtown SLC for this place Taco Taco. What a bad taco. Tortilla completely disintegrated. "Carne asada" was some kinda stew. Literally flavorless salsas. Like, people say something "doesn't have flavor" sometimes because it has very little flavor. But they actually had salsas there that, while bright red in color and full of seeds, would not register as anything on your tastebuds. One star.
But still a nice spot for a hang and they were doing steady business so what do I know? *shrugs* ("oh yeah! I know what tacos I like and who I like to hang out with!")
I stick to my convictions that Salt Lake is a super underrated destination for Mexican food and wish I could spend lots more time there eating every taco.
After the taco circuit I had to get up to Highland to buy groceries for Sunday dinner and then me and the Edwards wound up going down to the edge of Draper to eat burgers at this place called Freddy's. I mean I was completely full but I've always got room for a burger, I guess, particularly if they look like this.
On Sunday Ellie liked my tie.
And I cooked the Edwards's my carnitas tacos. I'm just going to keep telling you that this recipe I found online is absolute dynamite. It's so easy and the tacos are so shockingly good, I feel like it's not even bragging to say so because I barely have to do anything to bring them into this world. My own carnitas tacos: FOUR STARS!
Monday I went and visited Grandma during the day and brought taco fixings over for lunch. She loved them! Because they're that good! SHE ATE FOUR! After tacos I went and got us Frosties and learned that fast food workers in Utah can't spell "Brigham" either.
Monday night I dropped Cory off at the airport and grabbed dinner at the Copper Onion because my family was treating me weird for never having eaten there before. Very good. Not Mexican, so I'm not rating it here. Would definitely come back and eat as much of the menu as possible.
Tuesday I went and checked out the Provo City Center Temple. If you like stairs, you will love this temple!
Post-Temple I hit up the Don Joaquin's on Bulldog. I'll admit, a lot of the original shine to Don Joaquin's was the old Salon Eclipse location, something's lost in translation in moving into a legitimate spot BUT these tacos, they're still very legitimate. 3.5 out of 4. (Why not 4? keep scrolling).
Now, Cory and I still haven't been able to figure exactly figure out how the business is set up, but as far as I can tell, or for what I care, Ricardo of the Springville Don Joaquin location is the man behind the magic of the Best Tacos I've Ever Had in the United States. He's recently opened up a taco truck (or trailer) another twenty minutes past Provo down in Payson. Neither Cory nor I had been before and we weren't even positive the operation was up and running, so I texted Ricardo to confirm and Yes, he's in business. Also, can I tell you how good it feels to have your taquero's personal cell number in your phone? What, you don't text your taquero? Do you even taco, bro?
It took a little hunting, but I found Tacos Tarricaso and Ricardo's working some kind of magic there that divides the Don Joaquin's of Bulldog from the touch of the master's hand. 4 out of 4 stars. You cannot beat these.
A few important bits of my conversation with Ricardo:
- When I asked him what his secret was to being better than everyone else, he just said "I get up and do my best every day."
- On Tarricaso truck expansion plans: "I do not want to ask for too much (glances above), but I would like to have 13."
- I told him the tacos were better than the ones I had just had in Provo, I meant it as a compliment but he took it as a quality control item and said "Why? They have the recipes, they just need to follow them."
- Asked him what his favorite Mexican dishes are that he doesn't serve, "enchiladas and chilaquiles" was his quick response, and then he proceeded to quickly wax rhapsodic on the makings of a perfect plate of chilaquiles.
- The trailer was doing steady business while I was there (the party ahead of me in line slowed things down by order 23 tacos), Ricardo says it's all from word of mouth and visibility, he's done no advertising.
So, in conclusion, these were the best. If you want the best, you're going to have to go for a drive. OR hire the truck to come to you.
With that done the clock was kind of ticking and I had to both go say goodbye to Kristen and the kids and get up to Salt Lake for dinner with the Beans, Whitney and Jared before catching my flight home. We hit up the Red Iguana 2 because I'd been a few years without. I had the yellow mole pork enchiladas, my preferred dish, though lots of the menu invites investigation. Red Iguana is such an institution and they keep it quality in there, still, I haven't yet had my definitive Red Iguana meal, the one that cements the reason for the popularity for me. These weren't tacos, but it's a 3 out of 4.
And here's Jared.
Goodbye, Utah! See you next time I'm bored and hungry. El Cabrito, I miss you. Salt Lake City taco carts outside of Sears, I still need to get to know you. Oh, and why didn't I rate the first two Mexican places I ate at? Because I didn't think to do ratings until the taco circuit started. There's no turning back for me!