by Brian Clarey, Naari Honor and Eric Ginsburg
The Triad wasn’t always a Taco Town.
Time was that taco meant just one thing around here: a hard shell dripping with grease, topped with lettuce and cheese and, if you’re lucky, maybe a tomato.
It’s why we have so many Taco Bells.
But the gringo’s favorite gave way to the more traditional style as embraced by old-school taco trucks and real-deal Mexican joints, some of which were steering away from the homogenized Tex-Mex style and building tacos the way they were meant to be: barbacoa, carne asada, al pastor, with a little onion and cilantro, and maybe a slice of radish.
Then foodies got in the game, bringing kimchi, porkbelly, pulled pork and everything else into the mix, creating a scene and a taste for bougie tacos felt throughout the Triad.
And now, while we don’t quite have taco trucks on every corner, whether you’re in Greensboro, Winston-Salem or High Point, you’re never too far from a taco.
This user’s guide may not be exhaustive, but there’s enough taco action on here for a year’s worth of Taco Tuesdays. Tell us about your favorite taco or let us know what we missed in the comments section at triad-city-beat.com.
Crafted: The Art of the Taco, 219-A S. Elm St., eatatcrafted.com
The flagship shop of Kris Fuller’s culinary empire, which expanded its presence to Winston-Salem last week, turns the staple on its head. Pulled pork with mac & cheese, falafel and pickles, brisket and pineapple, rare tuna and kimchi all come together in these bougie masterpieces.
Taqueria el Azteca, 5605 W. Friendly Ave., taqueriaelazteca.com
Old-school and genuine, Azteca offers a basic slate of tacos at its storefront in the west and a roving truck.
Pedro’s Taco Shop, 948 Walker Ave., pedrostacoshop.com
Worlds collide at Pedro’s just off Tate Street: the basics of chicken, carne asada and al pastor are covered, along with fish, shrimp and a veggie option. But the best may be the Carolina BBQ taco, with pulled pork and a cilantro-lime slaw.
Jake’s Billiards, 1712 Spring Garden St., Facebook page
When Jakes ramped up the menu a few years ago, it brought back Taco Tuesdays with a full line of classic selections, though insiders say the shrimp taco is the best of the lot. And Ginsburg swears by the spicy chicken baja tacos.
Rio Grande, 6909 Downwind Road and 1614 Highwoods Blvd., riograndemexicankitchen.com
This one’s a full-on Mexican restaurant with an extensive menu, just one of which is tacos. But they’re the real deal, served Jalisco style with a specialty of chorizo and steak called the “diablo.”
La Fiesta, 1312 Bridford Pkwy, restaurantelafiesta.com
La Fiesta’s chain stretches from High Point to Mebane, and its tacos are quite basic and buried within a larger menu. Here, the grilled fish taco with pickled cabbage is the pick of the litter.
Speakeasy Tavern, 1706 Battleground Ave., speakeasytavern.com
It’s more or less a bar with a pretty good menu, so Speakeasy’s tacos are confined to flour shells, but the fish tacos are no joke: fried cod, house pico and cucumber wasabi.
Monterrey, Brassfield Shopping Center, monterrey29.com
One of the last of the old guard of Greensboro’s legacy Mexican restaurants, Monterrey still serves its tacos gringo-style, with lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar and sour cream.
Fishbones, 2119 Walker Ave., fishbonesonline.net
The taco deck at this Lindley Park bistro come tucked inside “two handsome corn tortillas,” with selections from filet mignon to ahi tuna, and something called the “twisted chicken.”
Casa Vallarta/San Luis, sanluisrestaurant.com
This family-owned operation made its name on authenticity while other Mexican joints in town catered to a more homogenized clientele. The tacos run true: carne asada, pollo, pastor, chorizo, lenguas and carnitas. Three per order.
Kiosco Mexican Grill, 3011 Spring Garden St., kioscomexicangrill.netwaiter.com
Not far from UNCG, amid the Spring Garden business corridor, Kiosco’s taco choices are limited to a steak soft taco and beef or chicken gringo style.
La Vaca Ramona, 4516 W. Market St.
If all the best tacos come from neighborhood bodegas, then La Vaca Ramona — Ramona the Cow? — a Latino superstore of sorts on the west side of Greensboro, makes a strong case for the best in town. As in all bodega-style counters, the meat gets cut on premises, the tortillas are pressed in-house and you can buy a piñata if you need one. No need to get fancy: Order the carne asada and smile.