Last Friday, my boyfriend Tommy and I drove to six Richmond taquerias in a gluttonous taco-eating spree. Our mission was to eat as many tacos from as many different restaurants as our stomachs could handle. And after filling our bellies full of Mexican goodness, we would declare our choice for best taco. We dubbed this mission the Taco Run.
This exercise in overindulgence was inspired by the food crawls that are starting to become popular in major cities. A food crawl is just like a bar crawl; only replace the alcohol with food. Tommy and I both decided that “food crawl” sounded a bit lethargic and thought that “food run” would be more dynamic.
To be honest, I was slightly overwhelmed by the taco-eating task at hand, but with every stop we made my enthusiasm grew. Before long, there was a ridiculous-looking pile of take-out bags in the back seat of my car. By the time we got our taco-haul home, I was giddy with excitement. I have to admit, the platter of tacos we had collected looked pretty impressive. It was eye-opening to taste tacos from so many different restaurants side-by-side. So without further ado, here are the results of our taco run.
Don’t Look Back – Carnitas on Corn Tortillas,
Tommy and I both agreed that this was our favorite taco of the day. It didn't look like much, but the flavor of the carnitas blew us away. The meat was tender and rich, and the natural flavor of the pork was accented by the subtle flavors of garlic and cumin. It was obvious this meat was braised with care.
Tio Pablo Taqueria - Al Pastor on Corn Tortillas, $3/Taco
The al pastor taco from Tio Pablo beat out 3rd place by just a hair. It was the assertively spiced pork, tender meat, and the addition of pineapple that gave this taco the edge. It was spicy, sweet, and smoky - a winning combination in my book. Tio Pablo would have even been a contender for 1st had they filled their taco with a little more meat. It was the smallest of the tacos we tried, but was nonetheless one of the best.
Latino Village – Pork on a Flour Tortilla, $3/Taco
This taco was heavily seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and salt. It was the biggest taco of the run, both in terms of size and seasoning. The spices were cooked into the meat over high heat producing bits of pork that had crispy flavorful ends. The taco was hearty and satisfying. However, it had some fatty bits and the faint flavor of MSG that dropped it to 3rd place.
En Su Boca – Carnitas on Corn Tortillas, $3/Taco
I really wanted to love this taco. The menu described the meat as slow roasted citrus pork shoulder, and I imagined the citrus being a nice contrast to the braised meat. Although the carnitas had a pleasing orange flavor, the meat was quite dry. Luckily the roasted tomato salsa that came on the side was delicious and helped add moisture to the taco.
Café Ole – Steak on Corn Tortillas, $3/taco
Although Café Ole is a popular lunch establishment in downtown Richmond, their steak taco failed to measure up to the other tacos we sampled. The meat lacked seasoning and was cut into large, clunky pieces. The taco lacked finesse and any type of Mexican seasonings.
Honorable Mention - Taco Bell’s Grilled Steak Soft Taco, $2.50/taco
No taco run would be complete without a stop at Taco Bell! We thought it would be funny to include Taco Bell in our lineup, and we ended up being pleasantly surprised. We both ordered the grilled steak soft taco, which was topped with cheddar cheese, avocado ranch, and tomatoes. The meat was well seasoned and had a smoky flavor, and the avocado ranch and cheddar added that fatty, creamy goodness that makes fast food so appealing. I didn’t want to rank this taco against the others because it was not a local restaurant, but I would definitely recommend giving it a try.
Don't Look Back
2929 W Cary St
Richmond, VA 23221
Tio Pablo Taqueria
1703 E Franklin St
Richmond, VA 23219
6003 W Broad St
Richmond, VA 23230
En Su Boca
1001 N Blvd
Richmond, VA 23220
2 N 6th St
Richmond, VA 23219