At the top of every list of reasons to travel is the word culture – and where there’s culture, there’s cuisine. Around the world, what people eat and how they eat it, is a direct reflection on their everyday lives. Fortunately for us, the Magic City is diverse and the Weekend is our passport. Follow us as we explore different flavors from across the globe – right here in the Magic City. This is your Magic City Passport!
Our journey today takes us to Mexico as we explore…
America. Loves. Tacos. Given the abundance of local options, it seems Birmingham is no exception. It’s easy to see why! A taco is accessible; it’s portable; it’s practical; it can be loaded with anything. If an iPhone was edible, it might be a taco. “It just works.” Don’t eat iPhones. So where did the taco originate? No one knows for certain. Legend has it, though, that the “Taco” had its start amongst the silver miners of Mexico, and the word was used to describe little handmade explosive charges that the miners stuck into the walls of the mines. It’s a fitting name for the little tortilla-wrapped explosions of flavor that we know and love today – tacos de mineros, or just tacos for short – especially with the appropriate application of hot sauce. So what constitutes a taco? Well basically, you take a soft tortilla and put some stuff on it. You then fold it, or roll it, and then you eat it! “Wait – what about the ones with the hard shell,” you might ask? That’s Taco Bell. No offense to the Bell, but there’s probably nothing we could write that you wouldn’t already know. Instead, we’re going to show you where to find the really good stuff – because our readers deserve the best!
6 Essential Places: Birmingham Area Tacos
433 Valley Ave, Birmingham, AL 35209
Step into Gordos, where you’re transported into a near-typical mini mercado de México – complete with a tienda de conveniencia (convenience store), a butchery, and a bakery that produces both confectionary and nostalgia alike. Central to Gordos, however, is the grill, from which some of the best tacos around are created, and everything is made to order, when you order, as you’re ordering it – right in front of you. While a visit to Gordos will certainly endear the hearts of anyone who’s visited across the border, there’s no need to be overwhelmed if things may seem a bit ‘foreign’ – we’ve included a little survival guide later in this article, just for you. Gordos has locations in Homewood, Pelham, and Alabaster.
Editor’s Pick: Tacos Campechanos (combination of steak and pork sausage) and more!
3724 Lorna Rd, Birmingham, AL 35216
Located in River Oaks Village in Hoover, Taqueria Mexico embraces a more festive spirit that’s reminiscent of an old western saloon and is contrasted by its very punctuating modern sports bar. Across the ceiling, strings of multi-colored lights illuminate from above and the charming soundtracks of Mexican band music fills the ambiance. Everything about this place bodes the warmest of welcomes. As for the Tacos, expect no less than some of the best – you’re at “Taqueria Mexico.”
Editor’s Pick: Try the Tacos al Carbon (sirloin steak tacos) with a cold beer.
Taqueria Los Primos
3133 Lorna Rd, Suite 112, Hoover, AL 35216
Also located on Lorna Road in Hoover, but hidden away and tucked off in the corner of a quiet and unassuming strip mall, Los Primos puts big focus on what matters most: taste. It’s as if you’re being dared to notice them – and once you do, you’re rewarded with the most unbelievable explosions of flavour that’s barely contained by the fold of their tortillas. Your tastebuds will worship you as a conquistador in the discovery of El Ciudad Dorado de Tacos – that is “Taqueria Los Primos.”
Editor’s Pick: The Tacos al Pastor (pork tacos) pairs beautifully with a bottle of Pineapple Jarritos (brand of Mexican soft drink, similar to Fanta).
El Taco Truck
(usually at) 3308 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, AL 35124
There are few experiences more genuinely exciting than going out at night and ordering your dinner from a seemingly random truck parked in a seemingly random parking lot. Having said that – if you go a bit south of Hoover, along Highway 31, and into Pelham, you could find one such El Taco Truck parked outside of an Advance Auto Parts next to an abandoned lot. Or you might not. That’s all part of the excitement (admittedly, it’s usually there and they normally close at 10). The rave reviews are entirely merited and the mystery is definitely worth it because they are Birmingham’s 2018 Taco Fest Award winner for the Best Chicken Tacos in town.
Editor’s Pick: The Tacos de Pollo (chicken tacos) with a botella de Coca-Cola (bottle of Mexican-imported Coca-Cola made from natural cane sugar).
Los Valedores Taco Truck
301 Oxmoor Rd, Birmingham, AL 35209
If Pelham is a journey too far south for delicious tacos, you can still get your food truck fix in the Homewood area, just off Green Springs. Los Valedores, “the little blue box in the parking lot,” adds to the experience with a covered dining area, furnished with tables and plastic seating options – perfect for mingling with the locals. Share a story with a stranger, or eat in silence if you want, but whatever you decide, taco.
Editor’s Pick: The Tacos de Asada (steak Tacos) were fantastic.
Tacos Dos Hermanos
(usually at) 215 W Valley Ave, Birmingham, Alabama 35209
If hanging out with strangers while sitting on plastic furniture isn’t your jam, go a little ways west onto West Valley, where you’ll find another Taco Truck with a different kind of taco experience. There’s no plastic furniture, but you can still hang out with people you don’t know. While standing. In a line. This place gets really popular. Something about their tacos just sets it apart. We think it’s their corn tortillas, which are really soft and fluffy – different from any of the others we’ve had anywhere else. We could be wrong, but try them out for yourself and let us know.
Editor’s Pick: Definitely try their Tacos de Chorizo (grounded Mexican sausage).
Survival Guide: How to Taco
Whether you’re ordering at a taqueria or rolling up on a truck in a random parking lot, it helps to know what you want when they ask to take your order. Not everyone’s a taconnoisseur (we just made that up), so things can seem confusing at first. Worry not – we’ve got you covered with the breakdown:
Tortilla. It’s the outside of the taco. Generally soft-shell and made of either corn or flour. Sometimes you get to choose.
Filling. Most of the time, this will be listed on the menu board in Spanish and translated in English. What you choose here essentially defines the type of taco you’re ordering. Here’s a brief list of what you might expect:
Fajitas: typically beef, chicken
Al Pastor: spit-roasted pork marinated with a chile sauce.
Carnitas: slow-cooked meat, typically pork shoulder
Chorizo: Mexican sausage
Campechanos: typically a combination of beef and chorizo
Barbacoa: BBQ (beef or lamb)
Toppings. Con todo means “with everything” (usually onions and cilantro). Con queso means “with cheese.” No one really gets it with lettuce and tomatoes, but you can ask for it, if that’s your preference.
If you’re feeling adventurous, here’s a bonus pick –
La Perla Nayarita
150 Green Springs Hwy, Birmingham, AL 35209
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to dine in a fish tank, La Perla [probably] isn’t anything like that, but after a visit, you might leave wondering just that – and that’s the caveat: because if the décor and the giant sign outside didn’t betray the obvious facts, La Perla isn’t really a taqueria. It’s a Mexican seafood restaurant. Tacos are only available from the kids menu. Don’t let that stop you, though These aren’t your typical fun-size tacos for kids – not unless they’re made for children who can unhinge their jaws. No. These tacos are stuffed – which is exactly how you might feel after eating only a couple. That said, we wish you good luck and advise that you keep a stash of napkins handy.
Editor’s Pick: It’s a seafood restaurant, so we’d recommend you try the Fish or Shrimp Tacos