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A mission for authentic Mexican…Taco Quest.

2012 May 11
by Dylan


Well, as usual, I’ve been behind on keeping this blog up-to-date. Personally, I blame finals and the three ungodly papers I have due. One left to go! Anyways, I’m here to talk about one thing:


Back in New Jersey, there isn’t too much authentic Mexican food. Sure, there are pockets here and there, but in comparison with what we can get in Madison? Well, it’s not even close. My friend and I have been traveling around Madison in search of the cheapest, most delicious, and the most authentic tacos. We’ve had a lot. Some places have been visited more than once. The quest, of course, still continues. However, we’ve found one place that really seems to stand above the rest (more on that later). So, without further ado, here are my Madison Tacos Rankings:

5. Francisco’s Cantina: oh, how the mighty have fallen. I had awarded Francisco’s an “A” a few months ago, but that was before I had a chance to check out the other places in this city. The last time I was there, I got a few different tacos–chicken, asada (steak), and a couple of pastor (pork). The first thing I noticed? Well, for one, a lack of meat. What they gave us was pretty tasty, if a little dry. The tortillas didn’t appear to be homemade, and they tasted…well, off. While the price per taco seemed pretty reasonable ($1.69), these were simply okay. Nothing more, nothing less. After further consideration, I have no choice but to downgrade Francisco’s Cantina to a B.

4. Tacqueria Authentica (Bloomfield, NJ): Alright, so admittedly, I’m cheating. Over winter break, I went to Tacqueria Authentica before a concert. It’s in NJ, not Wisconsin. However, the food is worth mentioning. The restaurant spawned from a food cart which rolls around Newark, shelling out what can only be described as “Gourmexican” food. The tacos? Quite good. I had the chicken, steak and chorizo. Most notable was the chorizo–they make it themselves and, I have to admit–it’s pretty damn good. The highlight of the meal, though, was the Mexican pudding. Made by the owners wife, it was infused with almond paste, giving it an almost marzipan-like taste. Absolutely fantastic. Tacqueria Authentica gets a B+.

3. Los Gemelos: Located right off of State St., this favorite late-night establishment of drunken undergrads serves up some solid tacos. So, what’s in the picture? Well, pastor and campechano, which is a mix of steak and chorizo. It was solid. The tortillas were fresh. Decent amount of meat. The flavor was good, although I found the steak a bit dry. Would I go back? Of course! And, most likely, at 2am. Good job with the drunks, Gemelos. You get a B+.

2. Mercado Marimar – Alright, now we’re getting serious. Mercado is a tiny Mexican grocery store located on South Park St., right before you get on the highway. However, inside this place is an even smaller cantina! The place appears unassuming from the outside, and there were a few people milling around in the market, mostly on their lunch break. We went up to order and were immediately greeted by a very nice woman, presumably the owner, who offered us a taste of the daily stew. It was fantastic, but that’s not what we were there for. We were going to have our tacos, dammit!

A really cool feature of this place is that they have an old, creaky tortilla machine that’s constantly grinding out fresh corn tortillas. I had a good feeling as they brought the food out (complete with free rice and beans!). These tacos were loaded to the brim with meat–I got the asada, pastor and campechano…again. They were all excellent. The asada was fantastic, perfectly marinated, and perfectly complimented by the cilantro and onions. The same can be said for the campechano. The pastor was very good, but I felt it was ever-so-slightly off. Overall, though? Excellent. A- for Mercado.

1. La Guanajuatence: Ah, our winner (so far). Where do I even start? We were tipped off to this place by the outstanding Taco Smog. Once we saw the review of this place, we decided that we simply had to go. Well, to put it succinctly: it exceeded our expectations in every way.

When we arrived, our waitress came up to take our order. We ordered a couple of Negra Modelos–a nice complementary beer for Mexican food, and well-priced at only $3 a bottle! The waitress brought out chips and gestured to the salsa bar, which was lined up with eight different salsas. Naturally, we got one of each, because we simply had to taste them all. These were probably the best tortilla chips I had ever eaten–warm, fresh, adequately greasy, insanely crunch, and absolutely delicious. I preferred the salsa fresca, but kept gravitating towards the giant vat of cilantro and onions sitting behind the salsa bar. It was just so. damn. good.

We each ordered a few tacos and a tamale, too. I got the pastor, suadero, and asada. Our waitress had trouble understanding our English…which I actually took as a very, very good sign. I ended up getting chicken instead of the asada, which I was fine with. Tacos are tacos are tacos, unless they aren’t. Yeah, deal with it.

One bite into these things and I knew I was in heaven. The tortillas were very fresh and clearly made right at the restaurant. The chicken was excellent–succulent, juicy, well-marinated. It was complemented perfectly by the poblano (not sure of the pepper) salsa, which was slightly spicy but had a wonderful, smoky flavor. The suadero (brisket) was tender and just fell apart as you ate it. But then…then…the pastor. The only word I can use to describe this taco is “orgasmic.” Yeah, Jews and pork, I know–but…my GOD. The pork was seasoned perfectly and mixed in with chunks of pineapple. It had a slight char on the skin that gave it a bit of a crunch. The only thing I needed to put on it was some fresh-squeezed lime. Other than that, this was simply the best taco I have ever eaten.

We have a lot of options in Madison, but when it comes to tacos, La Guanajuatence is the indisputable king. A+.


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