Tag Archives: review

REVIEW – Taqueria Lupitas

Tacos at Chevron! A true Christmas miracle. Que vista de milagros!

Taqueria Lupitas
500 S West Temple (southwest corner, at the Chevron gas station)
4 out of 5 stars
Tacos are $1 each

My Christmas gift came early this year.  One week before Christmas I got a voicemail from taco enthusiast Tyler.  He told me of a miracle I could not believe.  There are prophecies and tales of future events, but when it comes to tacos I take them very seriously.  They are sacred.  But Tyler knows that tacos are sacred so this could be no prank.  This was serious business.

He told me that there was a brand new taco stand right across the street from where he and I work.  What?  Really?  A taco stand visible from our office?  Seconds away?  If this were true, then a true Christmas miracle was about to unfold.

I hadn’t been in the office much due to Finals week so I decided to try the stand (if this miracle truly existed) the next time I was in the office.  This week as I walked into work I saw the glorious vista featured above.  A taco stand at the Chevron station.  You bet I heard angels singing.

Taqueria Lupitas has been open for two weeks now. It is named after the cuñada of the two owners.

I arrived at the taco stand the same time as two other women who work at the hotel near my work.  I knew I had to get an al pastor like I do at each taco stand.  And I can’t say no to barbacoa either.  Still, I wanted some expert opinions.  Were these women veterans of the 2-week-old Taqueria Lupitas stand? I slapped on my taco journalist hat… BECAUSE I WAS ABOUT TO FIND OUT!

I haven’t spoken Spanish in months, so my words tumbled out in a mess, but I was still able to find out that the women had been coming t0 the taco stand since its opening.  If I had one more taco to be allotted, they suggested I try the asada.  Not to be missed, they said.  They also laughed at my Spanish because I sound super gringo these days.

I walked up, ordered and set in on some intense taco journalism to find out how this Christmas miracle came to be.

As you can see, I was hungy and already took a bite of the asada. Also featured : al pastor and barbacoa.

I spoke to Antonio and his brother who are from Michoacán, Mexico.  They told me while cooking that the stand has been open for 2 weeks now.  When asked if they had any difficulty opening up a taco stand on the property of the gas station, they laughed and said that was the easy part.  In fact, the gas station is very glad to have them but getting the license from the city was not a fun process.  They told me that it went on for such a long time that they were losing hope that it was going to happen, but finally they got it and they are fully licensed by the city.  I should add that their stand is one of the cleanest I have seen in SLC.

I asked about the clientele they have since they are on a busy road (500 S) which is a main route to leave downtown SLC and jump onto I-15.  They told me that much of the business comes on foot, especially from my office building and from nearby hotels.  Still, they told me that they’ve laughed because there are other taco fanáticos who come rushing over.  In fact, they have many customers who have slammed on their brakes upon noticing the stand and screeched into the parking lot to snag a load of tacos for their commute home.  Business, they tell me, is going very well so far.

Antonio said he had to laugh when I ordered the barbacoa.  He said that their gringo customers can’t get enough of the barbacoa which is a sentiment not shared by their latino clientele.  Antonio mentions that he loves that the stand is well frequented by gringos and latinos alike.

A listing of the items offered at Taqueria Lupitas

As my tacos arrived, I was  nervous.  What if they weren’t good?  What good would a taco stand be across from my work building if they were not super bien rico?  Luckily, they were very delicious as were the salsas and fixins.  My new amigas were right to recommend the asada.  It was savory, juicy and my favorite of the bunch.  The barbacoa was good as well.  Not as good as other taco stands, but very tasty.  The al pastor was honestly nothing to write home about.  Not nearly enough flavor.  Not as spicy as what I was expecting. Maybe I caught them on a bad day and of course since I am so close I will definitely be trying it again.  I will keep you posted.

As I left, I told them how happy I was to have a taco stand so close to work.  In fact, I had to tell them, “En verdad, este carrito es mi regalito de Navidad.” (Truly, this taco stand is my Christmas present).  My new amigas burst into laughter as did Antonio and his brother working the grill.  They laughed, but they also new my sincerity.

As I left after we had a good laugh, Antonio asked me “Pues, nos vemos pronto?”

Yes, Antonio, I will be back very soon.

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REVIEW — Nick James and his homemade tacos

Chef : Nick James

Address : He lives in the Avenues of SLC, but there is no restaurant 😉

Phone : Shall not be listed

4 stars out of 5

A week or so ago I received an email from my good friend Nick that he wanted to make tacos for a group of friends so that they could be reviewed by a proper taco taco journalist such as myself :

I was stewing up some chicken thigh for tacos this morning, and it reminded me that I want to make you tacos sometime.

Included in the email was the incredible photo above that Nick had taken of his tacos.  Could I say no?  Of course I couldn’t.  We planned it out and on a magical Taco Tuesday Nick went to work and improvised on his latest taco recipes to create us some incredible chicken and pork tacos.

All week long I was anxious to try Nick’s tacos.  Nick is an extremely creative person and having mentioned to me that he had been continually changing and improving on his improvised taco recipes I was very curious to see what he would share with us.  Nick is a great artist (you can see his work at http://nickjam.es/) but until that night I had not had the opportunity to taste any of his cooking.

Nick has told me that his enjoyment and approach in cooking is very much like that in his artwork.  Once he is comfortable with a medium whether it be pencils or chipotle sauce he feel comfortable to experiment and lose himself in his creation and in cooking for example he feels no need to follow a recipe or make precise measurements.

I stalked around the kitchen behind Nick as he worked and explained to taco enthusiasts Dave, Ryan and myself about what he was doing and how much longer we would have to wait.  We circled him like hungry sharks until he told us to grab our plates and started throwing freshly warmed tortillas onto them.

Now that we were finally ready, I filmed Nick presenting them to us :

These tacos were amazing.  All 3 of our judges were impressed.  Here are their responses  :

My personal favorite was the pork taco recipe.  The flavor was complex and constantly changing from initial bite to its after taste.  The orange juice certainly helped to bring out the tenderness and develop a unique flavor.  The chicken tacos were delicious as well.  When I say that the pork was my favorite, it was like choosing between two children.  The chicken had just the right amount of picante-ness so that it was spicy but at the same time it was sweet like candy.

The morale of this story is that when Nick asks you if you’d like to try his tacos, you say YESSSSS!  If you don’t have this luxury, stay tunes because I will post the recipes later this week.

4 stars out of 5.

REVIEW – Tacos Don Martin (in Sugarhouse!!!)

Tacos Don Martin stands as a guard which watches over the glorious Sugarhole in Sugarhouse.

Tacos Don Martin stands as a guard which watches over the glorious Sugarhole in Sugarhouse.

Tacos Don Martin

Highland Drive and roughly 2150 South

(right in front of the Sugarhole in Sugarhouse; across the street from the library and Barnes and Noble)

3.5 out of 5 stars

801-414-6182

Slctacos.com is back.  I apologize for a bit of a lull in taco journalism, but since last year I was nearly robbed of my entire summer I decided to grab the summer of 2009 by the reigns to make sure I could enjoy it as much as possible.

But this post is not the true miracle I want to talk about this evening.  Tonight I want to talk about how dreams come true.  Some of you remember that I have lamented the fact that while in the past there was a pre-SUGARHOLE taco stand in Sugarhouse.  I actually scribbled this on the top of my Christmas list to Santa :

“a taco stand in sugarhood”

Christmas has come early for this young man because now there street tacos which are walking distance from his home!  What else could you want?  You wanted a burrito?  Tacos Don Martin has you covered.  Oh, you want a vampiro?  Tacos Don Martin has those too!  Excuse me, you wanted a full plate of asada? Done.  Tacos Don Martin is back.  It may very well be the driving force which revitalizes the heart of Sugarhouse.

 

The SUGARHOLE in March, 2009.  Notice the lack of buildings, but more importantly notice the lack of TACOS!!!

The SUGARHOLE in March, 2009. Notice the lack of buildings, but more importantly notice the lack of TACOS!!!

Years from now, our children will be sitting in class and learning about history.  They will learn about the settlers of the Salt Lake valley and they will learn about how Obama made good on his promise in 2011 for every child to have his own jetpack.

Even more importantly, they will learn about the magnificent return of street tacos to Sugarhouse.  They will read about the events leading up to this : Wallstreet greed, credit shortages, recession, and finally SUGARHOLE.  Finally they will read about the singular event which changed Sugarhouse as we know it and ultimately ended the Recession in the United States.  This event is the return of tacos with the opening of Tacos Don Martin.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  You are a taco enthusiast and you want to know more about the tacos.  Taco Enthusiast Dr. Wilkin was the same way when I called him up a few weeks back.  He was chomping at the bit to try out the tacos at this new stand, so we decided to make a date of it.  Dr. Wilkin is a medical doctor and the only thing he loves more than saving lives is eating tacos.  Dr. Wilkin leads a fast-paced life of medical breakthroughs sprinkled with miraculous events of saving the lives of orphans.  Since his time is precious, I was sure to be on time when I walked down the street to his home for our taco adventure.

 

FILE PHOTO : Dr Wilkin on another taco.  He works hard, but he plays even harder.

FILE PHOTO : Dr Wilkin on another taco adventure. He works hard, but he plays even harder.

We arrived at the taco stand on a beautiful summer evening as the sun was setting over the rugged shores of the Sugarhole.  We looked over the menu for a bit and decided to get down to business.  Here are a few items on the menu and their prices.  This is definitely one of the cheaper places to dine in Sugarhouse :

Tacos – $1

Vampiros – $1.50

Plato de Asada – $6

For those curious of what styles of tacos served here, the list is as follows :

Asada, Al Pastor, Carnitas, Pollo, Cabeza, Buche, Barbacoa, Chicharron, Birria, Lengua, Tripa

 

Dr Wilkin unwinds at the taco stand while other taco goers try to jump into the frame amidst serious taco journalism

Dr Wilkin unwinds at the taco stand while other taco goers try to jump into the frame amidst serious taco journalism

Our tacos were good.  For some reason I didn’t take any photos.  Maybe I was starving.  Maybe I was giddy that there was a taco stand in Sugarhouse.  Maybe I was laughing with a fellow taco customer next to me and the stand owner  when some other “gringo” walked away with paying.

At any rate, I enjoyed the Carnitas and the Barbacoa most.  The Al Pastor was also tasty and I will definitely order it again as I continue to revel in street food in Sugarhood.

Tonight I stopped by the stand and had a quick Barbacoa taco while I asked the stand owner how business was going.  She said that it is up and down.  Some good days and some very slow days.  I was surprised when she told me that her busiest time of the day is at lunch.  I would have assumed more people at night since I often see quite a few standing around when I drive down Highland.  If you want to make an order to go, or have them cater a party, you can call the number above and they can set you up with some delicious treats.

Reading the lettering on the stand at Don Martin, you wonder to yourself if they can live up to the claim of serving up street delights “a la altura de su buen gusto“.  In this humble reporter’s opinion, I believe that they do make delicious tacos at the height of your great taste.  Sugarhouse is back on the map!

-burgersmoke

REVIEW – Diego’s (Provo)

Taco enthousiast Jason stands in front of Diegos Taco Shop in Provo at the outset of our Taco Showdown

Taco enthousiast Jason stands in front of Diego's Taco Shop in Provo at the outset of our Taco Showdown

Diego’s Taco Shop
45 W 300 N
Provo, UT
(801) 377-4710

3 out of 5 stars

OK, so I started hearing about this place out of nowhere.  First, I read about an ex-Provo singer\songwriter writing ballads centered around a love for this restaurant.  Then I read in the annual “Best Of Utah 2009” in the City Weekly issue that this restaurant had earned their award for “BEST MEXICAN [RESTAURANT] IN PROVO”.  Let me share briefly what they had to say :

We suspect the real reason Utah County earned its Happy Valley nickname has something to do with the region’s bountiful supply of top-notch restaurants—especially Diego’s. The modest-sized Mexican eatery is home to some of the best tacos anywhere in the state. Really, everything on the menu is a hit, from Al Pastor and Carnitas to quesadillas and burritos all topped with a fiery green avocado salsa.

With a recommendation like this, I had to try it to I sounded the taco alarm to assemble a Taco Showdown and several of my favorite taco enthousiast amigos jumped in Taco Force 1 and Taco Force 2 and set a course for Provo.

In this photo, taco enthousiast Jason is visibly amped to try the tacos while taco enthousiast Dave is slightly more reserved.

In this photo, taco enthousiast Jason is visibly "amped" to try the tacos while taco enthousiast Dave is slightly more "reserved".

Upon arrival at Diego’s Taco Shop, I laied everything out on the table.  I told the woman behind that counter that we were taco journalists who had traveled from Salt Lake City after hearing legendary reports about their tacos.  For some strange reason she didn’t take us very seriously. Perhaps it was because we were not carrying our taco journalist credentials or since we don’t dress like your typical run-of-the-mill taco journalists?  At any rate, I ordered an Al Pastor and a Carnitas and sat down outside to prepare myself for what I was hoping to be an experience that might remove some of the unpleasant taste of Provo, Utah.

We waited outside for a bit and briefly considered getting tattoos at the tattoo shop next door.  I, like yourself Dear Reader, was also surprised to see such a thing in Provo.

Jason holds my tacos to be photographed in optimal lighting conditions as the sun sets

Jason holds my tacos to be photographed in optimal lighting conditions as the sun sets

Finally, our tacos arrived and I started testing out the Al Pastor.  I was immediately underwhelmed.  Normally I like an Al Pastor full of flavor unique to the marinade recipe of the taco preparer.  Instead, I was met with a taco which was not unappetizing but did not stack up the explosion of flavor which I typically expect from an Al Pastor.  My fellow taco journalists looked to get an early idea of my review by the look on my face.  Instead, I continued eating quietly and started work on the Carnitas taco.  This taco was better but once again I could no longer hide my expression showing that I was a little bit disappointed.  Had the shop not been hyped by musicians and other journalists, I would have been able to enjoy these a bit more.  But given the hype, it was almost crushing that these tacos were to be filled under “middle of the road”.  It was even more crushing that the road we found ourselves on was in the middle of Provo.

Taco enthousiast Ryan (blackground, black shirt) is seen contemplating the menu while the rest of the crew prepares to order

Taco enthousiast Ryan (blackground, black shirt) is seen contemplating the menu while the rest of the crew prepares to order

But don’t despair.  The Taco Showdown doesn’t end here.  We also visited another location in Provo.  A location which is clearly a favorite by many slctacos.com fans given the number of comments we have received about its Provo location alone.  Read on and follow us on the dramatic conclusion of this taco adventure.

Its clear that taco enthousiast Amanda is not going to let Provo get her down and she happily poses as we leave Diegos in search of better tacos.

It's clear that taco enthousiast Amanda is not going to let Provo get her down and she happily poses as we leave Diego's in search of better tacos.

Taco enthousiast Ryan takes a large bite as taco enthousiast Quinn wonders if anyone around recognizes us as taco journalists \ rockstars.

Taco enthousiast Ryan takes a large bite as taco enthousiast Quinn wonders if any of the Provo locals recognize us as rockstar taco journalists.

REVIEW – El Habanero

Noyen stands in the fairly full parking lot of El Habanero as we make our entrance

Noyen stands in the fairly full parking lot of El Habanero as we make our entrance

El Habanero

3500 S 8146 W

3 stars out of 5

There is so much good Mexican food around Salt Lake that we cannot be everywhere at once.  This is where you come in.  I recently received word from a fellow taco enthousiast named Collette that we needed to try a restaurant which serves great Cochinita Pibil.  As I am a fan of Cochinita Pibil (click here if you didn’t read the bit I wrote about it), I had to try it out.  So Noyen and I jumped in the car.  And we headed west.  We continued heading west.  And then we headed west a bit more. We saw many amazing things, but I will leave that to Noyen.

We snapped this photo to illustrate how far west we went.  8164.  WEST!!!  I think in the phonebook its probably listed as DEEP MAGNA.  I didnt know it was possible to go that far west without crossing state lines.

We snapped this photo to illustrate how far west we went. 8164. WEST!!! I think in the phonebook it's probably listed as DEEP MAGNA. I didn't know it was possible to go that far west without crossing state lines.

Finally as we thought we were going to start ascending the mountains which make up the western rim of of the Salt Lake Valley, we arrived at El Habanero to find a packed parking lot.  This apparently is a very popular Mexican joint.  So popular that we noticed it had been applauded by Hollywood celebrities.  But we will get to that in due time.

As we were told that the Cochinita Pibil was the thing to try here, we asked the waitress if this is what she would recommend and she acquiesced that it was their best item on the menu.  Noyen and I both ordered that and checked the place out.  The interior is bright and colorful.  The walls have been refinished so that they almost look like adobe.  The interior might even be higher quality than The Mayan or Denver’s original Casa Bonita.  OK, so it’s not up to that high calibre, but we did enjoy and appreciate it.

My Cochinita Pibil.  I used more tortillas than the 3 depicted here.

My Cochinita Pibil. I used more tortillas than the 3 depicted here.

The horchata was delicious, although it was probably from a simple mix.  The chips were delicious and hot and the salsa was pretty good.  Finally we both got our Cochinita Pibil and dove right in.  The meat was extremely tender and melted in your mouth.  This is usually the case with pibil, but to get this result does require some acidic citrus.  The citrus flavor was much stronger than other pibils that I am used to.  So much so that it was hard to eat with a fork on its own.  I had to eat it in tortillas and beans to help balance it out.  The taste was great, but the citrus was just too strong.  The rice and beans were standard fare.  I would say they compare to a typical restaurant like Chubby’s or La Hacienda.

So while my Pibil was good, it was not as good as others I have had before.  I would say that the pibil at Red Iguana is far and away more enjoyable.  I even think that the Rico’s Cochinita Pibil that you can find in your local supermarket might be a better option but I haven’t had one of those in a long time.  I’ll have to snag one again soon to compare.  So on the whole, the food at El Habanero was average.  Middle of the road.  However, what we didn’t expect to see were signed photos of celebrities who love El Habanero which included :

  • Danny Glover
  • SheDaisy
  • Local girl’s swimming team
  • A creepy looking Santa (watch for it)
A photo and signing expressing Mr. Danny Glovers enthousiasm for El Habanero

A photo and signing expressing Mr. Danny Glover's enthousiasm for El Habanero

I would like to try El Habanero again, but I should try something besides the Pibil.  Do you have any thoughts or comments on this restaurant?  Something I should try next time?

In parting, I leave you with a few scenes from the career of Mr. Glover.  First is the unforgettable moment of Danny sharing his first taco with the Predator.  Thansk to taco enthousiast Collette for this one :

Tacos.  Friend.  Intergalactic borders are melted.

Tacos. Friends. Intergalactic borders are melted.

And here is a wonderful re-enactment of the scene in Lethal Weapon where Mr. Glover hands his hilarious aussie sidekick a taco.  Big thanks to OVENMIT for providing this photo.

Here!  I made you this taco!  Lets make 7 more tacos.  One for each movie!

"" ..riggs, im getting too old for these grande chorizo breakfast burritos!"

REVIEW – El Jaripeo Restaurant

El Jaripeo Restaurant

El Jaripeo Restaurant

El Jaripeo Restaurant

1259 South Redwood Road

3.5 stars out of 5

Prepare yourself for a jaripeo (rodeo) of delicious specialties from Mexico.  What you find at El Jaripeo is different from most other Mexican restaurants around Salt Lake City.  First, you need to realize that the standard fare you might be tempted to order from other joints is probably not going to be the specialty of the house.  Printed in cool new green text on the front is Comida Oaxaqueña. So after a bit of spanish spelling gymnastics, it’s certain that the specialties of the house come from the city and state of Oaxaca,  a beautiful part of Mexico with its own special brand of cuisine unlike the rest of Mexico.

In the many years I have been enjoying Mexican food in this building, there have been several murals of a woman making tortillas.  This is the one that is currently standing.

In the many years I have been enjoying Mexican food in this building, there have been several murals of a woman making tortillas on this very wall. This is the one that is currently standing.

El Jaripeo’s building is one with a history of Mexican restaurants.  Most recently it was called Guelaguetza which was also a restaurant which served up Oaxacan delicacies.  While many of the menu items have remained the same, some of them have changed.  When I asked, I was also told that the owners are completely new but they are also from Oaxaca and I was told that the same menu items which I had previously tried at Guelaguetza would taste differently now given the difference in recipes.  Given the difference in recipes, Noyen and I asked for recommendations of their best items.  I ordered the Empanadas with mole amarillo and Noyen got the Burrito Zapoteco with grilled cactus leaves.

My Empanada de mole amarillo

My Empanada de mole amarillo

Before I talk about how my empanada was, it’s important to talk about a few of the items that you can get here.  First of all, the horchata (here’s a picture of Noyen’s) is homemade with nuts and melons mixed in.  It’s a delicious treat and a nice change from the horchata from most restaurants and comes from a fountain.  On the topic of drinks, you can also get Champurrado here.  This drink is not for everybody as it’s very thick drink typically mixed with hominy flour.  I usually don’t like thick drinks like this one (it’s practically a meal) but after being dared to drink it by my students at the Guadalupe School, I have developed a taste for it.  Also for the adventurous types you can actually order chapulines here (grasshoppers are a delicacy and popular in Oaxaca).  Another dish I have tried before is the Nopal Zapateco which is a dish of grilled cactus, which I and some co-workers have found to be delicious.

Now Oaxaca is known as the “land of seven moles” and there are several to choose from at El Jaripeo.  After asking our waiter, I decided on trying the empanada with mole amarillo.  Most mole amarillos I have tried have been very hot and flavorful but this one was not very hot at all.  The flavor was good, but not overpowering.  Still, I would have liked a bit more interesting flavor in my mole.  Noyen’s mole negro on his burrito was delicious.  I would say that while it is not as good as Red Iguana, it’s a close second.  The homemade tortillas were delicious.  Very warm and a nice amount of toasting to them.  Also on sale at the restaurant are tortillas and “pasta de mole negro” so you can take some stuff home and have your own little festival de moles at home.

Here is a mural which is still around from the previous restaurant.  Guelaguetza is an annual celebration in the city of Oaxaca.

Here is a mural which is still around from the previous restaurant. Guelaguetza is an annual celebration in the city of Oaxaca.

The service was excellent and much improved over the slow and sometimes frustrating service we had previously grown accustomed to with Guelaguetza.  Our waiter was very polite and made great recommendations.  He’s also a fan of metal which I personally appreciate.  After reading about the previous incarnation of El Jaripeo (3500 S) on another blog, I read about a waiter who liked Slayer shirts.  So I asked him if he was the guy at the other location who liked Slayer. He said that it could easily been him and he lifted up his shirt to reveal a pretty damn cool Slayer shirt underneath.  So you will be in good hands.

Overall, the food was not as great as I have tasted in other restaurants and could be less dry and more flavorful.  However, there are not many other restaurants in town which serve up some of these delicacies from Oaxaca so I would definitely recommend it.  Make sure to leave comments if you do try it out and let us know what you think.

More reviews to come next week…