Tag Archives: reviews

Ugly Magazine launch and new reviews on the way!

Hola, fellow taco enthusiasts.  It’s been a long time since we have written reviews here at SLCTacos but that it about to change.  There are some new projects in the works and we just regained our founder noyen since he has returned to Salt Lake.

Speaking of new projects, you will soon be seeing some of these reviews and possibly others in Salt Lake’s new Ugly Magazine.  It launches tomorrow on Friday, April 13th and tickets for the opening are still available so get them here.

Watch this space and watch Ugly Magazine’s site for new reviews showing up in the next 72 hours.

Meanwhile, I’ll see you at the taco stands!

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Nick James Taco Recipes — WORLD PREMIERE

Hi everyone.

As promised I have posted Nick’s recipes for his tacos recently reviewed on this site.  I posted them late, but they are here nonetheless :

Pork Taco Recipe

Chicken Taco Recipe

Pico de Gallo, Guacamole and Chipotle Mayo Recipes

TACO SHOWDOWN — PROVO ATTACK!!!!

Are you ready for this?  Are you ready for another taco showdown?  Are you ready for animated GIFs of splosions?

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Maybe you said yes to the questions above, but I hope you are firmly seated in your Internet chair for the next one….  Are you ready for PROVO?  That’s right, the next episode of TACO SHOWDOWN is in Provo, UT.  I know, I know…  The website is technically named http://www.slctacos.com, but several enthoustiasts have written in about great tacos in Utah County.  So I gathered some friends and we decided to take a drive to try these tacos.  And remember what Provo feels like.

Let’s get this Provo edition of Taco Showdown started…

Scroll down and read the reviews below, or click on the links below…

Diego’s Taco Shop

vs.

Chunga’s (Provo location)

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REVIEW – Chunga’s (Provo)

Taco enthousiast Jason checks out the Chungas official vehicle as a woman prepares her daughter for stroller travel

Taco enthousiast Jason checks out the Chunga's official vehicle as a mother prepares her child for stroller travel

Chunga’s (Provo)
664 N. Freedom Blvd.
Provo, UT
(801) 607-1570

5 out of 5 stars

In 2008 I first ate at a little restaurant called Chunga’s in Salt Lake.  That night I met the owner Gilberto who is an incredibly nice gentleman.  We ate and laughed.  I even cut a cake with them that evening and found a plastic Jesus inside.  That night Gilberto told me that he hoped I enjoyed the food since he was already planning to open a second location in Provo.

I fell in love that night with the delicious array of tacos and other offerings that Gilberto and his crew were serving up and I vowed that night to travel all the way to Provo (not a small feat for those less brave) to visit his location there to ensure the same level of quality and write a review of the location.

Let me just skip ahead and tell you that the tacos you get at this Provo location are the same delicious tacos we have come to know and love from the Salt Lake location.

I arrived at the restaurant with my taco enthousiast amigos as part of the second and final round of a Taco Showdown of taco restaurants in Provo.  The first round was not bad, but failed to live up the taco hype we had traveled for.  My amigos seemed a bit nervous.  Were we about to end this taco adventure on a high note?  I could tell from their demeanor that they were not sure how this was all going to turn out.  However none of the taco enthousiasts in our crew had eaten at either Chunga’s location below.

Taco enthousiast Quinn points for all viewing to check out his nopal (cactus) taco he is about to enjoy

Taco enthousiast Quinn points for all viewing to check out his nopal (cactus) taco he is about to enjoy

Once again I ordered an Al Pastor and a Carnitas burrito to hold the variety of tacos constant to compare to the other round of the Taco Showdown.  Meanwhile my fellow taco enthousiasts ordered a full battery of tacos ranging from the lengua (tongue) to the Al Pastor to the nopal (cactus).  We sat down and sipped on our delicious fruit aguas and watched Mexican soap operas on the TV as we waited for our tacos to arrive.

Jason starts counting how many tacos he intends to devour

Jason starts counting how many tacos he intends to devour

I sat back and watched my compatriots as they took their first bite of the Al Pastor.  I sat back and watched them taking their first bites of an experience which reminded me of first bites of a true Al Pastor I had on the streets of Mexico city.  One by one they started smiling and it was clearly agreed that this taco adventure was a complete success.  Our trip to Provo, although treacherous, had not been in vain.  It was immediately decided that there was no contest as to the winner of this particular Taco Showdown as it was evident that Chunga’s was the winner.

We tried a few of the different tacos available at Chunga’s.  The nopal was another crowd favorite and taco enthousiast Quinn and Jason ordered a few more at the counter to prolong our taco experience as long as their stomachs would allow.  Although he is probably not ready for the famous 27 Taco Challenge at Chunga’s which was attempted by taco enthousiast Seth, Jason was the winner of the most tacos eaten trophy.  I can’t remember how many he ate in total, but I certainly do remember being impressed.

Taco enthousiast Jason cools his tongue with a cucumber after eating a large number of tacos

Taco enthousiast Jason cools his tongue with a cucumber after eating a large number of tacos

As we left the restaurant, we were presented coupons for a free taco.  We had not mentioned that we were taco journalists, but still we were treated and fed like kings that night.  The great folks at Chunga’s are always warm an inviting — no matter whether you are a taco journalist or not.

So the next time you are in Provo dropping off a family member at the MTC, stop by Chunga’s.  Treat yourself to a taste of real Mexico City.  It’s a lot like Provo… Just with a few more people…

While visibly displaying his own internal critical analysis, taco enthousiast Dave decides that the tacos exceed his expectations.

While visibly displaying his own internal critical analysis, taco enthousiast Dave decides that the tacos exceed his expectations.

REVIEW – Liberty Park Tacos

Taco Stand in Liberty Park as the sun sets on a beautiful spring day.

Taco Stand in Liberty Park as the sun sets on a beautiful spring day.

Liberty Park Tacos

900 S and 700 E (this is just the closest intersection near the park, but it’s easy to find)

4 out of 5 stars

It’s been over two months now that I have been hearing reports of a taco stand in Liberty Park.  I saw it once and I got excited.  I love to go running there and I can’t think of a better idea than devouring a taco on each lap around the park.  I saw a stand at the location mentioned once.  I almost pulled over, but I didn’t have time that afternoon in January.  For weeks as I drove home to sugarhood, I craned my neck to the west side of 700 East hoping that I would see the now mythical taco stand.  For weeks my hopes were smashed like watermelons dropped from great heights.

I even tried to visit this stand with Rob Tennant from the City Weekly while he was writing about taco stands.  I told him I was pretty sure that the stand would be there.  There even was a whiteboard reading “TACOS” with an arrow leading into the park.  But no taco stand.  I felt embarrassed that I dragged another taco journalist on a dead-end taco adventure.

On a previous adventure, Noyen points to the mythical location of the taco stand.  But this time it was not there.

On a previous adventure, Noyen points to the mythical location of the taco stand. But this time it was not there.

Then Noyen and I went there, sure to find a taco cart at our destination.  But there was nothing there.  We even interviewed a City Parks employee who had seen the cart in weeks gone by but had no credible leads as to where to find the taco stand.  Things were starting to look dismal.  I tried my best to console Noyen but it was difficult when I was distraught myself.

Fast forward to March 18, 2009.   A beautiful spring day. I peeked over again while heading down 700 E expecting to see nothing.  Instead I saw a taco stand with people around it and smoke coming off of the grill.  I instantly called taco enthousiast Carmen and told her that it was time to make a trip to the park.

Taco enthousiast Carmen enjoying a delicious Carne Asada taco as the sun sets.

Taco enthousiast Carmen enjoying a delicious Carne Asada taco as the sun sets.

As we approached the taco stand we were instantly greeted by taco stand owner Ernie (Ernesto).  I immediately yelled out “Ay, por fin!  Ya hace ocho semanas que intento de encontrar este carrito en este lugar, y por fin estan!“, which translates roughly to “good lord I have been looking for this taco stand for a long time”.

Ernie laughed and explained to me that there was a senora who was running the stand in the same location for a bit of time in January but she didn’t have enough time to run it.  This is when Ernie stepped in and purchased the taco cart from the senora. Ernie explained that he has only been running the cart for the last week, but so far business has been good.

At this moment I remembered that I had been conversing en espanol and so I started translating for taco enthousiast Carmen.  Immediately after I translated the conversation, Ernie asked us in perfect English what we wanted.  We ordered a starting round of 7 tacos (al pastor, lengua, pollo, and asada).

As he made tacos, I asked Ernie where he was from and he started telling us stories of his home town of Guanajuato.  I told him that although I had never been to the city I looked forward to visiting it someday.  He told us about the mummies in Guanajuato. He told us about the tight and winding streets of the colonial city.   In particular there is a street (alleyway) in Guanajuato which is extremely narrow and is named El Callejón del Beso.  Legend has it that the street was so narrow that a man and woman fell in love as they lived in second story rooms which faced each other above this alley.  The alley was so narrow that they were able to kiss each other from their windows.  To read more about the story, click here.

Soon our tacos were ready and we wasted no time tearing through our round 1 of 7 tacos, so we ordered 4 more.

Carmen had nearly eaten the entire first round of tacos within 30 seconds.

Carmen had nearly eaten the entire first round of tacos within 30 seconds.

It was hard to stop eating since the prices at the stand are pretty good, and this is another of the best stands that Salt Lake has to offer.  Of the tacos we tried, I enjoyed the lengua most.  The meat was good quality and I think Carmen also enjoyed one without knowing what she was eating.  The al pastor was also very delicious.  This is another example of a better pastor than I’ve ever had around the Sears Corner area.

Price listing for the taco stand

Price listing for the taco stand

I submit that there is not a better backdrop for a street taco than in Liberty Park.  It’s a nice change to be able to sit on a park bench and enjoy a no-effort taco picnic while park goers pass by.  I think that we need to somehow build up a taco challenge which consists of doing laps and eating tacos.  Is anyone up to trying to eat one taco each lap while running laps around the park?  27 laps = 27 tacos.  Seth?  Are you up to it?  I’m sure it would have to be easier than this challenge.  Wouldn’t each taco be converted into pure energy by the time you come around again?  I’m no doctor but I’d be willing to bet that this is the case.

So go say hi to Ernie.  He’s an incredibly nice guy.  He says that now that he has been open for a week, he will try to be open from around noon until 8:30pm or as long as there is demand at night.  Also check out his store La Perla Market on 567 E 600 S.  They offer fresh meats and vegetables which almost certainly the product used at the taco stand.

It’s possible you’ll see me too.  I told Ernie that he and I were destined to become amigos since now I have a taco cart on my biking\automobiling route to and from work.

REVIEW – Bit & Spur Restaurant

Great restaurant with an incredible view.  Id love to go back when its warmer and eat outdoors.

Great restaurant with an incredible view. I'd love to go back when it's warmer and eat outdoors.

Bit And Spur

Restaurant

1212 Zion Park Boulevard

Springdale, UT (just outside Zion’s national park)

http://www.bitandspur.com/

4 out of 5 stars

Last weekend I broke away from Salt Lake and cruised down to Southern Utah for two things :

1 – Zion’s National Park… or more importantly for the Angel’s Landing hike

2 – Hunting for ghost towns

I wasn’t particularly searching out great food down there but I did come across recommendations for a place which serves inventive, if not authentic, Mexican food.  This place is called the Bit and Spur.  I learned that not only did this place have a reputation for good food, it has a long musical tradition as well.  Taco enthousiast Jon Bray tells me that many bands have been known to play the Bit & Spur as they travel through Utah.  With a history of over 20 years, there have been many musical acts which have played there including Jon’s band which played there in 1991.  I looked around and found that several artists I knew and loved had played there.  Check out the picture below and see if you recognize the gentlemen.

Yup, thats Jon Avila from Oingo Boingo and frequent visitor Nels Cline of Wilco fame.

Yup, that's Jon Avila from Oingo Boingo and frequent visitor Nels Cline of Wilco fame. Just playing some playing some music at the Bit & Spur. How is it that I have never heard Nels Cline play while eating a taco? Who is to blame here?

I was pleased to find that this place was located right across the street from my hotel so I was able to stroll across Highway 9 to have a little bite to eat.  The interior is great, but most impressive is the lighting of the place.  It’s fairly dark inside which I like but each table has some fantastic lighting over each place setting.  This provided perfect lighting for a taco journalist like myself who did not bring a flash.  I hunkered down and after looking over the menu, I decided to check out the Bit and Spur tamales.

A happy little sweet potato and pork tamale.  Looking up at me.

A happy little sweet potato and pork tamale. Waiting to get eated.

Let me paste down the description of these delicious (and filling) tamales :

Bit and Spur Tamales
Two sweet potato tamales with pork carnitas or sauteed mushrooms, roasted tomatillo salsa, queso fresco, black beans, and salad

Again, this is not an authentic Mexican joint but I love inventive recipes like this one and I was not disappointed.  The queso fresco was lightly browned over the entire tamal and the pork was savory so it was a welcome match against the sweet potatoes underneath.  Each bite was a little bit of greatness.  It was a bit like being a king.  A tamale king.  Plus, with the lighting being low, no one could see me stuffing my tamale-hole.

While I was full from these tamales and the polenta appetizer, I could not resist the dessert which was about to destroy me…

This is a cheesecake cream between crispy wafers.  Topped with blueberries.  Befriended by the god of fertility in powdered chocolate dust.

This is a cheesecake cream between crispy wafers. Topped with blueberries. Befriended by the god of fertility in powdered chocolate dust.

Needless to say, this meal resulted in a serious food coma.  It’s a good thing I did the Angel’s Landing hike before all of this or else I would have never made it beyond Mile 1.

This place is great.  It’s not worth a trip of its own but if you’re around Zion’s I think it’s worth a little trip.  And check the event calendar.  You never know who might be making a musical appearance at this place.

Finally I leave you with a picture of why I love Utah.  I cannot help but be overwhelmed by vistas like this one.  Fingers crossed that I can enjoy more of it this summer.  Arriba Utah!

Scenic views around Springdale, UT.  Near Zions National Park.

Scenic views around Springdale, UT. Near Zion's National Park.

REVIEW – Tacos El Ranchero

Standing outside Taco El Ranchero.  A North Temple institution

Standing outside Taco El Ranchero. A North Temple institution

Tacos El Ranchero

Taco Stand

900 W North Temple (parking lot of Century Cleaners)

4 out of 5 stars

For many years I worked at a place of business near the SLC airport and during this time I learned about the available food options round abouts.  The first location was in the Salt Lake International Center.  There’s a gas station there with potato logs and there’s also a “food” court there called the Admiral’s Galley which offers a man nothing but a serious case of the ol’ galley stomach.  Want to know what that is?  Ask a pirate.

The other location I grew to love was North Temple.  Co-workers and I tried places up and down North Temple when one day we noticed there was a taco stand buried behind a crowd of cars, vans and fellow taco enthousiasts.  This stand is Tacos El Ranchero.

Noyens tacos from Tacos El Ranchero.  I cant even remember what he ordered.

Noyen's tacos from Tacos El Ranchero. I can't even remember what he ordered. Today I have failed you as a taco journalist. Maybe Noyen remembers?

I recently spoke to the good hombre named Martin who owns the stand.  Martin is from the town of Chihuahua and told me that Tacos El Ranchero has served taco lovers at this location for over 4 years.   The stand currently resides in the parking lot of Century Cleaners but Martin tells me while the cart itself has only been at this location for 4 years, it has already seen 10 years of active service.  So this taco cart is a veteran.  Possibly even a general.

I give this general a ranking of 4 well earned stars to add to its decorated career.  Let me show you the delicious tacos I enjoyed there :

Clockwise from the top : Al Pastor, Barbacoa, Carnitas, Lengua

Clockwise from the top : Al Pastor, Barbacoa, Carnitas, Lengua

I’ve been to this taco stand a couple times in the last 3 weeks.  I went once with Rob Tennant whilst helping with an article about taco stands for City Weekly.  Then I came back with Noyen since we hadn’t been to this place in a long time (we worked together at our place of work near the airport).  On the first visit with Rob I tried the barbacoa and fell in love.  This is one of the best barbacoa tacos I have tried at a stand in SLC.  Delicious stuff and very tender.  I don’t often order this one, but I had to try it again a second time and it was worth the repeat.

The Al Pastor was also delicious.  It’s certainly not as sweet as the Al Pastor you get a few blocks away at Chunga’s, but that might be a plus for some taco readers and I do believe this is the best Al Pastor I’ve had at an outdoor stand in the last year.  I’m looking forward to having another one of these.  Finally, the carnitas were a savory delight and the lengua was tender, but neither was as great as the Barbacoa or Al Pastor.

Vans (left), Tacos El Ranchero (middle), church (right)

Vans (left), Tacos El Ranchero (middle), church (right)

So go hop down to North Temple and say hello to Martin and his smiling helpers.  On these trips I only had room for tacos, but I have to recommend their tortas as well.  I used to have their tortas back in the day when I worked closer to this area.  So go have a taco and a torta.  While you’re at it, feel free to drop off your dry cleaning at Century Cleaners.