There is more to a taco than what the best-known fast food chain with the bell on the marquee serves by the millions every year. Tacos are the ultimate in Mexican street food – the south-of-the-border answer to the burger and the hot dog. But just like those classic American favorites, there are tacos and then there are TACOS. Connecticut has many Mexican restaurants that make truly authentic tacos and in varieties most people have never experienced or even knew existed.
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Four Burritos Diner
340 Main St.
West Haven, CT 06516
The name on the door may say Four Burritos but it should be Four Tacos – or even more accurately, 14 tacos, because this diner serves that many varieties and combinations. Four Burritos offers tongue, chorizo sausage, pork, spicy pork, lamb and salted beef – as well as combinations or the regular beef and chicken offerings. There are also shrimp tacos and a tongue and barbacoa, a slow-cooked and very tender meat that serves as a wonderful bed for the chewier tongue. Combo platters of three tacos can be enjoyed for $6, although the tongue and barbacoa and tacos camerones (shrimp) are more ($7.50 and $9.35).
1660 Park Ave.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Every place that makes tacos makes the basic trio of beef, chicken or beans or some combination thereof, but La Poblanita makes that special variation know as Taco Pastor, the king or at least queen of taco royalty. Tacos al Pastor (which means tacos shepherd style) is made from pork marinated in chiles and pineapples. The fruit adds a nice sweet touch but also contains an enzyme which breaks down and tenderizes the meat. This lovely little home of Mexican comfort food in Bridgeport also makes Taco Cesina – which has salted beef instead of the ground meat found in the typical beef taco – which it makes as well. These tacos are tasty, filling and comforting, and a trio can be had for $6.
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Milford Pizza And Mexican Food
548 Naugatuck Ave.
Milford, CT 06460
Just how good can the tacos be at a restaurant that in addition to making Mexican food also has a Greek, Italian, pizza and traditional American menu? Surprisingly good if it’s a taco from the Milford Pizza and Mexican Food restaurant on Naugatuck Avenue. With menus that would shame a diner or an entire food court, Milford Pizza and Mexican Food offers not just basic tacos, but also the larger range of sausage, salted beef, spicy and regular pork, beef tongue and barbacoa (slow-cooked meat) that more tightly focused Mexican establishments present. A trio of tacos can be had for $6 or $7.50 if they are of the tongue or barbacoa variety.
109 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Twenty-six years ago, about the only place to get a taco in Danbury was a well-known chain restaurant, and what it served was nothing like what Barbara Nevins was used to ordering when she lived in New Mexico. In 1987, Ms. Nevins decided that if she wanted good tacos, she would have to make them herself – and thus was born the Southwest Café. Her staff prepares what one devoted regular calls the “Patron” of tacos – and that includes not just the traditional beef or chicken variety, but also (and especially) the vegetarian taco – which is no mere bean-salsa-cheese filled chip but more akin to a vegetarian fajita that can be eaten by hand. The Tacos del Mar is also no simple “fish taco” – it is a seafood explosion worth every peso of the $13 luncheon entrée.
850 S. Colony Road
Wallingford, CT 06492
At $1.25 per taco, Pedro Roman’s simple, classic version of this Mexico City street food is more than a bargain – it is a steal! Mr. Roman is proud to offer his customers “genuine comfort food at the most affordable prices” as he is famous for saying so often that his staff convinced him to make it the restaurant’s official motto. For nearly 28 years, his little taqueria has been a fixture and a favorite in Wallingford, where residents know that seven days a week they can call up and order take out and it will be made fresh and ready for them in the 10 minutes Mr. Roman promises.
Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.