Anyone that knows me knows I love to eat tacos. My obsession with the Mexican street food has led my friends and family to give me some inspired gifts such as a taco pin for my jean jacket, a greeting card with the phrase “Head says gym, heart says tacos,” which I’ve framed and hung up in my house, and even a tortilla maker I have yet to use.
Sure, I grew up eating the ground beef hard-shelled versions that my mom used to make, and we’d occasionally stop at Taco Bell’s drive-thru, but I can’t recall my first real taco.
I’ve evolved from a picky eater who would only order mozzarella sticks at a restaurant to a bonafide foodie. Tacos helped me expand my view of what food could and should be: fun, adventurous and delicious. It made me appreciate how humble ingredients such as tomatoes and onions can be transformed into a must-taste experience when paired with barbacoa, al pastor or carne asade.
Learning more about how these authentic Mexican versions are created — many start with time-honored family recipes that have been passed down through generations — is part of the fun. Just look at spots like La Plaza Supermarket and La Casita Taqueria (just to name a few) where each owner emigrated from Mexico and saw an opportunity to bring the food of their culture here.
And it’s become part of Cleveland’s culinary identity as well — you can barely go into any local restaurant without some kind of taco on the menu. Yes, some that dot Cleveland menus are modern American takes on the Mexican street food, but even those made with the likes of tofu, bratwurst or scallops and topped with fancy aioli still pay homage in big and small ways to the beloved classic.
Whether you’re a traditionalist or modernist or just love a good taco, we have 30 tasty options (including a few vegetarian and vegan ones) from across Northeast Ohio that are big on flavor and inspiration. Our guide is proof that good things do come in small packages, and anything this good requires patience, innovation and hard work.