- Enrique Limón
The Mexican pro-wrestling tradition of lucha libre has been a source of inspiration and mystique since it started to gain popularity in the mid-1900s. It's one of Mexico's most well-known forms of entertainment, and the lucha libre aesthetic—colorful masks, wrestling rings and burly luchadores—pairs nicely with the decor at taquerías like Taco Taco (208 E. 500 South, 801-428-2704). There's something special about enjoying tacos al pastor and margaritas while being watched over by artistic renderings of mighty luchadores—eating here feels less like an everyday kind of taco trip and more like a battle royale between your carne asada and you.
Creating such a grand atmosphere can 100% be credited to the restaurant's design scheme. Once you walk in, the exposed brick, strings of hanging lights, Mexican flags and overlapping wooden crucifixes have the uncanny ability to zap you to a Mexico City street corner—presumably outside Arena México, the cathedral of lucha libre. I've visited Taco Taco several times, but the way the place looks on the inside never ceases to impress. As it gets warmer, diners can take their meals al fresco on the patio and enjoy some prime people-watching near the corner of Second East and Fifth South.
I've tried everything on the menu at least once, so on my most recent visit, I decide to take a cue from the luchadores who inspired the locale's look and feel. The zucchini blossom taco ($2.75) goes head to head against the cauliflower taco ($2.50) for best vegetarian; the chicken chile verde ($3) butts heads with the chicken mole negro ($3) for best chicken; and our main event, a face-off between tacos and burritos, provides the veredicto final. ¿Listos? Let the battle begin!
Round One: Best VegetarianI favor the zucchini blossom tacos going into this match. They've been on the menu since Taco Taco opened, so I've devoted plenty of time to the faintly autumnal flavor of those tasty blossoms roasted up with smoky spices. The cauliflower goes through the same cooking process, and the cruciferous veggie packs all kinds of great flavor once you roast it up. This isn't an easy battle.
As is true for all the tacos here, customization at the salsa bar takes the initial flavor canvas and launches it to new and exciting heights. When seasoned with the right combination of cilantro and red or green salsa, both tacos can catapult their way off the ropes and clothesline the opposition. When it comes down to the basic foundation, however, the victory goes to the tried-and-true zucchini blossom taco. Without condiments, the cauliflower tacos get a little dry, and I've never had that problem with my flor de calabaza tacos.
Round Two: Best ChickenChicken tacos can be tricky to pull off. It's a protein that lacks the natural flavor of pork and beef, so making it the centerpiece of a taco relies heavily on the sauce. At Taco Taco, the chicken contenders employ two heavy hitters out of the Latin American sauce playbook—mole negro and chile verde. I've occasionally hit a bit of inconsistency with both, though they're overall so evenly matched that it's hard to claim a victor. When the mole negro at Taco Taco is on its A-game, it's a glimpse of rich, comfort-food heaven. I've had it run a little too salty or bitter before, but mixing this stuff with chicken and a bit of guac offers up a fine specimen of taco glory.
The chile verde tends to be the weaker of the two. While I've had chile verde that can go toe to toe with mole in terms of richness and flavor, the one here doesn't quite stack up to its mole negro counterpart. Round two goes to mole negro!
Main Event: Burritos vs. TacosSince the place is called Taco Taco and not Burrito Burrito, tacos definitely have the home court advantage—but let's not overlook the burrito menu. After all, burritos tend to take all that we love about tacos and present it on a larger scale. Every flavor on the menu can be incorporated into a burrito, but Taco2 adds a few flourishes that set their burritos apart—they're more than just bigger tacos. For example, the chile verde one arrives smothered in the herbaceous green sauce and topped with slowly melting cotija cheese.
If the burritos came stuffed with a more equitable ratio of meat, rice, black beans and corn, they might edge the tacos out, to be honest. However, the bulk of the burritos at Taco Taco is made of rice and beans, which means the tacos are your best bet pound for pound. We might have seen it coming, but tacos continue to hold the title.
Even if you don't treat your visit to Taco Taco as a high-stakes wrestling bout, it remains one of downtown Salt Lake's favorite taquerías. Come for the mole negro, stay to watch the sunset over the SLC skyline while enjoying a cerveza on the patio. The experience is unmatched.
AT A GLANCE