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BEST TACOS Phoenix 2004 - Tepic Restaurant

Some Mexican restaurants try to be so authentic in their decor, they neglect the food. Other Mexican restaurants prefer to let their food speak for itself. At Tepic Restaurant, which opened earlier this year at Phoenix's original Denny's restaurant on Van Buren Street, the authenticity is most notable in the restaurant's tacos. Juan Romero, who spent two decades working in the Valley's restaurant industry, named the joint after his hometown in the Mexican province of Nayarit, which lies on the western coast of Mexico, south of Sinaloa. Customers either sit at one of the booths or at the old-fashioned soda fountain counter that still separates the kitchen from the dining area. If it weren't for the salsa bar at the corner of the counter, you would think you'd wandered into an old American diner.

That is, until you try the tacos, which are served on a warm homemade tortilla and come in five variations: carne asada (grilled steak), pastor (roasted pork), lengua (beef tongue), buche (beef neck) and cabeza (beef head). A bite into Romero's tacos is not just a run for the border, but an excursion deep into his homeland.

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