Editors's Note: This post has been changed from its original version, which originally stated Crujiente served an al pastor, not a pork belly, taco.
It’s no secret that Arizona knows a thing or two about great tacos. Much to the delight of taco lovers across the Valley, that knowledge was put on display during the seventh annual Arizona Taco Festival, which was held this past weekend at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. The two-day festival drew hungry attendees by the thousands, and dished out delicious tacos all afternoon.
We paid the taco festival a visit on Saturday to check out the spread and get our hands on the goods. Some of metro Phoenix’s best local taco spots were in attendance: Otro Cafe, Gadzooks, Taco Guild, and many more. We stopped at as many tents as we could, and came away impressed by the not only the quality of street tacos on hand, but also the diversity — this year's lineup include everything from traditional al pastor and carne asada tacos to more unique items such “Walking Tacos” served in a Fritos bag and Korean barbecue tacos.
Try as we did, we couldn’t sample every taco available on this clear, sunny afternoon (plus, we skipped the chains). But from the tacos we did have the pleasure of devouring, we came away with some clear favorites. Here are our five of our favorite tacos from the 2016 Arizona Taco Festival.
Beef Brisket Taco, Pinche Gringo
Pinche Gringo had shrimp, shredded chicken, and beef brisket tacos up for grabs on Saturday. We opted for the beef, which proved to be a wise choice. The taco was small in stature, but huge in flavor. The corn tortilla was piled high with juicy beef, red onion, and cilantro, and topped with smoky mayo, red salsa, and cojita cheese. We probably would have grabbed a few more of these, if it wasn’t for the nine or so tacos we’d already downed. Bonus points: There was no line.
Carne Asada, Frank’s Street Tacos
Sometimes you really can’t go wrong with a classic. And all Frank’s had to do to win our approval was combine a pinch of tender steak with onion and cilantro on a corn tortilla. Oh, and this was the hottest taco we had all afternoon, which is impressive. Frank’s also served the aforementioned Walking Taco, which seemed like a good idea for a festival, but we passed. Attendees seemed to enjoy it, though.
Al Pastor Taco, Taco Huicho
The folks at Taco Huicho had a nice setup, complete with shaded high-top tables, a salsa bar, and several cooks hard at work over a large grill loaded with chicken, pork, and steak. We grabbed an al pastor and a carne asada taco, loaded them both with veggies and salsa, and dug in. The al pastor was especially good, with an almost sweet, tangy flavor. Add the guacamole sauce, pickled red onion, white onion, and it was full of flavor.
Pork Belly Taco, Crujiente Taco
Yes, we’ve included two pork tacos. No, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just ask the folks at Crujiente Taco, who impressively grilled the pork after we ordered. The meat had a charred, smokey exterior, but was still full of flavor and plenty tender. The taco was topped off with diced green chilis, tangy cabbage, and green tomatillo salsa, combining to offer a nice juxtaposition of texture. Look for Crujiente to open up their new restaurant in Arcadia later this fall.
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“World Famous” Bacon Taco, Traveling Monk
The Traveling Monk, which is just Chandler’s Hungry Monk under a different name, had quite the demand, boasting what appeared to be longest line of the day. One taco-lover mentioned to us that its bacon taco was a hit last year, which helped explained the line. The wait was well worth it. The taco came piled with crispy applewood bacon and bacon bit-infused slaw, topped with pico and bacon aioli. It was possibly the biggest serving we had that day, too. We also grabbed a West Coast BeerBQ chicken taco, which was good, but it was all about the bacon taco.