Taco Summer

Taco Summer: The Mesa Taco With Cult Status

The Taco Toro is the signature taco at this popular East Valley taqueria chain.
The Taco Toro is the signature taco at this popular East Valley taqueria chain. Patricia Escarcega
In the hunt for the latest trendy restaurants, our spotlight often misses neighborhoods that are home to some of the Valley's best kitchens — including those making metro Phoenix's best tacos. Over the next several weeks, we'll be guiding you toward the Valley's tastiest tacos, and the taquerias that serve them. Welcome to Taco Summer.

13: Moreno's Mexican Grill

Taqueria: Moreno's Mexican Grill, six locations in the southeast Valley
Open Since: 2006
Style: Northern Mexican and Mexico City-style eats

In the southeast Valley, there may not be a more beloved name in Mexican food than Moreno's Mexican Grill. The locally owned, family-run micro-chain got its start as a humble Sonoran hot dog cart back in 2006, and it's grown exponentially over the subsequent decade.

There are now six sit-down Moreno locations scattered around Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, and San Tan Valley, and each branch of the thriving restaurant chain is operated by various members of the Moreno clan, who trace their roots to Durango, Mexico.

Moreno's may have made its mark with Sonoran hot dogs, but today the restaurant is better known for its extensive taco menu.

click to enlarge The Baja taco at Moreno's. - PATRICIA ESCARCEGA
The Baja taco at Moreno's.
Patricia Escarcega
Be forewarned that the taco selection varies according to location; you'll only find regional taco varieties like vampiros (tacos delivered on dried-out, crunchy tortillas), for instance, at some of the Mesa and Chandler locations. Some locations feature a very credible Baja fish taco, with beautifully breaded, deep-fried bundles of white fish, garnished with a tangy Baja salsa. But, all the locations feature the restaurant's most famous taco, an ultra-savory flavor bomb called the Taco Toro.

What gives the Taco Toro an edge over the other tacos on the Moreno's menu is that it's bulked up with smoky tendrils of Anaheim green chile. The peppers, generously lubricated with melted cheese, are conspicuously flavorful and delicious. The taco is crowned with a big slice of fresh avocado, which seems to melt right into the taco.
The Taco Toro can be made with your pick of any meat on the menu, or you can order it vegetarian, but it really seems to shine with a heap of the restaurant's well-charred and glistening carne asada.

The Taco Toro's cult status has only grown with time, and though it is not the sole reason to visit Moreno's, it's a great excuse.

Our Taco Summer picks so far:

50. Taqueria Don Beto
49. Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa
48. Tacos Tijuana
47. El Burrito Grande
46. El Horseshoe Restaurant
45. Tacos Sahuaro
44. El Pollo Correteado
43. Adrian's
42. La Fiesta
41. Taqueria Lucy
40. Tortas Ahogadas George
39. Taqueria El Chino
38. Joe's Tacos
37. Taqueria El Gallo de Lagos
36. Tacos Huicho
35. Puffy Taco Shack
34. Ni De Aqui Ne De Alla
33. Mr. Mesquite
32. Senor Ozzy's
31. Tacos Jalisco
30. Ta'Carbon
29. Taqueria Los Yaquis
28: Helio Basin Brewing
27: Sonora Taco Shop
26: Mercado Y Carniceria Cuernavaca
25. Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca
24. Paquime Street Food
23. The Rez
22. Asadero Toro
21. La Frontera 1
20. Taquería Yaqui
19. Presidio Cocina Mexicana
18. Mucha Lucha Taco Shop
17. Casa Reynoso
16. Backyard Taco
15. Taquitos Jalisco
14: Waldo's Tacos

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Patricia Escárcega was Phoenix New Times' food critic.