How could any one food be more simple and perfect than the street taco? Marinated meat with some sort of veg and salsa, all wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla or two, and there you have it. Though we typically can chow down on only about three of these little babies at a time, we wish we had the space in our stomachs for every taco option served up at our favorite street taco joints, Gallo Blanco and Tacos Atoyac. However, because we don't, only one of these taco virtuosos can be the king of the streets.
In This Corner: Tacos Atoyac
The Setup: Walking into the small taco shack off of 19th and Glendale avenues feels like being transported to Mexico. With plain folding chairs and tables, it's definitely not a classy setup. The unassuming, no-frills taco stand doesn't look like much, but it's the food you're going for.
The Good: No matter what you order at Tacos Atoyac, you're probably going to want seconds. That's not because the servings are skimpy, but because the food is outstanding and authentic. The service is fast and friendly, even during rushes. The guac and verde and rojo salsas all add something extra to your street tacos, spicing up the standard or unique options like carne asada, cabeza, and camaron.
The Bad: Although keeping oodles of superfluous toppings off of the tacos really lets you taste the meat, the simple protein plus cabbage plus tortilla combo of their tacos could be livened up by adding something more than the roasted onions and chiles on the side. Maybe a toss of crema with the cabbage would make the tacos more moist in general.
In The Other Corner: Gallo Blanco Cafe
The Setup: If you like your tacos with a side of hipster and a tall glass of sangria, Gallo Blanco is definitely the taco stop for you. The small modern-Mexican café inside the Clarendon Hotel has made a name for itself with great food and an upscale, yet casual ambiance. We suggest taking your tacos and cocktails poolside for a relaxing summer afternoon.
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The Good: The presentation of Gallo's street tacos is showier than at Tacos Atoyac. The metal accordion-like trays prop your tacos nicely, although the single corn tortilla tends to get soggy after sitting for just a couple of minutes. Taco Tuesday, an all-day happy hour event that Gallo loyalists love, is a great opportunity to sample all Gallo's tacos, which include your standard taco options, including beef, pork, fish, and shrimp. Unlike Tacos Atoyac, Gallo offers a veggie taco option filled with local and seasonal vegetables.
The Bad: Gallo has the presentation, the service, and the drinks, but the flavor just isn't as well-developed in the marinades. Good thing Gallo gives you full squeeze bottles of salsa to liven up your tacos.
And the winner is . . . With similar pricing and selection, it's really a battle to the finish. If you're going for overall experience, including ambiance and a few tasty cocktails, Gallo is the obvious pick. However, Tacos Atoyac's tacos and especially their well-marinated, tender meats definitely beat out Gallo's.