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 taquerías that serve them. Welcome to Taco Summer.
41: Taquería Lucy
Taquería: Taquería Lucy, 2712 West Buckeye Road
Open Since: 2002
Style: Homestyle Mexican cooking with a Sinaloan twist
Signature Taco(s): Shrimp, chicharrón, al pastor, pollo, and carne asada
Taquería Lucy is a longtime neighborhood food truck in south-central Phoenix, a blink-or-you'll-miss-it kind of spot that's squeezed in between a junkyard and a Circle K gas station. It operates out of a cramped parking lot near 27th Avenue and Buckeye Road, where finding an empty spot can feel like a direct blessing from the taco gods.
On most nights, you'll spot families gathered inside the spacious red-and-blue tent erected near the truck, a well-lit space that does a pretty decent job of battling the elements. The dining area is tricked out with standalone AC units in the summer and warmed by heaters and Christmas lights in the winter. A television plays in the corner no matter the season, which helps make the humble al fresco setup feel a bit like an impromptu neighborhood family room.
The truck has been at this spot for more than a decade, says Hernando Lopez, who owns Taquería Lucy with his wife, Luciana, the restaurant's namesake.
Lopez is soft-spoken and unassuming. If you ask him why Taquería Lucy is such a big neighborhood draw, he doesn't expound on his taco-making philosophy, or hint at esoteric spice mixes and ancient family recipes. He says the food is good because the restaurant has been around a long time, and they have worked hard to perfect all the recipes.
Although he would probably never call himself as such, Lopez and his wife are indeed pioneers of the local Mexican lonchera and mobile hot dog cart scene. When the city of Phoenix sought to eliminate mobile vendors back in the early 2000s, Lopez was part of the group of activists and vendors that fought City Hall. It took more than a year of legal showdowns before the city finally relented and allowed business owners like Lopez to obtain mobile vendor licenses.
Today, Lopez is an active member of Union Pochteca, the local mobile food vendor organization that grew out of that strained period. The organization runs a food truck commissary near 27th Avenue and Van Buren that works with around 60 local food trucks and 25 hot dog carts in nearly every aspect of running a successful mobile food business.
"We provide a space for businesses to prep their food. We rent out equipment and service the trucks," says Lopez, a native of Culiacán, Sinaloa.
Along with helping run Union Pochteca, you'll often spot Hernandez running errands and busing tables late into the night at Taquería Lucy.
If you swing by, Lopez recommends you try the house chicharrón. His version is extra-rich, with the pork chopped into meaty, supple hunks. He's proud of their shrimp tacos, too. The shrimp are diced into fine, well-seasoned, juicy nubs, which are paired with a lovely guacamole salsa.
The taco selection at Taquería Lucy is wide-ranging, covering all the usual bases (carne asada, pollo, pastor), along with some deep offal cuts, like a slinky and deliciously melty buche (pig stomach) taco.
Tacos are served on fresh-made corn tortillas that are pliable and tender, yet sturdy enough to hold lavish amounts of sizzling, chopped-up steak, or perhaps bundles of extra-rich, drippy cabeza.
Apart from tacos, Taquería Lucy also serves burritos, quesadillas, and seafood specialties like aguachile, the chile-spiked ceviche that's a hallmark of Sinaloan cooking.
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Bring cash and a little patience when you come to Taquería Lucy. This is a cash-only operation, and if there's a line, you'll likely have to whet your appetite for a few minutes with the scent of carne asada that hangs in the air.
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
42. La Fiesta