There are (at least) three taquerias on McDowell between 24th and 36th streets, all satisfying a near-constant flow of customers. Taqueria El Guerrerense, Taqueria Don Beto and Taqueria Yaqui are no-frills hole-in-the-wall spots sending their best displays of tacos to hungry customers, each with a varying selection of meats.
We wanted to know which one is the best taqueria on McDowell, so we tried all three in the ultimate taqueria showdown.
In This Corner: Taqueria El Guerrerense
The Setting: Your eyes are instantly attracted to the bright Aztec-style murals that cover the exterior of this taqueria. They have a simple outdoor eating area that is usually filled with people when it's not over 100 degrees outside. As you step inside, you find that Guerrerense is more than a taco shop, but also a mini panaderia and a convenience store where snacks, huarache sandals and hand-held fans are for sale. Not only are tacos on the menu, but you can also choose from menudo, burritos, pozole, tortas and sopes. Meat selections for tacos include asada, pastor, pollo, birria, cabeza and tripas for an additional 50 cents.
The Good: We ordered three tacos: asada, pollo and al pastor. The tacos come with shreds of fresh romaine and diced onion, with a lime wedge and salsa on the side. The meat was spilling out of our tacos, which is always a good sign. The pollo in the taco came in thick shreds as opposed to chunks of chicken. And the meat was well marinated and so moist there was no need for salsa. Next, the al pastor gave us much of the same reaction. It was flavorful and cooked just right.
The Bad: The asada taco was a disappointment. It was dry and the only flavor we got out from it was burned charcoal. Not even layering salsa on top could edge out the distasteful flavor.
In The Other Corner: Taqueria Don Beto
The Setting: The setup for Don Beto is inside an old convenience store. As you get out of your car, loud banda music is playing outside, getting you in the mood to devour some tacos. A hand-painted menu sits outside showcasing the meat selections available, including lengua, asada, cabeza, pastor and pollo. Once you get inside, eight foldout tables and chairs serve as the dining area. The server comes and takes your order, and tacos are in front of you in less than five minutes.
The Good: We ordered the three meats available, which where asada, cabeza and al pastor. The asada at Don Beto piqued our interest with its juiciness and bold flavor. Not a piece of dry, overcooked meat was in that taco. Likewise, the cabeza taco was somewhat addicting. The meat was tender and moist and had that melt-in-your-mouth affect. The tacos came with a side plate of sliced cucumber, radishes and lime, as well as bottle of hot salsa and a fresh avocado salsa. Both sauces complimented the tacos.
The Bad: Lackluster al pastor is the worst, and the al pastor in our taco looked and tasted like leftovers. It wasn't fresh or flavorful, like you'd expect al pastor to be.
In The Other Corner: Taqueria Yaqui
The Setting: To get inside Taqueria Yaqui, you have to walk through the back and pass through the outdoor eating area. Open the sliding door and two steps in front of you is the kitchen and directly to your left is the small dining area with five tables, a drink machine, one refrigerator with soft drinks, and a TV set to Telemundo. The servers speak mostly Spanish, but have no problem understanding your order if all you can muster up is your order in English.
The Good: The menu is painted on the wall outside of the restaurant, right when you walk in, so take a look before you sit down. Their offerings at Taqueria Yaqui are cabeza, camaron (shrimp), birria and chicharon. We ordered the camaron and cabeza tacos. Cabbage, onion and tomato dressed up the camaron taco, which did not skimp out on seafood. The medium sized shrimp were plump and cooked thoroughly. The cabeza taco came with cilantro and onion. Yaqui served up their own avocado sauce that added an Ensenada flare to the shrimp taco. A little tip: Order yourself an horchata.
The Bad: The cabeza had good flavor, but it was very fatty and gelatinous. There was no real texture to the taco, making it a little hard to swallow.
The Winner: Trying to find a winner in a three-way battle was difficult, especially since each taqueria offered different meat. Each spot served up unadulterated tacos, but in the end the meat selections really set each one apart from the other. Taqueria Yaqui wins this battle with its truly authentic hole-in-the-wall shop and the wide-ranging meat selections they offer. The other two places competed well, but we're looking forward to going to trying more of the tacos from Taqueria Yaqui.