Evolutions of a form don’t change the origin of a form, so we’re opting to call these “non-traditional” rather than the disdainful, inaccurate “gringo” tacos. The American taco with its salad of iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes and orange cheese represented an early hybridization of tacos, but it was only the first of many. The only question that really matters is: Does something taste good if I put it in a tortilla? In all likelihood, if it was good to start with, it’s still good in a tortilla. It’s like asking, “What makes for a good sandwich?” The answer is always going to be “whatever you like.”
1) Banh Mi Taco: What is it? Just what it sounds like: a pork belly taco with avocado-tomatillo salsa, sriracha, jalapeño and pickled carrots. The style came from Korean chefs on the West Coast, and we love them for it.
2) Flaming Lips: What is it? A riff on the traditional lengua taco, using hickory-smoked beef tongue cooked to a sliced-roast-beef soft texture, and topped with avocado, pico and queso fresco. If you think you don’t like lengua, start with this one.
3) Hot Honey Chicken Taco: What is it? A spicy, crispy taco with fried chicken, house pickles, slaw and chipotle aioli for some smoky goodness. You’ll want some of the fresh lime to cut through all that fat and protein, and the pickles help, too.
4) Fried Avocado Taco: What is it? Almost vegetarian, but there’s bacon. The avocado is sliced, flash-fried and served with 9 Juan Juan, the spicy habanero taco sauce that’s just a little too hot for the heat-sensitive. Yes, you can get it without bacon, but why?
5) Cheeseburger Taco: What is it? Just what it sounds like: a pork belly taco with avocado-tomatillo salsa, sriracha, jalapeño and pickled carrots. The style came from Korean chefs on the West Coast, and we love them for it.
6) Brisket Taco: What is it? Tangy, sweet, Dr. Pepper-braised brisket with a fried pickle spear, pepitas and radish. In other words, it’s like a Saturday cookout in a tortilla.
7) Crispy Cauliflower Taco: What is it? About as good a vegetarian taco as you’ll find. The crunch of cauliflower with a pop of vinegar that reminds you of taqueria red sauces, avocado, cabbage, and cilantro. It’s kind of a salad taco, but some salads really are delicious.
8) Quesabirria Taco: What is it? It didn’t start showing up until the late ’00s in Tijuana, so it’s pretty new, therefore non-traditional. Birria is wrapped in tortillas and cheese, and then fried crispy on the plancha. It’s served up with consomme for dipping, thus leading to the unfortunate moniker preferred in Texas: wet taco. But we don’t have to act like Texans.