The Best Tacos in the Southwest

I’ve made it to Seattle where the food is said to be amazing as amazing can be, but I would be doing the Southwest an injustice if I didn’t lament leaving behind the delicious tacos I’ve encountered there. From fried avocado tacos to pickled cactus tacos, here are a few of my favorite taco spots in the Southwest:

Taqueria in Phoenix

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Roosevelt’s Row is a little known secret in Phoenix, at least to those who don’t live there. It’s the artist district of the city, where buildings are spray painted with vibrant murals and container galleries open their doors to the public on First Fridays each month. Along with great local art, this neighborhood has a few really great restaurants and bars (looking at you, Bliss ReBar).

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For tacos in Roosevelt’s Row, look no further than Taqueria. The menu is full of sumptuous meat and vegetable pairings, grilled to perfection and melted together with fresh queso. I ordered the Nopales with grilled cactus and the Tinga with chipotle chicken and pickled onions. The grilled cactus was interesting, and not for me, but definitely worth a try.

Taqueria in Roosevelt's Row, Phoenix, Cactus taco, Chicken taco

 

Torchy’s Tacos in Austin

Torchy's Tacos Austin Texas Southwest Blog

I know I’ve already mentioned Torchy’s in my Austin Food Truck post, and if you follow the @cleavingleaveland Instagram handle, you’ve probably seen Torchy’s pop up a few times. Ummm that’s because it’s DELICIOUS and I make it a rule to visit every time I go. My favorite items are the Fried Avocado, the Dirty Sanchez, the Republican, and the Trailer Park. You can ask to make any taco trashy, which means adding in queso and some other tasty toppings.

Torchy's Tacos Austin Texas Southwest Foodie Blog

For breakfast tacos, I enjoy the Wrangler. But honestly, you need to try the entire menu and then keep going back for more. And don’t forget to ask for the secret menu!

Coreanos in Houston

Best Tacos of the Southwest

If you like tacos with a Korean flair (AKA throw some kimchi on it), then you HAVE to check out Coreanos. I encountered this food truck outside of the Day 4 Night music festival in Houston, and I think it was the only thing I ate all weekend. They make a mean burrito and some really tasty tacos, but their biggest hit is definitely the “Kimcheese fries”. I prefer the burritos to the tacos because they remind me of the kebabs I tasted in Europe—halal roasted meat with french fries thrown in, brought together by a zesty mix of spicy and cool creamy sauces.

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This isn’t traditional Mexican food, or Korean food, by any means. But it is unforgettable, and your tastebuds will not be sorry.

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Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau

One of the only disappointing moments that occurred during our cruise through the Alaska Inside Passage was crab night on the ship. Despite what you might think, the crab on the ship was just a rubbery and tasteless vehicle for butter. Thankfully, however, our experience was redeemed by the freshest, most delicious crab I’ve ever tasted in Juneau.

Stumbling upon Tracy’s King Crab Shack was kind of an accident. We had spent the day hiking to Juneau’s enormous Mendenhall Glacier and only had about an hour left before we had to get back on the boat. The crab shack looked cool, it was basically an outdoor biergarten with an open kitchen “shack” right in the middle and a gorgeous backdrop of mountains and glaciers (pictured with a cruise ship blocking the view).

The menu is pretty simple: king crab legs, local Dungeness crab legs – all of it fresh, none of it cheap. If you order the king crab bucket, it comes with a few rolls and all of the melted butter and slaw you could ask for. I love shellfish like crab, lobster, oysters, and mussels because I really enjoy food that involves some work on your end. Mastering the art of hammering open a lobster claw with a wooden mallet and prying out the meat in one slab was something I learned at a young age from my Boston-bred parents. When eating requires that a skill, I’m always up for the challenge.

Tracy's King Crab Shack Alaska

Without knowing, we found ourselves the best seats in the house at Tracy’s when we sat right at the counter of the open kitchen shack. If you ever get the chance to go here, SIT AT THE COUNTER. The crab on the menu is expensive, though worth it, but the chefs give you more bang for your buck when you sit at the counter by throwing you any scraps of hot crab meat fresh out the pot. We must’ve gotten 4 or 5 pieces, and I’ll never forget the first tantalizing bite I took into the crab meat that seemed to melt in my mouth without the aid of butter. Yummm!

Being a foodie doesn’t always mean finding the most elaborate recipes and intriguing flavor combinations. One of the great parts about food in Alaska is its simplicity – the food coincides with the pure beauty of the surrounding wilderness. When it comes to a meal in Alaska, the focus is freshness. Fish caught that day, jam made from fresh berries, smoked reindeer sausages in a bun are a few staples that seem simple enough, but taste unlike anywhere else in the country because of the environment they come from. That was the lasting impression Tracy’s crab left me with.

Cafe Gratitude

Even if you’re not from California, you may have heard about Cafe Gratitude, an organic vegan food spot based around healing energy and the power of affirmations. If you live nearby one in California, you might not necessarily go all the time for two reasons:

  1. The idea behind it is sort of gimmicky, and might feel like an option that only appeals to tourists.
  2. There are plenty of organic and vegan food options in California that don’t require you to be so positive about the world.

However, after going to Cafe Gratitude twice, I have to say that I really appreciated the place – was grateful for it, even (yes, I did that).

The first of this small chain of cafes opened in Venice Beach, and that’s the one I visited both times. The interior of the restaurant has a very “bungalow” vibe to it, as do many places around Venice Beach. Low circular tables are surrounded by whicker chairs surrounding and a warm, yummy Mexican-style throw draped over the back of each chair to keep you warm if needed, creating the effect of sitting around a bonfire on the beach.

Water sits in a bottle with positive words like “Love” or “Peace” written on the bottle, a tribute to Emoto’s Water Experiment. As the waiter comes and explains the menu to you/asks if you’ve been there before, he tells you the affirmation question of the day, which you can sit and reflect on or discuss with the table, whatever you feel. The one I remember most was, “What keeps you grounded?” I don’t remember what the question was on my second visit, but I do recall feeling like the people sitting with me at the table were the answer both times. My fiancee keeps me grounded. And so do my crystals.

The menu is the really special and fun part of the cafe. Each menu item is titled with an adjective that will be your affirmation when you order, such as “magical,” “glorious,” “accepting,” etc. Then when you order, you have to say “I am…” and your food choice, which for me was “bountiful.”

The food is all vegan and delicious, and obviously quite healthy. While you’ll have fun with it either way, I recommend that you don’t leave without ordering one of their juices or smoothies. So delicious.

And there you have it, very simple, positive concepts put to work at Cafe Gratitude. And while it might make you seem a bit eccentric to make this spot your go-to for eating, the food is top notch for vegan eaters and it certainly makes a fun outing for visitors to the LA area.