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Birmingham real tacos

Made a trip to Gordo's on Valley Avenue today. They may have some of the best real tacos in town.
I got three: carnitas (twice-cooked pork), cabeza (beef head meat/cheeks) and lengua (tongue). Generously filled for $1.60.
They also have a little bar for dressing your tacos, with diced onions, minced cilantro and four or five different kinds of salsa.
Carnitas is usually my favorite, but it came in third today. Loved the lengua and the fatty cabeza. I dressed them all in a spicy verde salsa with pico de gallo.
They had four or five other fillings in addition to the ones above, including al pastor, tripe, chicken, one that looked like sausage (chorizo? although it was called something else) and another I didn't recognize.
It's definitely a popular place with laborers, who always crowd the place at lunchtime, and Latino/Mexican families.
Taqueria Mi Casita in Homewood and Taqueria Mexico in Hoover also are favorites, but for sheer variety and size, Gordo's has them beat.
Got any other favorites out there?

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  1. Per this thread http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429277 my two tacos at San Miguel last week were really good. The carnitas was a little dry but there must have been a 1/4 lb of it on that taco. Al pastor was better than the carnitas. I need to try Gordo's again. It's interesting they had carnitas as they told me they only had it on the weekends.

    19 Replies
    1. re: Dax

      Is San Miguel in the plaza with the county tag office?

      1. re: Big Daddy

        No, but it is on Greensprings between West Valley and whatever that street that Mi Casita is on. across from the autozone

        1. re: Dax

          Cool. I'll have to check it out. Do they have tortas, too?

          1. re: Big Daddy

            Yes, I almost got one to go but was pretty full by the time I had eaten the two tacos and 1/2 of a bahn mi.

            1. re: Dax

              I went to San Miguel. You're right about the generously filled tacos there. I had cabeza and carnitas and both were very good, especially with that hot green salsa they bring out with them.
              I really enjoyed the two kinds of salsa they brought with the chips.
              I also had one of the tostadas de ceviche de pulpa, and it was killer. The octopus ceviche was very tasty (lime juice, onions, tomatoes, cilantro). The tostada had mayonaise on it, which made me suspicious at first but ended up being delicious, almost like a salad dressing. The whole thing was topped off by an avocado slice. Very nice. They also do ceviches of shrimp and fish (not sure what kind) on tostados.
              I plan to go back and try the dinner menu, especially the rellenos and quail. Fish and shrimp dishes also looked good, especially with the mojo de ago.

              1. re: Big Daddy

                Love the salsa verde, nice heat to it. And yes, the two salsas, one with a little heat, is a nice touch.

                1. re: Dax

                  My wife is from Mexico. We covet Gordo's.

                  1. re: SkippyLeBeef

                    Where from Mexico is she? My family's from Guadalajara, but that was nearly a century ago (they backed the wrong side in the revolution).
                    Where else in town does she like to eat/shop for "home cooking"?

                    1. re: Big Daddy

                      She was born in Delores, which is sister town to San Miguel de Allende. Her folks moved to TX when she was 7. When we don't want to drive all the way to Gordo's in Helena (the closest to us) we end up eating tacos at the Taqueria in Hoover in the strip mall across from Best Buy on Lorna. The one by Gabriel's bar. We also get cravings for Michelattas, the beer/tomato juice/clam juice concoction. The best ones are at Mexico Lindo on 31 at the Hoover/Vestavia line by I-65. The chicken tinga tostadas there is out of this world too.

                      1. re: SkippyLeBeef

                        That taqueria you mention is Taqueria Mexico. One of my favorites, too. When I worked in Hoover, I used to go there regularly for lunch. Very nice people there, too.
                        I'll have to check out the Mexico Lindo. We used to go to the one off U.S. 280, and have enjoyed its sister restaurant Zona Rosa, as well.
                        I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept of beer/tomato juice/clam juice. I'll have to give it a try.

                          1. re: SkippyLeBeef

                            If you ever find yourself hungry for tacos in Center Point, check out San Marcos, (1857 Center Point Parkway, just past Polly Reed Road). Small, simple restaurant in the market/carniceria that sells tacos, tortas, etc. Tacos are $1.50 each and loaded. The al pastor was the best I've tried around town (to many are too sweet). They have the usual carnita, cabeza, tripa. But they also have higado (liver), which I don't see too many places.

                            1. re: Big Daddy

                              I've been on a taco tear lately, sampling what's available around town.
                              Once again, I must sing the praises of Taqueria Mexico on Lorna Road, in the plaza across from Best Buy (a favorite of Skippy LaBeef). I've been going there for years and it's consistently been among the best in town. There's a limited selection of meat, but the three tacos ($1.60 each) I had on a recent visit -- chicharon, lengua and carnitas -- were all among the best of those meats I've enjoyed recently. Nice-sized portions and the tortillas are house-made, too. (Tortas also are good, for a mere $3.50). Menu includes cabrito and quail.
                              I also made a run through the Bessemer area, and a must-stop place for tacos is La Perla on U.S. 11, west of town. near 9th Street. It's a market/taqueria run by a really friendly guy named Andy. The al pastor was stellar, much more spicy than sweet. The tongue taco ($1.50) also rocked. Nice selection of fillings, including a sausage that sounds like an offal-lover's dream.

                              1. re: Big Daddy

                                Anyone been to Gordo's lately? They have started putting labels on the glass protecting the steam table, translating the various taco fillings from Spanish to English.
                                My visit today was another amazing experience. The carnitas were crispy and flavorful. The tripa was crunchy from being fried, with a nice beefy taste. The cueritos (pork skin) were rich beyond imagination. Mmmmmmmm pork skin.

                2. re: Big Daddy

                  Weird, last night's carnitas (as taco filling) at San Miguel were even crispier than before. The carnitas prep at Gordos is far superior.

                  The cabeza ... this is only about the 3rd time I have had it (here in a taco, otherwise in tortas) and I guess it's just not my thing? The cabeza at San Miguel was mostly fat (and I heart me some fat, particularly the melty fat you get with carnitas) and the smell was a little offputting. One bite I was squicked out enough to stop eating the taco.

                  The al pastor taco was ... different this time as it actually had chunks of pineapple served with the meat. I mean I know the prep includes pineapple as part of the recipe, but an actual chunk was too sweet for me (I love fresh pineapple but cooked is weird).

                  When ordering I asked if they had chorizo and she replied yes and it was very good. It was fine just bland on the taco.

                  Salsa verde was also bland. That was pretty much 0 for 4, but it only cost $7 before tax, tip, & drink so who cares.

                  Drove past La Reyna and need to try that joint.

                  1. re: Dax

                    Definitely try LaReyna. It's fallen off a bit, too (the last tripa taco I ordered there was a bit off-putting). But they still have fresh-made tortillas and they do the pastor on a spit.
                    Also, try LaReyna's sope; a handmade masa "plate" with the fillings piled on top. Great late-night munchie.
                    I agree about the pineapple in the pastor, which is one reason it was not one of my favorites at first. Like you said, it makes the whole thing too sweet. I think it's the lazy way of making sweet-and-hot pork.
                    As for the cabeza, I hope you did not get an "old head." Sometimes it can be fatty ( like at Hacienda), which can be off-putting. (And this is coming from a guy who loves the pork-skin chiccharon and cueritos tacos which are almost pure fat.)
                    Have you tried Taqueria Mi Casita yet? It's near San Miguel, in the Palisades plaza where the Wal Mart grocery is.
                    After the county nailed San Miguel's management a few times I wonder if they have new people in the front and back.

                    1. re: Big Daddy

                      Just got back from LaReyna. The house made corn tortillas were a little thicker than others so they only used one for each taco. Best tortilla I have had here. Chips and salsa were ok, the salsa verde was excellent and a little spicy. There was a red sauce that had a nice chipotle kick to it. Very good pork tamale with some heat. Tacos were just meh, as far as the fillings (chorizo, al pastor with chunks of pineapple and carnitas that was a bit bland). I might see about buying tortillas and tamales here and carnitas from Gordos to assemble tacos at home.

                      1. re: Dax

                        Funny...I was there this afternoon too.

                        I thought the carnitas were good, liked the crispy bits! Really liked the tamale. Tortillas were awesome for sure, and I agree the Pastor is just OK.

                        I also had the lamb barbacoa...this is the 2nd time I have tried it, and I just dont like it. I dont know if it is a spice or if it is the gameyness of the meat itself. I really like the beef barbacoa at Chipolte :-) LaReyna does have the beef barbacoa as well, maybe I should try that if I go back....I think the taco truck might be my place to go from now on.

                        1. re: birminghamvisitor

                          Yeah, I wasn't impressed with the lamb barbacoa at La Reyna, either. I think the steaming took some of the yum out of it.
                          Another thing to try at LaReyna: Sopes. They make the base out of tortilla masa.

      2. You guys need to try the best tacos around. Taqueria Guzman or The Dos Hermanos TRUCK at the gas station next to Big #1 Yamaha on west valley ave. THE BEST! I'v e tried them all and even make my own. It's got the real STREETFOOD FEEL TO IT!

        5 Replies
        1. re: bigdaddyyumyum

          I wanted to try that taco truck! Thanks for the report!

          1. re: bigdaddyyumyum

            Does this taco truck have tamales as well? I've exhausted the supply of tamales that my daughter brought me from Chicago and I'm jonesing for some good ones.

            1. re: bigdaddyyumyum

              Will definitely try those, thanks for the recommendation. Is that out past Red Pearl?

              I found this article which mentions the Gruzman truck and also mentions Taqueria La Reyna which I just noticed on West Valley yesterday when driving to the mercado for carnitas and tamales for the super bowl. Anyone tried La Reyna?

              http://blog.al.com/scene/2009/01/wher...

              1. re: Dax

                Several replies:
                The Taqueria Guzman truck is past the Red Pearl, in the lot of a gas station where La Jungula nightclub is. Everything there is good, especially the cueritos and buche. They do not have tamales (at least not regularly) but do have tortas and some tostadas.
                La Reyna is definitely worth a trip. They use a little press to make tortillas in-house and have the traditional spit for al pastor tacos. The al pastor and lengua tacos are great. And it's not a hole-in-the-wall like so many righteous ethnic places.

            2. I finally got around to trying the Taco Truck and Gordo's yesterday...after 5 tacos total boy was I stuffed! I have to say that Taqueria Guzman is my favorite. The tortillas were fantastic! And both places are a step up from Taq. Mexico (my main spot for tacos) IMO.

              La Reyna is next on the list!

              12 Replies
              1. re: birminghamvisitor

                For me, first place is Gordo's. Second place: Taqueria Guzman, the truck at 215 W. Valley Ave in front of a service station. Great-great-great carnitas.

                Remember back in January, when the B'ham News did their list of the best Mexican street food in the city? Well, my husband and I decided to try them - I think we did all of them minus one or two.

                (It was actually really fun because starting out I didn't have the faintest idea what a 'real' taco was...)

                I did three posts about where we went and what we tried, along with pictures of all of it. If you like, it's all here:
                http://www.deepfriedkudzu.com/2009/01...
                http://www.deepfriedkudzu.com/2009/01...
                http://www.deepfriedkudzu.com/2009/02...

                BTW, B'ham Visitor, you mentioned La Reyna - that was good but gosh I remember it being soooooo slow. Just crazy-slow. See what you think, though. Looking forward to it!

                1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                  Deepfriedkudzu:
                  I just read your blog entries, nad really enjoyed reading them.

                  In the last one you mentioned a desire to find good Chinese food in town. We're not exactly as blessed as we are on real Mexican, but here are some threads:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598343
                  and
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/438300

                  1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                    Good reports. LaReyna was fast on Sunday but I was one of only two tables there. Note they make their tortiallas to order (or they did Sunday when slow), so that takes a bit longer. Also, it was definitely a single corn tortialla, albeit a thick one.

                    I haven't actually tried the tacos at Gordos only gotten take out carnitas. Do they really serve on flour tortiallas? That seems odd to me,

                    Also, you can get corn tortillas (one per taco) at Catina upon request.

                    1. re: Dax

                      No, Dax. The tacos at Gordos are served in corn tortillas. They do, however, sell house-made flour tortillas in the panderia, one level up from the carneceria.

                    2. re: deepfriedkudzu

                      Nice write ups...though I put Guzman at the front...I agree for the most part. I too like carnitas the most usually, but I am suprised you didn't try more Al Pastor. I almost allways get those 2 tacos every time, then can go wild with my 3rd selection!

                      1. re: birminghamvisitor

                        Full disclosure: Prior to today, I had never had a "real" taco. Very sad (I know), particularly in light of the fact that I live in Homewood near the epicenter of the city's taco universe. However, after having read the comments on this thread, as the late, great Jerry Clower was wont to say, y'all done flung a craving on me! So, off I went...

                        I decided to frighten cardiologists all over town and hit both Gordo's and Taqueria Guzman (a/k/a the taco truck). Although I considered getting different things at both places, I thought that would not really make for a good side-to-side comparison. So, I got a carnitas and a cueritos at both places. Pure porkalicious goodness!

                        Although both were very good, I give the slight edge to Guzman because I thought the pork there was more flavorful, and because I prefer the corn tortillas there to the flour ones at Gordo's. Big Daddy, I know that you said that Gordo's uses corn tortillas, but I am all but certain these were made with flour--they were white and had no corn flavor whatsoever, in contrast to the yellow ones at Guzman which had a pronounced corn flavor.

                        My one complaint: It does not appear that either establishment sells beer. A good cold Pacifico or Modelo Especial would have hit the spot. But since I completed my excursion just before noon, I suppose I did not need a cerveza that early. In any event, I feel a long nap coming on right about now...

                        1. re: pinotboy

                          OK, where is this taco truck you speak of? I love tacos!

                          1. re: KateMW

                            You caught me just before the nap started. :) It is at 215 West Valley Avenue in the parking lot of a gas station next door to a Yamaha dealership.

                            1. re: pinotboy

                              Thanks! We'll have to go try it next weekend. We went to Moe's BBQ today.

                              1. re: KateMW

                                On a long-delayed trip to Gordo's today for tacos I noticed that they're now selling tortas there.
                                It had always struck me as odd that they didn't sell them before, since they make telera sandwich bread in-house and have all the other ingredients they need between the carneceria and the market. Next trip I'll try one.

                  2. The original comment has been removed
                    1. I tried to go to the original green acres cafe today on 29th only to arrive at noon and it was closed. I asked a woman also trying to get in what time they usually open and she just shrugged and said maybe 1, as in whenever they want. That's two drives out there and two strike outs.

                      However, while over there I briefly considered Niki's because I wanted to check out the Finley Farmers Mkt (see separate post). Tnen I remembered the little taqueria there and headed that way. This may be one of my favorite tacos in town now and certainly one of the best examples of al pastor that I have ever had in town. Plenty of crispy porky goodness with a hint of pineapple (but thankfully no chunks), onions and a little cilantro (I think) on a single, homemade and slightly crisped, corn tortilla. I squeezed on some lime and house made salsa verde and I was in heaven. The carnitas was not as good, but still tasty. Gordo's need not worry on the carnitas war front. Along with a chicken tamale for $1 plus a can of coke, my meal total cost was $5.10 (with tax). I love this place.

                      No name to speak of ... and no printed menus.

                      Also on the menu board:

                      Asada Tacos

                      Sopes
                      Enchilladas
                      Flautas
                      Tortas
                      Horchatta

                      Weekends - Menduo, Posole and Carnitas (which they also had today but I had to ask multiple times to get it - minor language barrier).

                      I also noticed mojarra frita on the menu which I looked up and found to be whole fried fish, a colombian specialty. Sounds awesome.

                      29 Replies
                      1. re: Dax

                        Can I assume f rom your lack of gushing that the tamale was only okay, that is, nothing to write home about?

                        1. re: sheilal

                          I'd say it was on par with the green springs mercado chicken tamales. I just prefer pork in all things. Still considering most tamales are $2 each, it might be worth it to see if I could buy some pre-made ones not sitting on the steam table to freeze for eating at home.

                        2. re: Dax

                          Where exactly is this little taqueria? Yo tengo mucho hambre!

                          1. re: curej

                            It's at the farmers market. When you come (passing the weigh station), it's to the right of the first long group of stalls. Hard to miss. I might try to go tomorrow for some pozole.

                            1. re: Dax

                              I need to try it. I've also become a big fan of sopes. I want to make some at home; I think they would be perfect party food because they're portable, substantial and easy to personalize.
                              The kids and I went to Taqueria Mi Casita again last night (in the Palaisades shopping center in Homewood). It continues to be one of the better taquerias/authentic Mexican restaurants in town. My only complaint was the carnitas was drier than usual. But the porkiness of the chiccharones taco had me swooning. I love their table salsa, too.

                              1. re: Big Daddy

                                Does anyone know of a Tex-Mex or Mex-Mex joint in the Bham area that serves breakfast? I would love to find some Migas or other related breakfast items. I see workers at the Chick-Fil-A where I often eat breakfast on Saturdays eating something delicious-looking that they have obviously brought in. I asked them where they bought it, but they are a little evasive. Probably don't want to jeopardize their jobs....Anyone have any info here?

                                1. re: curej

                                  I know that Sol y Luna has a Sunday brunch, but I am not aware of anywhere else that serves breakfast.

                                  1. re: pinotboy

                                    Not a big fan of Sol Y Luna. A very low bang for the buck there. Nowadays my favorite "upscale" Tex-Mex is Cocina Superior, or some of the menu items at Dos Pesos in Pelham. I am dying for a really good upscale Mexican place here in Bham. If Chicago can have a ton of great upscale Mexican restaurants, can't we have ONE? Furthermore, I'd give a tooth for "chamorros de puerco con salsa pasilla" as made by the chef at La Fiesta in San Diego. To die for.

                                    1. re: curej

                                      I like Sol y Luna a great deal, but I understand where you are coming from on the "not enough bang for the buck"--you do pay a good deal for rather small portions.

                                      I have never been to (or even heard of) Dos Pesos. Is it Tex/Mex, or more authentic?

                                      1. re: pinotboy

                                        Taqueria Mi Casita in the Palisades has several breakfast taco/burritos with various combinations of eggs, chorizo, cactus, queso, ham.

                                        1. re: Big Daddy

                                          Thanks...That's the kind of stuff I'm looking for.

                                        2. re: pinotboy

                                          I guess you'd call Dos Pesos more Tex-Mex. It's off of 119 neard Edgar's Bakery. You turn at the Whattaburger. It's definitely worth a try. They are a generous cut above most of the other spots in town. I like their take on fish tacos, and their chile rellenos are great. They did grilled salmon nachos for me tonight. Gooooood. Give them a try.

                                          1. re: curej

                                            GREAT puffy tacos at Dos Pesos tonight. They are hand made corn tortillas fried bubbly-puffy filled with your choice of meat. Really delicious, though perhaps best eaten with a fork.

                                            1. re: curej

                                              Where's Dos Pesos? ANd with the choice of meat, is it the taqueria choices (carnitas, cebolla, leguan, etc) or the more standard choices (ground beef, chicken, fish/shrimp)?

                                              1. re: Big Daddy

                                                Only the usuals..no exotics, sorry to say, but maybe they could be encouraged....

                                                Restaurant is off 119 behind O'Charlies. We really like it.

                                                1. re: curej

                                                  Thanks. I've heard of puffy tacos (on "Throwdown") but never had a chance to try them.

                                                  1. re: Big Daddy

                                                    If you wanna go, give us a heads up!

                                                    1. re: curej

                                                      I've had the puffy taco at Cocina Superior over in Brookwood Mall, but they didn't remind me of what I had out in San Antonio. Would love to give this place a try.

                                                      Also, I'm on the hunt for good empanadas.. any suggestions?

                                                      1. re: Jannae

                                                        Haven't seen them in the Ham. Gotta make your own!!!

                                                        1. re: Jannae

                                                          I wish. Sol Y Luna has some shrimp ones, but they're $9.50 for about 3 I think. I haven't had any good empanadas here. In other areas, I've mostly tried Chilean, Brazilian and Portuguese versions. I wish I knew where to find some examples from various Latin American countries, but I'd settle for any simple version.

                                                          1. re: Dax

                                                            We had some when we were down in Orlando on the City Walk that were pretty good.

                                                            Sorry to hear we don't have a place that does them well and affordably.

                                                              1. re: curej

                                                                Appreciate the How To link but empanadas are like tamales to me - so cheap I always buy instead of making them. I need to find a good online frozen source.

                                                                1. re: Dax

                                                                  Costco had decent tamales for a while...not sure they still have them. They had good carnitas, too.

                                                                  1. re: Dax

                                                                    Dax,
                                                                    There are good green chile tamales and pork tamales at Costco now. I bought a sac of each yesterday.

                                                              2. re: Dax

                                                                I keep hoping Kool Korner will expend its menu to include things like black beans and yellow rice, and empanadas. It's main competition in Atlanta, Havana Sandwich Shop, made some great ones.
                                                                We had a little Colombian/Mexican restaurant on 280 (now closed) that made good empanadas and arepas. I'd love to find a good hole-in-the wall for empanadas and other pan-Latino snacks.

                                                                1. re: Big Daddy

                                                                  I'm liking Camp Taco! It's no Gordo's, but it's within striking distance of UAB for lunch. Thanks for the heads up @Dax.

                                                                    1. re: curej

                                                                      Yes, that did catch my eye. They're a bit bigger than the ones I had down in Fl. years ago. I'm resigned to making my own next time I'm in the mood for them. Maybe I'll develop a really recipe, open an empanada truck, and establish the empanadas scene in Birmingham via tweeting!