Three No-Frills Taco Shops in the East Valley
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As a consistent participant of taco Tuesdays, I am always on the hunt for new taco shops with authentic Mexican cuisine and even better deals. While some taco shops nowadays offer pricey exotic margaritas and high ticket prices, I like my tacos like I like my men: simple and easy to enjoy. That’s why I spent my Friday evening scavenging the valley for Arizona’s best-hidden taco gems.
El Gallo de Lagos
From Los Lagos de Moreno near Guadalajara, Mexico, owner Alfredo Rea traded his Chivas of Guadalajara soccer jersey for an apron 13 years ago when he opened El Gallo de Lagos. This unassuming taco shop, which I would like to add shares a parking lot with a mine safety training center, serves up a wide variety of meats including classics such as carne asada and pastor, along with cuts of lamb, better known as birria. I opted for the pastor which had been freshly prepared on the rotisserie visible from the front counter. The pastor was chucked full of succulent pork and topped with the freshest onions, cilantro, and house tomatillo salsa. Just one bite and I felt as if I was no longer in Mesa, Arizona, but rather wandering the streets of Guadalajara, indulging myself with one delicious taco after another. Alfredo insisted that if I enjoyed the pastor, I would love the birria, saying that it is taco of choice for citizens of Guadalajara. He was correct. The birria taco, a culinary delight unique to El Gallo de Lagos, combines the usual fresh flavor of street tacos with the smoky and delectable flavor of lamb. I enjoyed this dish so much that I had to come back the next day to eat it again. Along with authentic tacos, El Gallo de Lagos also serves up lamb consommé on the weekends. Be sure to stop in early if you want to try the consommé; they run out quick!
El Gallo de Lagos
730 E. Brown Rd. Mesa, AZ
Moreno’s Mexican Grill
Once a food truck on the corner of Broadway and Horne in Mesa, Moreno’s Mexican Grill has evolved into an Arizona favorite with seven locations around the valley. I ended up in their second location on Arizona Avenue in Chandler where, as recommended by several waiters, I devoured the Taco Toro. The Taco Toro starts off with a fresh tortilla, a poblano chile, gooey queso badón and refried beans. This masterpiece is then topped off with flavorful carne asada, fresh cabbage, onions, cilantro, and a slice of avocado. All cooked on a charcoal grill, the Taco Toro is exploding with complex flavors. Think of the typical yummy taco, but with a hearty slice of chile relleno that brings just the right amount of smokiness to your taste buds. As if the food isn’t enough to have customers forming a line out the door, Moreno’s also has a killer taco Tuesday deal. With taco’s pricing in at only $1.79, Moreno’s is sure to become anyone’s favorite taco shop. If you’re not completely full from tacos, be sure to stop by the Moreno’s hot dog cart located right outside for $3 Sonoran hot dogs on Thursdays.
Moreno’s Mexican Grill
601 N. Arizona Ave. Chandler, AZ
This family owned and operated taco joint is serving up more than just delicious food. Since 1974, Elmer’s has been dishing out authentic Mexican cuisine to the city of Chandler at low prices and with quick service. Located across the street from Chandler High School, Elmer’s is the perfect after-school hangout that invites its patrons to stay for a while and converse in between each bite of tasty tacos. Between my order of the carne asada and pastor tacos, I still can’t decide which one is my favorite. The carne asada tacos offered a flavorful snack full of savory, tender steak, a sprinkle of onion, fresh cilantro and just the right amount of spice, all wrapped in a fresh soft tortilla. The pastor taco, while just as delicious, brought a slightly sweeter taste with its tender cuts of marinated pork. Be sure to check Elmer’s social media for rotating weekly deals and stop in on Tuesdays for their two dinner meals for $12 deal.
355 N. Arizona Ave. Chandler, Arizona
What are some of your favorite no-frills taco shops to visit? Let us know in the comments.
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Find Tessa Patterson online at @justaraeofsunshine