Several months ago an advertisement popped up on my Facebook, which normally I would ignore, but this one had something that really got my attention. There was a Taco Festival coming to the riverfront in Detroit. Now either this was a completely random advertisement or Facebook’s algorithms finally picked up on the amount of times I post about tacos. Either way, I immediately logged in and purchased tickets. $12 general admission tickets that promised tacos, live music, Lucha Libre wrestling and alcohol. What could go wrong?
Now I’m not normally the guy that just dives into something like this. I’ll admit, the promises of unlimited tacos and masked wrestlers dug deep into my emotions and basically took over my credit card. I’m usually the guy that will read who is putting the festival together, what additional costs there will be and other details before I pull the trigger on something like this. After purchasing tickets, I started to read and discovered that Taco Festival is actually a traveling festival that hits one or two locations per month. They recruit local vendors, which they actually did a really good job of – more on that later, who pay a deposit to have a booth and then receive a percentage of the money for the tacos that they sell. I searched everywhere trying to figure out who the owners of the festival were but could not find anything. You’re so mysterious, Taco Festival.
The festival was very well put together. There were several beverage tents selling beers that ranged in price from $4-$8 depending on regular or tall can, a main stage had live music throughout the day and taco tents stationed the perimeter of the festival grounds. There were close to forty different Michigan vendors offering various tacos and other Mexican specialities. They did a good job finding, or being found by, a number of legit taco trucks and taquerias, but there were a few I wasn’t about — See Qdoba and something called the Crazy Gringo Mexican Cantina. Most vendors were offering several cuts of meat — mostly pork, chicken and steak. There were a few vendors who decided to not offer pork and none of these vendors received any money from me. Selling tacos without pork is like Harold Melvin without the Bluenotes.
My personal favorite? Loncheria El Parian, a taco truck that sits on Dix ave. It was the only vendor I saw that had their Al Pastor on an actual spit, the way it’s supposed to be served, with a pineapple dripping all over the spinning column of pork. Their place included pickled onions and pickles. Absolutely delicious. I will be checking them out for some of their other goods and services at a later date.
Now here’s where I have to get a little negative on the festival. The cost for the festival was $12. The wife and I went together so our total cost of admission was $24. We like beer so the first thing we did was buy two beers. That was another $6. I’m not a normal human being so I ate eleven tacos. That was another $22. My wife is a normal person so she had three tacos. That was $6. We also paid for parking, which was $10. All together, this festival ran us $62.
I understand their pricing because they need the up front money from the tickets to rent the venue, pay their employees and set everything up. I swear I’m not trying to be a complainer here but the beauty of tacos is they are cheap. They typically house less expensive cuts of meat and can be bought in bulk at various places for a buck or two. When you organize an entire festival around a food item that is typically very cheap and somehow make it an expensive experience it’s just kind of weird to me. I also believe that visiting a small taqueria offers a different kind of experience that is just as fun. That could be just me though.
I also understand that I’m paying for the experience of having all of these different vendors in one place. The only thing I can think about when I apply that logic is information about the best tacos in Detroit is readily available on the Interwebz and I can go directly to the source and give them 100% of my money. I realize not everyone wants to research everything they eat and this type of festival is great exposure for local businesses.
So in summary, Taco Festival is a great thing for your average eater and the city of Detroit. For me, not so great. They claimed this will be an annual event and if you have some disposable income and are looking for an unconventional experience, this is probably for you. I’m glad to say that I attended a festival completely centered around the taco,but I probably won’t be back next year.