Taco Festival Detroit

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Taco Stand

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If you judged me by what I cook, my tattoos and the food I talk about most you could probably come to the conclusion that my first love for food is BBQ.  In reality, if I could have any choice any food for any meal I could easily come up with four or give different Mexican joints I would go to.  I say joint because your typical Mexican restaurant isn’t my idea of good Mexican food.  Large menus with tons of options are great but when I think of GREAT Mexican food I think of small places with a few chairs, usually shared with a grocery store and a basic menu with the items that they have perfected from their hometown.  No sizzling trays of fajitas being walked past your table every five minutes, no jumbo margaritas, just the essentials with your choice of meats.  I recently came across a joint in Allen Park called The Taco Stand Taqueria, which could not be any more of the epitome of what I love about Mexican food.  No bullshit, just a one page menu and great Mexican food.

I’m always on the lookout for little Mexican joints and had seen The Taco Stand on a few different lists that suggested it met all criteria of greatness.  It took seeing a share from Mr. Chris Baker to really push me over the edge and get over there the next day.  When you pull up to the Taco Stand, it’s not one hundred percent clear on exactly what you do to get your food.  There are a few benches with screen windows in front of them and you eventually find yourself in front of a screen door that leads you to a small space where you can order your food.  The entire kitchen is opened up in this area so you can see exactly what is going on.  I could see a guy prepping pork fresh for other customers’ orders and goddamn was this exciting for me.

The menu is as basic as you can get — tacos and quesadillas with your choice of five different meat varieties, two burritos, tortas, Carne Asada fries and few sides.  That, boys and girls, is what a taco stand menu should look like.  Choose what meat you want and what delivery device you would like to surround it.  None of this fajitas sixteen different ways, bullshit.

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Now being the fat man that I am, I had my eyes on the tortas but I had to get a couple of tacos.  If I posted something about a place called “Taco Stand” and didn’t get any tacos, I would fully expect all of you to close this site out and never return.  I started with two Asada tacos that were everything a great taco should be — a delicious, slightly crispy corn tortilla filled with seasoned meat and topped with fresh cilantro and onions.

Now before I continue this post, I have to go on a little side rant here.  Recently, I have discovered what I believe to be the greatness of the taco and I have been able to put it into words.  For the longest time, I believed what made a great taco was the meat. Deliciously crispy, yet juicy carnitas.. Pastor seasoned perfectly with a little fruityness.. That has to be the obvious reason for a delicious taco, right?  Wrong, I say.  The greatness of a taco is defined by the reason for its delicious changing.  After I eat a taco, sometimes I am thinking about how great the onions were.  Sometimes I’m thinking about how well the fresh cilantro tied everything together.  Sometimes I’m thinking about how great and crispy the tortilla was and how it acted as the perfect delivery device.  Other times, yes, I’m thinking about how great the meat filler was.  In reality, all of these ingredients shine together and create the perfect food combination.  If you really think about it, great tacos are like the 2004 Detroit Pistons championship team — A perfect combination of players with a different player stepping up every night.

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Now the tacos here are great.  But the tortas.  Holy shit, the tortas.  If you’re unfamiliar with the torta world, it basically takes what you would get with a taco and turns it up to an eleven.  A torta is basically a Mexican submarine that can house the same ingredients of a taco but because it’s supported by two pieces of bread all kinds of ridiculousness is possible.  I would explain more on the greatness of tortas, but someone has already done that for me in a post entitled The Torta is the Best Mother Fucking Sandwich Ever.  This torta is Al Pastor, onions, cilantro and avocado, This was one of the better sandwiches I have ever had.  Normally tortas can be messy and require a fork to pick up the remains off your plate but I was able to eat this entire thing in the front eat of my car with no issues. Seriously, get the torta.

Here’s another beautiful thing – This entire meal cost $9.00.

The Taco Stand is located at 5038 Allen Road in Allen Park.  You should go there.

Hot Sauce

I love me some hot sauce.  Not that kind that gives you second-degree mouth burns and prevents you from tasting anything else.  I love the kind of hot sauce that acts as more of a buddy to the food you’re pouring it on — An enhancement, if you will.  I belong to a monthly hot sauce club that sends me a different bottle of hot sauce each month.  Again, I would like to re-iterate that I enjoy hot sauce very much.

The only problem with hot sauce is you never know what you’re going to get until you dump some on your food.  Yes, it’s a fun adventure to try different varieties and flavors but if you don’t like a bottle it will typically sit in your refrigerator for the next year until it goes bad.  Also, hot sauce isn’t cheap.  Good bottles can cost upwards of $10-$15 these days.  THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER SOLUTION!

Oh yeah, make your own hot sauce.  If you have a pan and a blender/immersion blender/food processor you can make hot sauce.  Don’t know how to cook?  Doesn’t really matter. Follow a basic recipe, make some changes based on how you like your flavor and throw it in the blender.  You have got yourself some hot sauce.

Now here is the part where I go completely off on a tangent and tell you a story about my life that you probably don’t care about that relates to the topic of the post.  It has always been my dream to open a food truck or small restaurant that marries BBQ and Mexican food.  For example, the carnitas would be smoked pork shoulder and could either be served as a BBQ plate or on tacos or a burrito.  Same with the chicken, beef and other meats.  Everything would be smoked and available in a variety of different options. Taking it a step further, there would be ten different sauces to add to your food.  Five would be BBQ and five would be Mexican.  This adventure of making hot sauce recently re-ignited that dream.  If you’re actually reading this and support this dream I would like your input.  I may or may not be doing this in my backyard all Summer.  OK, moving on.

I would like to share with you the easiest hot sauce recipe you will ever make.  This is a clone of the big bottle of green sauce you will find at any taco truck or taqueria. Remember last week I said that La Torre Taqueria motivated me to make my own sauce? This entire bottle costs about $1.50 to make and tastes good on pretty much anything.

  • 6 Jalapeños
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (if you like garlic, use 3.  I use 3.)
  • 1/2 cup Canola Oil
  • Tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Directions:

  1. Boil jalapeños and onion for 15-20 minutes, or until you can stick a fork easily through one of the jalapeños.
  2. Remove and cut stems off.  Save the seeds, unless you don’t like heat.  If you’re a sissy like that, remove the seeds.
  3. Combine jalapeños, onion, garlic, oil and vinegar into whatever blending device you’re using.  Puree until smooth.

That’s it.  You have hot sauce.  This mixture will be very spicy until it cools and the flavors settle down.  Always use either canola oil or grapeseed oil in this recipe which will give you creamier texture.

The beauty of this recipe is you can do whatever you want to modify it.  Want it spicier? Use different peppers.  Want it a little smoky?  Roast your jalapenos.  Like garlic? Add more garlic.  Like your sauce a little tangy?  Add more vinegar.  You can add whatever you want to this to modify the flavor to the way you like it, which is the beauty of cooking things for yourself.  As always, I encourage you to change up the recipes I post on here to make something that you like.

On a side note and to close out this post, I made this late at night after work and didn’t feel like taking the step-by-step pictures that most people expect with recipes.  I did, however, capture a picture of my hot sauce smiling.  Hopefully that’s enough for you.

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Dos Hermanos Market

As you approach Dos Hermanos Market for the first time your thought process is probably something like “I don’t know where the entrance to this place is and it doesn’t look like I should be here”.  Yes, Dos Hermanos Market is a bit tricky to enter because the door is actually in the back of the building next to a few parking spaces. Yes, you have to walk through a Mexican grocery store, through a butcher shop that features pig legs and other pork delicacies.  Once you get through the grocery and the butcher, there is a small opening to a room with a few tables.  Wait, I need to stop.  I’m trying to paint a visual for you so you truly understand the experience but I’m just not that good of a writer.

Thankfully, I have Michael H., who is an ELITE Yelp reviewer with 93 reviews, to assist me with this.

When we came here, we saw lots of work trucks in the lot; so, this place had that going for it. And he said that, if you were looking for an ethnic cuisine which was authentic, you look for a place which has lots of customers from that ethnicity eating there. When we went in, we saw that the Mexican American customers outnumbered the non-Latino customers. So, this place had the the vote of the local Mexican American population as a good place to eat it seemed.

Thanks for the assist, Michael H.  Keep up the good work.

You might be curious that both Mexican restaurants I have written about double as grocery stores.  You might also be curious that both places do not feature large sombreros, chimichangas, some mention of a Cantina or Mexican Cafe, waiters wearing Mariachi costumes or giant margaritas.  That’s because the best Mexican restaurants typically feature at least two shelves with various Mexican grocery items and don’t have time to hang up items that most white people associate with Mexican culture.  What they DO have are menus thar feature the classics – tacos, tortas, menudo and mole.  If you go into a Mexican joint and the majority of those items aren’t listed on the menu, flip the table over and run out.  The other indicator that you’re in a Mexican joint catering to white people is you have to pay for chips and salsa.  Not cool, gringo joints.

Anyways, Dos Herman is is legit as they come. The taco menu features the classics – carnitas, Al Pastor, chorizo and barbacoa – but also offers beef head and beef tongue.  If you’ve never had tongue(Lengua) on a taco before, give it a shot.  They actually have a pretty large menu for a joint this small, with a full breakfast and dinner menu.  Taco Tuesdays are special here, with $1 Al Pastor tacos.  I don’t even know how that’s possible.

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So for real, take a journey and search for the door.  Navigate through the grocery store, pass the pig legs on the butcher shop and get yourself a simple, cheap, delicious meal.  If you want to go all out, order the Lengua tacos and thank me for recommending it.

Dos Hermanos is at 34707 Ford Rd in Westland.

Taqueria Alameda

This isn’t so much of a post, but rather a small collection of words I’m trying to fill up space with when really all I want to do is get you to go to my favorite Mexican spot in the Westland area — Taqueria Alameda.

It’s what every Mexican joint should be, a small authentic family owned taqueria next to a laundry mat that serves the simple staples of Mexican cuisine: tacos, burritos quesadillas and tamales. Nothing flashy, just some damn good food at a damn good price.  I can have four tacos and a cup of horchata for ten bucks.  Perfect.

I will say that some of the “expert, professional food reviewers” on Yelp are tearing into this place saying that the flavor is inadequate and the service is poor.  I’m here to say stop using Yelp as a source for your food choices. The food is great and you’re going to have to wait a few minutes for your food because one person is cooking all of the food that goes out and that person is the guy that owns the place. If you walk into a Mexican joint that doubles as a grocery store and sits next to a laundry mat, please don’t expect five star service.

I feel like the point of this post was to tell you how good this place is, but I’m getting off topic and ranting about my hatred for Yelp so I’ll finish this here with a statement and a picture.

This place serves tacos, the kind topped with onion and cilantro, wrapped in a corn tortilla.  You can get them gringo style, but why would you do that?  Go here.  It’s authentic and how often do you get to eat tacos in the middle of a little grocery store?   Try the al pastor and carnitas.

This place is at 906 S Wayne in Westland. Check it out.

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