Once a traditional Mexican food served in small town taquerías, tacos have skyrocketed in popularity to become the star of a bustling culinary industry. New restaurants continuously pop up dedicated to the handheld delicacy and aesthetically pleasing photos of the dish are posted accordingly. Every Tuesday, now dubbed as “Taco Tuesday,” restaurant patrons flock to the nearest “taquería” for the fan favorite and its trusty companion: tequila. There are even entire Instagram accounts, some with millions of followers, dedicated to documenting the scrumptious Mexican pairing.
The taco’s original rise to popularity began in the 1500s, when the idea reportedly originated from Mexican silver mines. In the mines, the small stick of dynamite used to extract the silver ore was called a “taco.” According to Smithsonian Magazine, the tacos de mineros, or miner’s tacos, were pieces of paper wrapped around gunpowder that were inserted into holes in rocks.
Tacos eventually landed on American soil in the 1900s. They were first mentioned in a U.S. newspaper in 1905, a time that witnessed mass immigration from Mexico to the United States. Mexico, considered a harbinger of danger by Americans at the time, evoked memories of the Alamo. During this time, bandits made everything coming out of Mexico — even the food — seem dark, menacing and even a little bit sexy. Mexican women, referred to as “chili queens,” began selling tacos and other delicacies from their homeland out of carts in border states. The chili queens became an image of something exotic and flirtatious, which added to the appeal of tacos and other Mexican food.
It wasn’t until several years later that the children of first-generation immigrants began selling traditional tacos in a restaurant setting. As the second-generation immigrants started making money and receiving more civil rights in America, the new generation began incorporating different ingredients into the dish that were more widely popular in the American diet. Hamburger meat, cheddar cheese and iceberg lettuce became the essential ingredients in assembling a taco. Hard shells were eventually invented, and the pre-fried shell made it even easier to prepare the dish. As they became popularized, large-scale taco restaurants began to emerge, and fast food chains like Taco Bell and Chipotle created entire business models from the dish.
There is something about the simplicity of the taco that makes it appealing. Chefs often use the traditional framework of a taco to make the dish their own, creatively plating it in such a way to not only create a meal but a work of art as well. “Food art” – in which chefs lay out the meal in creative and unique ways to share on social media – has generated a cult-like following, with millennials rushing to taco restaurants around the globe to take the perfect Instagram shot of their meal. It’s not only about feeding your hunger anymore, it’s also about being a part of the trend. The satisfaction of being a part of the bustling world of tacos, with their brightly colored restaurants and rich history, keeps people coming back for more.
Try out these spots on or near campus to satisfy your taco craving.
1306 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables
If you’re looking for a taco fix on campus, Lime is a great place to grab a quick bite, especially because you are able to customize menu items to your liking. After grabbing your tacos, make sure to check out the salsa bar. The dips range from sweet to fiery, and Lime even makes its own in-house hot sauces that are great on any dish. Grab some guacamole and chips and a Mexican soda to finish off your meal.
5829 SW 73rd St., South Miami
Tacocraft serves an extensive variety of tacos. The taco menu includes everything from the “Gringo” filled with beef, cheese and sour cream to the less traditional, vegetarian options like kale and sweet potato. Not only is the food at Tacocraft great, the decor also has an edge. Look around while you’re eating to see the graffiti-style art inspired by the Mexican sugar skull. If you are looking to pair your taco with the perfect drink on Tequila Tuesday, the restaurant has a long list of cocktails. Tacocraft also offers deals throughout the week for Margarita Monday, Taco Tuesday and Sunday brunch.
3410 Main Highway, Miami
This hole-in-the-wall taco restaurant is a popular spot after midnight. It’s a great place to grab a bite after hitting one of the many bars surrounding it. Upon entering the building, it might not seem like a place to get quality food, but the chef serves authentic Mexican street tacos every day. After picking your protein, served with a lime on the side, you can choose from a selection of hot sauces to add a kick to your taco. And don’t mind the lack of seating, it just makes for the perfect snack on the Uber ride home.