I’ve told you guys before that I must have been Mexican in my former life. I don’t think I knew how much I appreciated their culture until I moved back to North Carolina from California in 2009. While I am much further from Mexico now than I was when I lived in CA, I’m thankful to have discovered several places around Raleigh that have super authentic Mexican food–and I am not talking the standard Americanized Mexican where every dish is basically the same thing styled differently. Pinche gringos… You have to look for these super authentic spots. That’s fine by me, and I know I have found authenticity when I am the only caucasian in the building. That has been the case at Taqueria el Toro each time I have been, other than the times I have been accompanied by another caucasian. haha.
This little gem is tucked back off of Tryon Road when you are coming down South Saunders heading away from downtown Raleigh. Coleen actually introduced me to this place years ago. I’ve been before on a Sunday when the line to the counter ran all the way to the front door. I’m still exploring their menu, but I haven’t had anything that wasn’t delicious. Their fish taco is not exactly a Baja style taco, but it has the baseline of a Baja fish taco, and it is damn good. They grill the fish (which I love), and serve it with a spicy mayo based sauce. Then they have a salsa bar with cilantro, onions, pico, grilled jalapeños, cabbage, and several different salsas. So, you can finish it Baja style if you want. They make all their tortillas in house so they melt in your mouth, naturally. Their fish taco is an amuse-gueule as far as I am concerned, so it was a perfect, scrumptious bite before my bean burrito. The burritos are a life changing experience. I don’t know what it is that they do to it that makes it so good. I think they make the flour tortilla in house. Wet burritos are still #1 in my heart on the burrito scale, but el Toro’s burrito runs a close second when it comes to Raleigh. You can see how Christina and I doused ours in hot salsas, cilantro, etc., below. So beautiful. Sigh. Also pictured from a previous visit is Soup of the Seven Seas, aka Caldo de Siete Mares. I noticed so many people eating this every time I came, I decided I needed to try it because it was obviously super popular among the Mexican peeps. It has shrimp, octopus, squid, mussels, crab legs, epazote, tomato, guajillo chiles, and a bunch of spices. I like to add fresh cilantro to mine, but I see people piling all kinds of yummy stuff on theirs. I realize that when I go to a Mexican place I have serious FOMO. It’s so hard to just order one or two things. I had to overcome my FOMO and promise myself that the tacos would still be there next time if I ordered the soup. I was not disappointed and the tacos were definitely there next time. hahaha!! OK, I will just admit it. I am completely obsessed with Mexican food. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I have. The timing of our dinner last night was actually coincidental as it marked the last day of our Taco Tour of ’14. That’s right. We went on taco tour. Kind of like people go on tour to see their favorite band. We went on tour to eat our favorite tacos. ❤
The woman pictured below is my dear friend, Christina Cucurullo. We have this history of epic adventure that sometimes doesn’t feel real-life. We once filled a 26 ft U-Haul with all of my worldly possessions, my late pit bull, Luckydog, hitched my car to the back of it, and drove across the USA together. The funny thing is that prior to this we really didn’t know each other that well. Needless to say, 2800 miles in a U-Haul together and you will get to know someone very well. For us, it was the start of an amazing lifelong friendship unlike any other I have ever known. I still look back on that epic journey as one of the greatest adventures of my life. I am giggling just thinking about it. Anyway, I digress. So, Christina has this love affair with Mexican food in the same way I do. In 2014, we decided to make the journey back to Southern California together, this time by air, solely to eat the best Mexican food in the country (sorry Texas, I have to go with CA on this one). We flew into LAX, rented a car, and then cruised the coastline to San Diego, hitting up local Mexican spots every time we got hungry. OK, I do recall also eating Sushi Deli #1 during that trip, but when in Rome–you know. If you find yourself in SD you have to go there… We drove all up and down the coast, ferried to Catalina and back, and we unquestionably agree that the best Mexican is at La Revancha in Long Beach. How lucky am I to have a friend in life like Christina? I love you, boo. I included some pics from Taco Tour for nostalgia’s sake, including a pic of the tacos at La Revancha that changed our lives, and our victory run along the cliffs of Malibu at the end of our tour. I wince a little when I think about La Revancha tacos knowing how far they are away from me. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it? Damn. I am now going to have to start planning my next trip out west. Fun fact about Christina: she’s a musician better known by her stage name, Spookstina. She’s currently gearing up for fall tour with her noise act. Check her out if you are so inclined! Link below to her Soundcloud and an interview in which she tells about her style. Every once in awhile you can catch her live locally in Raleigh.
It was like she was reading my mind yesterday because I had been thinking about Mexican. She texted me and told me that “the Mexicans are singing her nombre”. haha Great minds, do indeed, think alike. Cheers to you, my soul sister, and cheers to Taqueria el Toro. They also have a grocery store connected where you can bring their homemade tortillas home and all kinds of other Mexican stuff that you cannot find in a regular grocery store. Go check them out next time you are craving authentic Mexican.
Taco Tour ’14