Elevating Mexican Street Food

Sometimes you just need a taco. 4.5 billion of them to be exact. That’s how many tacos Americans ate in 2014, enough that if you laid them out end-to-end they’d reach the moon and back.

They’re the ultimate street food, but don’t simply think food carts or Mexican eateries. Definitely don’t think fast food. In his eighth annual trend prediction report for 2015, Andrew Freeman declared tacos one of the hottest foods. The dish, from the chef’s perspective is an easy, simple way to be creative while meeting the needs of custom-crazed Millennials driving food trends. Long Island restaurants are embracing the trend.

Related Content: Mexican Fine Dining Finds its Place on Long Island

“Tacos have become more mainstream because they’re healthy, they’re inexpensive and they’re value oriented,” Executive Chef Joseph DeNicola for Del Fuego said.


At Del Fuego the tacos have gone a bit farm-to-table. image: yvonne albinowski

From food trucks to gas station restaurants to upscale dining establishments, tacos are on the menu and Americans are ordering them in record numbers. Tacos are the new burger. They’re even on the menu of GM Burger Bar.

“Tacos are a great social food and full of unforgettable layers of flavor and excitement, they are convenient but to put it simply, they’re just super fun to eat—you grab them with your hands, wrap them up and get a little messy,” said Besito Founder and Owner John Tunney.

It all started in the 18th century. Mexican silver miners found it was convenient and easy to use small pieces of paper, called a “taco,” to wrap around the gunpowder they needed to insert into the small holes in the mine. Over centuries of culinary exploration in Mexico the language evolved to wrapping up some of the explosive ingredients used in tacos. It took a little longer for Americans to catch on. The first mention of tacos in the US came in a 1905 newspaper article.

image: chris gramly

It took Americans a while to catch on to the taco trend. image: chris gramly

Those first tacos though weren’t the gourmet ones so many Americans have fallen in love with today. At Del Fuego the tacos have gone a bit farm-to-table. The taco offerings change seasonally, depending on the season and the produce available. At Besito, where on any given day there are 12 or more tacos on the menu, the tacos are inspired by life.

“What’s happening and offered fresh in the local market? What do you feel like eating today? Eating and sharing lunch with a great friend. Traveling to a locale where tacos are the last thing you would expect to find inspiration for…it all inspires what we do here and what we create for our guests. When creativity and inspiration hit—which is every day here—we pick a time to all get together, Chef Carlos starts creating and we eat, get a little messy, share ideas and have fun. Sometimes the group will get together and do this 10 times before a decision on a new taco is made,” Tunney said.

mexican restaurants long island

“Tacos are a great social food and full of unforgettable layers of flavor and excitement,” said Besito Founder and Owner John Tunney. image: yvonne albinowski

We likely have Chipotle to thank for serious chefs devoting their culinary skills to the taco. Recent problems aside, the food chain made tacos mainstream and their success led others to attempt to capitalize on the taco creating new flavors and new options and increasing the popularity of the once lowly street food. Tacos aren’t intimidating and chefs have embraced how easy it is completely change the flavor profile of a taco simply by paying attention to the little things like this that make a taco great.

“Tacos are definitely a staple on our menu at Del Fuego and the most popular item that we serve,” DeNicola said.

That popularity doesn’t seem like it will fade anytime soon but still…

“You should savor a taco,” Tunney said.