A table of tacos outdid me
And put out my amorous fire;
For when I got on bended knee,
To eat was her sole desire.
From La Taquiza by Chava Flores
There are two schools of thought about the tacos at Taco Lab
The first school says this isn’t the place to eat tacos. Tacos are the food of the street. A tacophile’s nose can sense tacos from half a block away. Tacos are prepared by taqueros in wedge caps chopping, flipping and stuffing cheap and cheerful fillings at here now, gone a few hours later, aluminum carts. Favorite fillings are cabeza, tripa, birria, longaniza and machaca. Taqueros have their own language with terms like con copia, doradito, pura maciza and sin verdura. They price their tacos at 12 maybe 15 pesos each, not three or four times that.
The second school says the tacos at Taco Lab Tacolicious are in a league of their own. Incomparable with street tacos. With more and better fillings. Served in elegant surroundings with comfy chairs. And worth every penny of the 50 pesos that they cost.
I belong mostly to the first school but not totally. For there’s a taco at Taco Lab that is better…much better…than any taco I’ve ever had from a taco cart. It’s name is the guajillo braised short rib taco and the taste is divine.
It starts with the choice of meat. Short ribs. One of the holy trinity (along with cheeks and shank) of slow cooked beef cuts. With a depth and richness of taste that is unequalled. With a fall apart tenderness that is seldom found. I have never ever had short rib on a taco from a taco cart. Only at Taco Lab Tacolicious.
Next is the choice of chile. I can find guajillos in almost every Mexican pepper stall but I rarely find it in any Mexican sauces. Chipotle, chiles de arbol, pasilla, habanero, pequin, mulato…they’re frequent flyers in salsas but guajillo just doesn’t make it unless it’s accompanied by two or three other chiles. Guajillos have a fruitiness that’s a little like blueberries, a little like prunes, and a mild heat that’s just right for almost everyone.
There was something else in my favorite San Miguel taco though that I couldn’t identify. So I asked Taco Lab chef/owner Donnie Masterton.
“The guajillo braised short rib tacos are my go to taco when ever I myself eat at Taco Lab. I love a good braise. The key is a long low and slow braise to get them tender and soft enough to shred the meat with a couple of forks”, said Donnie, “but the secret to the deep rich flavor of these tacos is a good Mexican dark beer.”
The short rib taco is served with raw onions and peppery baby arugula…a nice change from cilantro…on top. Something else you’ll rarely get at a taco cart is on the side. Pickled carrots and cauliflower have the right amount of crispiness and have spent the exact amount of time in vinegar.
And one last thing. The drink of choice at a taco cart is cola which it should be. But it sure is nice to have the second choice of a beer at Taco Lab.
Taco Lab is located inside Doce 18 Concept House at Reloj 18 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They are open seven days a week from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. Telephone is 415 154 8317 but it’s not the kind of place you’d ever make reservations for.