Is Taco Bell popular in Mexico

New taco restaurants in Berlin : A round thing

The box with two rollers and a crank that is on the counter next to the open kitchen looks like a pasta machine. The dough comes in on one side. Only what comes out on the other side is more reminiscent of pancakes than pasta. A chef in a boat hat slaps the round flat cakes on the grill plate, another takes it back down as soon as it has got some color and fills it with grilled steak, braised chicken or bacalao in a beer batter with chili mayo. They are served “Con Copia” in the “Tacoriño” in Charlottenburg - with two tortillas.

Since street food became fashionable in Berlin, for example when the flow of expats started a few years ago and not least changed the gastronomy, the range of tacos has also increased. Finally, I have to say. A taco like this can be the perfect bite.

Tacos are TV stars and can impress even gourmet chefs

René Redzepi, one of the most famous chefs in the world, remembers his first taco that he ate in Mexico. After a long haul flight in the middle of the night in the tropical heat. Not necessarily the time for bigger culinary moments of happiness. But what he was getting to eat on a plastic chair in the glaring neon light amazed him.

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The sweet cornmeal patties with the robust smoky notes from the grill, the umami of the juicy pork, the hot and sour sweetness of the orange juice with habanero chilli, of which he should drizzle exactly seven drops on the pineapple slices, as he was emphatically explained. Redzepi writes this clearly impressed in his foreword to “Tacopedia” (Phaidon Verlag), the international standard work by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena, which is appropriately pedantic.

Like Redzepi, many seem to be doing well. Alone on Netflix you could spend a whole binge-watching weekend watching movies about tacos. First there is the series “The History of the Taco”, of which the second season has just started with seven new episodes. Then there is the new season “Chef's Table”, in which a Pitmaster is portrayed per episode, a hero of the barbecue, so to speak. And a heroine: Rosalia Chay Chuc from Yucatan, who is famous for her Cochinita Pibil, suckling pig braised in the ground.

As an appetizer, “Ugly Delicious” may be the best choice, David Chang's series from “Momofuku”. In the episode about tacos, the New York celebrity chef drives through the night in Los Angeles looking for the best taco stands. He is guided by three quality criteria: Go where you cannot understand some of the words on the menu. Are there any good, homemade salsas, maybe even grilled chilies? And are the tortillas homemade?

In Berlin you had to wait a long time for really well-made tacos

If you apply these standards, you would have to drive through the night in Berlin for a long time. We're not that far here yet. Those who love tacos have even had to face major setbacks. For example, “La Lucha” recently closed. As beautiful as the oyster bar “La Perla” on the Landwehr Canal, which Max Paarlberg now runs, is missing what his team used to drape on the corn pancakes. One glimmer of hope is that Paarlberg wants to open a Mexican restaurant again. Unfortunately, the “Lucha Libre”, which a few years ago in the Arminiusmarkthalle made what was probably the best tacos ever to be had in Berlin, never came back. First the bartender disappeared, then the shop. A shame.

But there are also new hope

“Oh la Quecha” has just opened in Neukölln. Here, too, they make the tortillas themselves - from corn from organic farmers in Brandenburg. And they fill them in an original way, for example with soy chorizo ​​and potatoes, or with beetroot, yellow peppers, green beans and roasted sesame. Anyway, vegetarian tacos: something happens. In “Chaparro” on Wiener Straße they have a version with nopales, with cactus leaves. In the "Tacoriño" they fill the Al Pastor with marinated cauliflower. And in the “Ta’Cabrón” they find a way to roll their own tofu for Mexico.

This is not yet a reason for the Berlin press to employ its own taco editor. The "Texas Monthly" has recently started doing just that. The man's name is José R. Ralat. The need for information is obviously great in a state that is crazy about barbecue ("Texas Monthly" has had its own barbecue editor since 2013) and in which 40 percent of the population have Hispanic roots. In the USA, tacos are like hamburgers and pizza: a piece of everyday culture. Even political hardliners on immigration love them.

With the taco, a piece of Mexican immigration culture was integrated into the American mainstream

Ironically, this has to do with an incident that could benevolently be described as cultural appropriation or brazen theft. Glen Bell had a hot dog stand in San Bernadino, California in the late 1940's. Across the street he noticed this café opened by Mexican immigrants. People stood in line for the tacos they served there. He went over and asked for the recipe ... The Mitla café is still there today, in the third generation. Glen Bells founded "Taco Bell". His empire has over 7000 branches worldwide. He copied the “hard shell taco” with a crispy tortilla, which is perfect for system catering.

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But is that even a taco? The opinions are divided. Doesn't a tortilla have to be soft? Gustavo Arellano, the author of “Taco USA”, says: No. He even thinks the success of "Taco Bell" has been a blessing for the Hispanic minority in the United States. It is the most important transmission belt in the cultural mainstream. The question of whether the burrito also qualifies as a taco is also explosive in terms of identity policy. Just to clarify the fronts: The taco is part of the Unesco world cultural heritage. The Burrito Tex Mex, a Texan-Mexican hybrid. In any case, the “Tacopedia” also contains burrito recipes. Not many, but enough not to completely deny the relationship.

And the circumstances are not that clear. The taco has always changed. Maybe because it's so simple. You can pack practically anything on a tortilla. And that's what happened. The famous Taco Al Pastor was thought to have been invented by Lebanese immigrants who came to Puebla, central Mexico in the 1920s. The meat is grilled upright like a shawarma.

The taco remains a simple snack even as a gourmet piece

The cochinita pibil, suckling pig slowly braised in banana leaves, is basically a fusion food. Even if the Mayas already practiced the art of barbacoa, the pigs were only brought to South America by the Spaniards. The tortilla itself also has a fairly long pedigree. Corn has been around since 7000 BC. Cultivated around 1000 BC. Tortilas were made. First the corn was soaked and boiled down, peeled off and ground in a mortar. Tortillas were baked from the paste. Maize flour mixed with wheat flour was later used - the conquistadores also brought this with them.

Would you like to prepare tacos yourself? Here you will find three recipes from the cookbook "Mexico", one with pumpkin, one with shrimp, and one with suckling pig.

One of the reasons for the popularity of the taco is that it is cheap. You eat it in the street, by hand. Often at night before or after going out. That's a curse too. In New York, chef Alex Stupak recently complained that he could easily sell two good scallops for $ 20-30 a plate, but if he served them on a tortilla, diners would freak out if they had to pay more than $ 5.
Who knows - maybe that will change. The taco deserved it.

Here come the best taco restaurants in Berlin

Chaparro
Raúl Oliver Arriaga offers burritos, tortas, quesadillas and tacos in his small snack bar on Wiener Straße in Kreuzberg and in the food court of the Bikinihaus. If you want to try your hand at taquero: there are ready-made tortillas and a salsa roja to take away.
Kreuzberg, Wiener Str.14A and Charlottenburg, Budapester 38-50, chaparro-berlin.de

Maria Bonita
Long a classic in Prenzlauer Berg. Since 2009 they have been braising and grilling tacos with chicken, pork belly, flank steak, sweet potatoes and new: with crispy fried fish fillet. Good guacamole with homemade corn chips. Everything tastes even better with a frozen margarita, of course.
Prenzlauer Berg, Danziger Str. 33, Maria Bonita (link leads to Facebook page)

Tacoriño
Probably the largest selection of tacos in Berlin has the ambitious taco bar in Charlottenburg (photo). In addition to the classics such as Al Pastor or Cochinita Pibil, also with shrimp, bacalao or cauliflower. For afterwards there are paletas, Mexican popsicles - like everything here, homemade.
Charlottenburg, Knesebeckstrasse 18-19, tacorino.de

Oh la Queca
Promising new addition: In “Oh la Queca” the tortillas are homemade and creatively topped. For example with soy chorizo ​​or beetroot, yellow bell pepper and green beans. Do you prefer meat? The beef is cooked sous vide. A horchata - homemade almond milk with cinnamon - tastes good with it.
Neukölln, Reuterstr. 36, Oh la Queca (Link leads to the Facebook page)

More enjoyment from your Berlin neighborhood. In our Tagesspiegel district newsletters, we also report on restaurants in your neighborhood. Free and compact:people.tagesspiegel.de.

Son Kitchen
Not surprised. The “Son Kitchen” is a Korean snack bar, but tacos are also popular in the Far East. And has a very own idea of ​​how they can taste: on pita bread with kimchi, Korean salsa, sesame-yoghurt-mint sauce and optionally honey BBQ beef, spicy chicken or tofu.
Charlottenburg, Kantstrasse 46, sonkitchen.de

Taco tuesday at The Bird BBQ
Tuesday at the Texan barbecue specialist has the motto “Taco Tuesday” (photo). Then they serve beef brisket - and whatever else they pull buttery from the smoker - on tortillas. There is also corn on the cob and a large selection of craft beers, many of which are freshly tapped.
Prenzlauer Berg, Oderberger Str. 6, thebirdbbq.com

Ta’Cabrón
The homemade corn tortillas are served with finely braised cochinita pibil and marinated tofu in the small taqueria. Very good guacamole. And for those looking for the big dining adventure: There is also the unsweetened chocolate sauce mole. For example with the braised chicken.
Kreuzberg, Skalitzer Str. 60, Ta’Cabrón (link leads to the Facebook page)

Sandunga Mezcaleria
Charming, small snack in Friedrichshain with vegan and vegetarian tacos as well as classics from Al Pastor with dried chilli to carnitas with pork cooked in orange and lime juice. Small selection of mezcal and tequila as well as ready-made tortillas to take away.
Friedrichshain, Boxhagener Str. 50, sandunga-mezcaleria.com

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