Despite the recent crush of taquerias in this corner of South Beach, tacos are certainly nothing new in South Florida.
Tacos have swept the country, a taco-cookbook author proclaimed in a 1991 article that appeared in the Miami Herald.
The cookbook, The Well-Filled Tortilla, suggested canned fruit and jarred spaghetti sauce as tasty taco toppings. Perhaps weve learned something since the last taco renaissance.
I think the secret is just going back to basics, keeping everything as fresh and simple as possible, said Eating House chef-owner Giorgio Rapicavoli.
His Coral Gables restaurant began serving lunch this month, and its frequently changing menu has at least one staple: Baja-style tacos with grilled Gulf shrimp, cabbage slaw, roasted-lime crema and Sra. Lips salsa (three for $12). That last ingredient is a nod to sous chef Adriana Lip Egozcue, who earned the nickname by talking back a lot, Rapicavoli said.
Lip is crazy over tacos there is nothing she loves more in the world. We knew we were going to have a taco on the menu, and theyre her baby. Shes making the tortillas fresh every day, making the salsas, using whatever fish is best that morning. Its gotten to the point where I have no input whatsoever on the tacos. Its just like, Do your thing. Youre knocking it out of the park.
Like Eating House, several South Florida restaurants offer at least one type of taco, regardless of the cuisine they serve.
BLT Steak at the Betsy hotel in South Beach has ceviche tacos on its Miami Spice menus, a departure from its steakhouse and raw-bar fare. Venerable Key Biscayne fish house The Rusty Pelican gets into the game with ahi tuna tacos, topped with a dollop of guacamole and a dusting of fennel pollen.
Still others are finding success in the taco-only route.
Since March, John OConnell has co-opted Joshs Deli in Surfside, turning it into Johns Tacos on Wednesday through Monday nights. Johns Tacos has earned a pack of loyal fans with its from-scratch tacos (one for $4, three for $11) and fried-to-order chips, served with a selection of aguas frescas or Mexican Coca-Cola.
Mercadito at Midtown Miami, which Pubbellys Mendin helped open in 2010 when he was corporate chef of the Chicago-based chain, blends traditional southern Mexican flavors with ones that are very Miami. Take, for example, its lemon-poached lobster taco with jalapeño butter, or the fact that you can substitute Bibb lettuce as your taco vessel. Mercaditos tacos are $15.50 for an order of four at dinner, or you can get one for $3.50 or three for $9 from the restaurants taqueria menu.
As he eyed an order of pork carnitas sizzling on a flattop grill at TeQuiztlan, Jose Ortiz laughed at the notion that tacos are a trend.
Ive been eating tacos my entire life, he said. Dont get me wrong: I own a taco restaurant; Im happy that theyre popular. But tacos have been around longer than us. And I have a feeling people will be enjoying them for a long, long time.