Head west, young man! Or old woman! Or ageless, genderless ephemeral being! Because that’s where all the tacos in this edition of The New OKC Taco Tour are waiting for you.
The lovely and talented Sara Cowan joined me on this leg of the tour (or part of it, thanks to her being a part of the stupid, awesome Factory Obscura) and our focus took us to the Hefner Parkway and beyond, into the taco hinterlands.
Seriously, is anyone aware of how deeply hashtag blessed Oklahoma City is for tacos? In the previous tours, we’ve only hit a single taco truck. All the rest have been full-on taquerias and we’re not even close to cataloging them all.
There are so many great taco shops in our city that when we arrived after closing at one of the shops, we easily re-routed to another just a few miles away. Is there a 24-hour taqueria yet? There should be.
Anyway, on with the tour!
FIRST STOP: Hugo’s Taquizas
3409 NW 23rd St., OKC
Daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Though Sara wasn’t able to join, I did have company for this stop: my old review from THE PAPER THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED was framed and hanging on a post. It’s like a portal into an unhappy past.
Aaaaanywho, ordering at Hugo’s is always difficult, because the menu is top-to-bottom killer. I opted for one of their specialties, the Tacone — a giant pita taco with lettuce, tomato and avocado on a pile of al pastor — alongside a Taco Calvillo and an alambre taco.
The tacone was lovely. It’s definitely a meal on its own. Imagine a gyro making sweet love to a taco. Now imagine what you’d eat while watching that, you pervert. My only issue is that the al pastor’s flavor gets subsumed by the avocado’s richness.
Taco Calvillo is a marinated steak taco topped with caramelized onions. I love Hugo’s tiny taco tortillas, which seem much fluffier and more tender than other taquerias.
The winner, though, was the alambre. It’s hard to beat a steak, bacon, onion, bell pepper and cheese taco. Hard to beat. Definitely not hard to eat. Stop in on Tuesdays for their insanely cheap $1 taco special and you can eat like a glutton for a fiver.
SECOND STOP: Taqueria La Original
1143 N. Rockwell Ave., OKC
Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sat-Sun 9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
I love Taqueria La Original #2 for the name and the food, but I figured it was time to pay my respects at the original Original. Inside this brightly lit, brightly painted little stripmall restaurant, Sara opted for a fried pork gordita stuffed with lettuce, cheese and meat while I went old school with al pastor and barbacoa tacos.
The gordita’s shell was fascinating to Sara, who compared it to a Schlotzsky’s bun. It was tasty, but also very filling, so she tapped out about halfway through.
The tacos weren’t so lucky with my never-say-diet attitude. The barbacoa reminded me of a super juicy medium-rare pot roast in all the right ways. It’s tender and meaty; a perfect vessel for some of the surprisingly spicy red sauce.
But the al pastor was a revelation. I definitely understand why the man at the counter recommended it. The meat was bright red and ultra-flavorful. Once inside your mouth, it just melts.
THIRD STOP: Taqueria El Rey
4401 NW 23rd St., OKC
Sun-Thurs 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
There are several El Rey taquerias around town, but we stopped at #4 after our original third stop option was closed. I mean, El Rey was going to make it on the tour sometime anyway, so it wasn’t a hardship.
When in doubt, it’s always a safe bet to get asada tacos. Rather than tiny cubes, the asada at El Rey is little strips of steak. It was a bit dry, so be sure to grab some sauce or some pico on your way to the table.
The cabeza was definitely not dry. Beef head tacos are some of my favorite (specifically the beef cheek, if you can get it) because of the all the connective tissue that melts into the meat in a low-and-slow cooking process. The texture is tender, almost creamy, and very beefy. I love the simple crunch of tiny diced onions and cilantro on these tacos. No sauce necessary.