There is a special place in my heart (and stomach) for tacos. The tortilla shells filled to the brim with flavor-packed meats, veggies, spices & other accoutrements are never dull and deserve their own place in the food pyramid. My favorite type of taco is a Mexican street style where the protein does all the talking and the simple toppings of onions + cilantro compliment the seasoning of the meat while adding some crunch and acidity.
Since moving to the Walker’s Point neighborhood in Milwaukee, I’ve noticed and been privy to an established authentic Mexican food scene ranging from taco trucks to quick-serve restaurants alike. I’ve taste-tested numerous tacos to bring you my list of Milwaukee go-tos, check ’em out below:
Taqueria El Jefe
This colorful taqueria in Wauwatosa brought to you by the Bartolotta’s group is a great quick-serve spot for an easy-going meal with family or friends. The casual, fun atmosphere is the perfect spot to indulge on their creative takes on the classic Mexican street taco. You can find your staples like al pastor & carne asada, but also find intriguing mash-ups of flavor such as the Karate Kid taco filled with Teriyaki glazed pork belly, apple, and red cabbage slaw.
The Laughing Taco
James Beard Award Nominee, Justin Carlisle, alongside his lovely wife, has done it again! After enjoying much success with his East Side establishments, Ardent & Red Light Ramen, Carlisle and his wife opened a taco shop inspired by the taquerias of Northern Mexico in Walker’s Point. The simple tacos are near perfection, topped with raw onions & cilantro (the traditional Mexican street taco style – ahem, my favorite). They also offer tacos “gringa” style served with cheese on a flour tortillas. And guess what? There’s even the iconic adult-slushies here too, similar to sister restaurant Red Light Ramen. So you can slurp & savor your way to an authentic across-the-border experience.
Newest to the Walker’s Point taco scene is Mazorca Tacos, a food truck situated in an empty lot at the intersection of S. 1st Street & Pittsburgh. A different food truck of sorts as the vessel for these bite-size savory treats is a vintage 1950 aluminum Ball trailer, and the owner is slinging tacos Monday-Saturday. The owner is incredibly friendly and charming, you’d be remiss if you came for tacos and didn’t take time to hear his story (check it out here).
Saved my favorite unapologetically (un)authentic taco shop for last – Gypsy Taco. Part of my love for this place is the food and part of it is for the unique atmosphere. Let’s start with the atmosphere first. This permanent taco truck is nestled in the back patio of Boone & Crockett in Bayview, an effortlessly hispter bar with phenomenal cocktails and a refreshingly rustic charm. The patio is cozy and is my go-to watering hole during the warm summer months.
Now on to the meat of it – the tacos (oh, and kwayso)! The tacos here are a unique combination of flavors, and honestly quite delicious. These tacos require two tortillas because there’s usually some melty cheese in between the two, then smothered with delicious marinated meats (or veggies) and toppings. The “O.G. Tacos” such as the Dr. Pepper braised pork shoulder and braised beef tongue are a must, and even the specialty tacos are delightful. As for sides, everyone loves the corn cup but I’m a big fan of the chips & kwayso (it’s queso). What sets this queso dip apart you ask? Other than the ooey-gooey-melty cheese, the spices, bits of fresh cilantro and hidden avocado make it absolutely top notch. I don’t leave Gypsy Taco without it!
Honorable mentions: Bel Air Cantina, Conejitos, Botanas and Vagabond.