Food & Wine // 5 min Read

Taco Showdown

Written by Grubbs

May 9, 2018

The Bluff’s publisher and editor go head-to-head in a gripping battle over one of the most pressing questions of our region: who serves the best tacos?

I am a creature of habit.

I also love to eat. These two traits combined often mean that when I find a restaurant I love, and a dish I enjoy, I do not stray. I am loyal. And if I must declare my taco devotion, I vote Savannah’s Tequila’s Town every time.

My first visit to Tequila’s Town was shortly after they opened in 2013. A local shop owner deemed it the best spot for lunch in the city, and that was enough for me. In my 40-plus subsequent visits, I have ordered the exact same thing. So perhaps this also makes me boring, but that is a crown I shall wear proudly, because Tequila’s Town is so very worth it.

I do not make this declaration in haste. I, like my counterpart, consider myself a taco (and margarita) connoisseur. My travels take me on a never-ending quest for the best taco. I seek simplicity of flavor and family recipes, not pretension. In Cincinnati, it’s Bakersfield OTR. And in Telluride, it is Taco Del Gnar. I hit 10th Ave. Burrito Co. when I am in Belmar, New Jersey, and I already have Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Antojeria on the docket for an April trip. Heck, last year, halfway through Boston’s Freedom Trail, I was distracted by Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar and suddenly Paul Revere was history, but those tacos . . . they are the future.

Tequila’s Town doesn’t strive to be Mexican-adventurous. They don’t follow trends, tout farm to table, or offer daily off-the-wall taco specials. They serve authentic Mexican food that is consistent and delicious.

The servers and bartenders haven’t changed in the four years that I have been a patron. I’ve never felt rushed, even when we’ve lingered over a pitcher of margaritas—on the rocks, with salt—playing 20 questions. And, those 20 questions are how the obsession started.

On my first date with my significant other, we went to Tequila’s Town. It was a day date, a Friday, and we decided to go to Savannah for lunch. We were both nervous, so my solution was to get a pitcher of margaritas (which I had previously pretested on more than one occasion) and relax. Fun fact: Savannah laws don’t allow bars and restaurants to serve liquor before noon. (This was unexpected, seeing as how you can walk down the street with a drink in your hand, but I am not here to debate the law.) We arrived at 11:15 a.m. (we were a little anxious, which in hindsight is cute, right?), which means we had to work through our nervousness with water, chips, and salsa. And we did. We played 20 questions until our pitcher of margaritas arrived.

That is how we got to know each other and that is why it is now “our place.”

The restaurant is always full, but we never mind waiting. Because of those aforementioned laws, we can grab a margarita at the bar and step out the front door to people watch as folks stroll down Whitaker and Broughton.

Warm chips and flavorful salsa arrive at the table the moment your backside hits the seat. The chatter is loud. The bar is always bustling. And the crowd is a mix of families, college kids, and 40-somethings like us looking to recreate their first date, again and again. The business partners who crafted this experience did so because of a love for food and people. Their goal is to “create awesome bites that will keep customers happy and returning.” I’d say 40 repeat visits suggests happiness.

Alas, I am both happy and boring. Because this is how I do it. Every. Single. Time.

First, we order a pitcher of the premium margaritas. The pitcher is big. And the margaritas are strong. If you’re headed right home after dinner, designate a driver. (If not, consider sitting in Ellis Square and listening to the music coming from Wild Wing Café, or if you are still hungry, take a right on Broughton and get in line at Leopold’s Ice Cream.)

We’re already through our first basket of chips when we finally place our order. Sometimes, if it’s been a particularly rough day that requires additional comfort, we order queso with our second chip installment, but in the end, it is always all about the Tacos de la Calle—the “street tacos.”

You can mix and match, but my order always looks like this:

One Rajas taco, please. This is their veggie taco stuffed with roasted poblano, avocado, onions, a creamy chipotle salsa, and lots queso fresco, which is a light, soft cheese that is the perfect complement to roasted vegetables. It’s like a mini-quiche wrapped in a corn tortilla. (My better half always does the flour tortillas. And every time I remind him that he likes flour. I like corn. Something he didn’t pick up on in 20 questions.)

Don’t judge me, but I also eat them in the order in which I am writing about them. So, the Carnitas taco is up next. Beer-marinated pork is topped with radishes, cilantro, and plenty of lime juice for a bright, fresh finish.

I save the best for last. The Al Pastor taco is Guajillo chile-marinated pork topped with onion, cilantro, and grilled pineapple. As you might suspect, the sweetness of the pineapple overcomes the kick of the chile pepper.

As the last taco bite is savored, I am still diving into the chips and salsa. The salsa is light and on the sweet side, so it doesn’t set your mouth on fire, and instead it becomes a staple throughout the entire meal. I’m certain we’ve never taken leftovers home save for a to-go cup of whatever is left in our margarita pitcher.

My mouth is watering, and we just planned a date for this weekend. Tequila’s Town and 20 questions. I can’t wait.

Written by Courtney Hampson

I consider myself a connoisseur of tacos.

Yes, I’m sure many others do as well, but I’d say that my penchant for (and success in) seeking out the best tacos wherever I am certainly elevates me above others who fancy themselves taco enthusiasts—cough, Courtney—as my discerning palate for the perfect taco is, well, hungry.

Fine, while I may not really know anything more about tacos than the next average Joe, I do know that my appetite for tacos knows no bounds. I could eat them every day, for breakfast, lunch, and likely dinner, and not tire of them. A spicy, flavorful little bundle composed of proteins, veggies, and cheese wrapped in a warm tortilla? Yes, I could eat that for the rest of my life and be very content. Which is why I was nothing short of thrilled when Bull Street Taco opened in Savannah’s up-and-coming Starland District last fall.

A true “neighborhood taqueria,” per executive chef and co-owner Jon Massey, Bull Street Taco blends spicy, bold Tex-Mex flavors with local produce and products to create simply delicious tacos. Massey envisioned a Cheers-like restaurant where everyone knows your name—and in this day and age, your food allergies—and paired that with a mission to source every ingredient as locally as possible, some even coming from Forsyth Park Farmers’ Market right down the street.

“This is where locals eat—and that’s where we want to be, at the top of the locals’ eat list. We work really hard so that everyone else can relax,” Massey said.

And for my husband and me, it’s just that. It’s become our staple Friday night—we’ll sit at the bar, chat with the hilarious bartender who swears he saw me working at Vineyard Vines, and sip our house margaritas. Sip, exhale. Sip, chat. Sip, relax. It’s our way to unwind from the week and start our weekend.

But enough about me. Let’s get to the meat of my argument—why these tacos are the best tacos in town. First of all, let’s start with the tortilla. Massey and his team make their own corn tortillas in house every day and source their flour tortillas from a fellow friend at the farmers market. I’d suggest going with the corn tortilla as its texture and heartiness combine to ensure your taco is properly encased (and won’t spill on your lap). But it’s not just a taco wrapper—these tortillas have plenty of personality on their own, some dyed a rich reddish purple from beets while others are fried to crispy perfection for a tostada.

But as the saying goes, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and each taco’s innards are composed of local ingredients that sing with flavor. My favorite taco on the menu, for example, is the Aleppo Tempura Cauliflower taco, and I’m not alone—Massey said it is one of their best-selling items. An ingenious concoction of tempura-fried cauliflower rolled lovingly (I feel like there is love in these tacos) in a spicy salsa that gives you just the kick you want—and deserve—topped off by a simple basil crema. The result is a flavor explosion that undoubtedly takes the title for best taco in town—after all, any taco that can transform cauliflower into a crunchy, fiery filling deserves such an accolade, no?

Or, try the Tuna Poke Tostada—a delicately crispy tostada that sits underneath a pile of sushi-grade tuna, avocado, pineapple, and cabbage that explains why poke is such a food craze right now. No matter what you order, please promise that you will at least pair it with a house margarita, which is arguably the best margarita in town, made with freshly squeezed lime juice and Cointreau for a tangy, balanced, and most importantly, strong cocktail.

For a neighborhood taco joint, Bull Street Taco strikes the right medium between casual atmosphere and elevated food, something Massey wanted from the start. “If I wasn’t a father of two and married, I’d be on some beach somewhere in Baja, drinking margaritas and eating tacos,” Massey said. “Everything’s going to be fresh—that’s key for us. We really feel like there is a great balance of food on the menu, with the richness, heartiness, and earthiness of the ingredients.”

As for who wins best taco, I’ll let you be the judge. And when you decide I win, you’ll know where to find me.

Written by Anna Jones

Photography by Annie Celine and John Roberts