A food so splendid it gets its own day of the week (Taco Tuesdays!); tacos are a comfort food built for the summer.
They’re sturdy, can be super healthy (or not), and are a little messy to eat (great for munching outdoors). Whether you like them soft or crunchy, corny or floury, full of beef or full of beans, the versatile taco has what it takes to satisfy — a hot meal in your hand.
Tacos are also a great staycation food: They’re delicious, easy to prepare, and cheap to buy.
The Valley Advocate staff sat down to a table of a dozen taco varieties from all over Hampshire County. We grabbed tacos from Mi Tierray, Hadley; Bueno y Sano, Northampton and other locations; River Valley Co-op, Northampton; La Veracruzana, Northampton and Amherst; Ecuador Adino, Hadley; and Taco Bell. Here are the tacos we tried, from yuck to yum.
12. Bean taco, Taco Bell
Kristin Palpini, editor-in-chief: It smelled like peanut butter and jelly and tasted like sweat and dirty socks.
11. Beef taco, Taco Bell
Dave Eisenstadter, managing editor: I think the nostalgia factor helps this out. It wooshed me back to eating fast food as a kid.
10. Lengua (beef tongue) taco, La Veracruzana
Dave: It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s tender, melts in your mouth, with a great fatty flavor, too. More places should have lengua tacos.
Kristin: Tastes like stew. Nope.
Chris Goudreau, staff writer: It’s chewy and good, but I wish there was more on the taco than meat. I like diversity in my tacos.
9. Chicken mole taco, Mi Tierra
Chris: [Singing] O, Chocolate, chocolate chicken — this taco is song-worthy. The sweetness with the meaty goodness — it had a little kick to it, but it was lacking on other toppings.
8. Fish taco, La Veracruzana
Chris: Tasty sauce. Really hit the spot. Very refreshing.
Dave: It’s like fish-and-chips fish, in a shell. I like it.
7. Chicken taco, Mi Tierra
Kristin: It’s a decent taco, but forgettable.
6. Beef taco, Ecudador Adino
Kristin: Sweetness! I really like all the grilled vegetables, the cilantro, the radishes. Tasted authentic, but the beef could have used more flavor.
Chris: Where’s the beef?
5. Chicken taco, River Valley Co-op
Chris: This is a taco I can get down with: it’s a little spicy, the ingredients are fresh. It has a certain je ne sais quoi.
4. Bean taco, River Valley Co-op
Kristin: I loved it. The sprouts, the cabbage, the raw red onion! All this flavor on top of a soft, cheesy bed of beans.
Dave: It feels healthy to be eating this.
Chris: This is essentially a hippie taco.
3. Spinach and garlic taco, Bueno Y Sano
Jennifer Levesque (art director and vegetarian): I liked it a lot. The black beans with the spinach and garlic — these are three of my favorite things to eat in the world.
Kristin: Bueno needs to drain the spinach before putting it on the taco. The shell has dissolved. But it smells amazing and is so tasty.
2. Nopales (cactus) taco, Mi Tierra
Kristin: Yes! A really nice vinegar-bite to the cactus and the texture is great: firm, but cooked through. It goes great with the cooked onions and cheese. I want more.
Jen: I could definitely eat many more of these.
Chris: There’s no prickles on it.
1. Teriyaki chicken taco, Bueno Y Sano
Kristin: Just when I was about to write off chicken tacos as unforgivably bland, this grilled, diced chicken, smoky, saucy beauty walks into my life — with cheese!
Chris: One thing many of the other tacos lacked was cheesiness. This one is meat magic on my tastebuds.
Contact Kristin Palpini at email@example.com.