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October 18, 2018

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Tacos translated: Decoding the menu at traditional Mexican taco shops

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Tovin Lapan

The sign above Line 2 at Taco y Taco on Eastern Avenue in Henderson. There are 14 different types of meat offered at Taco y Taco, but little description offered on the menu.

The variety of tacos available in the valley seems to grow on a weekly basis, and today it is easy to find the full range of meat and tortilla combinations from gourmet gut busters to the simple but delicious three-bite street tacos.

At some of the more traditional Mexican taco shops there have been some hiccups on the path to training an American audience on the ways of the taco line.

Taco y Taco, a Mexican taco shop that expanded earlier this year to a new location on Eastern Avenue just south of the 215 Beltway, is one example. The setup, which is also used by popular taco shop Tacos el Gordo, can be a little confusing for first timers. There are multiple lines for ordering depending on which type of meat you want.

At Taco y Taco, customers are frequently seen standing sheepishly on the fringes of the lines wondering where to start. At first Taco y Taco only had the Spanish names for the different meats on their menu. Eventually the display changed to indicate if the meat was from a cow, pig or chicken, but does not say which body part of the animal is used. In the end, for those not versed in taco vocabulary, the selection of 14 meats and four available variations on the taco can be overwhelming.

Taco y Taco proudly offers authentic Mexican food, and they let customers know at the front of the line with a sign that reads in part: “(Taco y Taco) is for open minded foodies and cultured people who would like to experience traditional Mexican flavors and atmosphere.”

The staff at Taco y Taco, though, is there to help, and the cooks are friendly and always willing to steer the disoriented toward the right combination

In honor of National Taco Day, Oct. 4, the Las Vegas Sol blog is offering a taco menu translation for all the confused but hungry taco lovers out there.

Tacos and Their Variations

Taco: The basic Mexican classic, typically two, small soft corn tortillas with the meat of choice, cilantro and onions

Tostada: Like a taco but served on a fried, crisp tortilla

Mulas: Two soft tortillas with melted cheese and the meat and toppings of your choice sandwiched in the middle

Vampiro: Two crisp tortillas with melted cheese and the meat and toppings of your choice sandwiched in the middle

Taco Meats

Al pastor: Pork strips layered together and roasted on a spit with pineapple and adobo seasoning

Barbacoa: Barbecued beef

Buche: Fried pig stomach

Cabeza: Steamed or roasted meat from the muscles in the head of a cow

Carne Asada: Grilled steak

Carnitas: Shredded and braised pork, typically from the upper leg or shoulder of the pig

Cesos: Beef brain

Chicharrón: Fried pork rinds

Chorizo: Spicy pork sausage

Lengua: Beef tongue

Pibil: Marinated pork wrapped in a banana leaf and slow roasted

Pollo: Chicken

Suadero: Meat from the part of the cow between the belly and the leg, similar to hangar or flank steak

Tripa: Tripe, beef intestines

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