For longer then I can remember, the taco options in Western New York always came down to two options: soft shell or hard shell. We always had an inexpensive option with the local giant Mighty Taco and various Mexican restaurants around the area, but they always stuck to the formula of ground meat, shredded cheese, lettuce and hot sauce. There’s a time and a place for those tacos but for people who wanted more, they were left looking to other cities. Luckily, things have changed.
Over the last five years, the local taco scene in Buffalo has dramatically improved. Whether you are looking for authentic tacos or creative options with unique toppings, you have quite a few places to choose from. Here’s our taco guide for this summer…
Lloyd Taco Truck. I think we all knew they were going to show up on this list, so why wait? No other restaurant has done more for our local taco scene then Lloyd. When they hit the streets in the summer of 2010, their California style of taco (corn tortilla, cabbage slaw instead of lettuce, pulled meat instead of ground) really threw people off. But after five years on the road, Buffalo has fully embraced all that Lloyd has to offer. In case you haven’t noticed, those tacos have lead to four food trucks and a forthcoming Hertel Avenue restaurant. Our favorite taco is the Carne Asada but their standard Pork taco isn’t too shabby either.
Cantina Loco, Elmwood Avenue and Allen Street If Lloyd opened the doors for better tacos in Buffalo, Chef Mike Andrzejewski gladly walked right through it in 2011 with Cantina Loco. Since opening the dining room in early 2012, the restaurant has been packed every night. Mike created a hip and fun location in the heart of Allentown, filled with affordable snacks and a lot of tequila. Our favorite taco is the Koreatown (Kalbi Short Ribs with kimchee and spicy sauce), which is worth a visit on its own.
Monte Alban, 507 E. Center St. Medina. Looking for blue corn tortillas? How about cornhusks to make your own tamales? How about any Jarito flavor your could dream of? Monte Alban is a great Mexican grocery store in Medina that offers all of those items. It’s also home to an immobile taco cart behind the store. The tacos are simple and traditional; corn tortillas with meat, onions and chopped cilantro. We really liked the chorizo when we visited. Warning: only open in the summer months, cash only.
El Gran Burrito. On East Center Street in Medina, just down the road a bit from Monte Alban, is El Gran Burrito, a small traditional taco cart in the parking lot of a repair shop. There’s basically no information for this stand on the Internet but if find yourself in the Medina area, it’s a must visit. Their tacos are prepared in a similar way as Monte Alban, but their homemade green avocado sauce is to die for. Warning: they are only open in the summer time as well, cash only.
Valle of Mexico, 1586 South Park Ave., Buffalo. Looking for authentic tacos but don’t want to drive out to Medina? You’re in luck; head over to South Buffalo and visit Valle of Mexico. While the restaurant has always been known for high quality cuisine, the service was always lacking. Over the last year, the service has improved and it’s definitely the most authentic Mexican cuisine in the city. The al pastor was my favorite on our last visit.
Other Considerations: We all know Smoke On The Water is known for their BBQ, but this North Tonawanda restaurant also has a killer Pork Belly taco. Covered in a cucumber and carrot slaw and sweet chili glaze, it’s a must order. Just this year, Chef Victor Gonzalez (Jaguar at the Bistro) and Chef Carmelo Raimondi (Carmelo’s) joined forces to create “The Taco Project,” a pop-up taco restaurant. To date they’ve only held one event but I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll see another taco collaboration soon.