Shelter Masthead

The Great All-Mexican Taco Stand

Taco Stand
The popular taqueria El Chino on Highway #1, north of San José del Cabo
© 1997 Lloyd Kahn

Taco stands are a marvel of Mexican cooking, little understood by most Americans. Let’s describe a typical taco stand in Los Cabos, such as the one shown above.

The chef barbecues the meat and then cuts it up into tiny pieces with a cleaver. A woman makes handmade fresh corn tortillas. You order as many tacos as you want (3 or 4 maybe), specify which type of meat, and are handed a plate with the hot tortillas and meat.

You then sit at a table which has a huge platter of fresh chopped vegetables: cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, maybe pickled onions, different herbs, different salsas, and guacamole. You pile as much of these into your tortilla as you can and you enjoy a fresh and healthy local meal.

The tortillas are made within minutes of eating them, the vegetables are mostly local and may be organic (there is a thriving organic farming operation in Los Cabos). The meat is from the local cattle that wander through the desert, eating non-sprayed desert plants; it does tend to be tough, but it is chopped up into small bits, and it is very flavorful.

There are many types of taco stands, usually differentiated by the type of meat. Some, such as Chino’s above, sell beef and pork. Others have fish tacos, chicken tacos, lamb tacos, etc.

The food in taco stands tends to be very fresh, since it is cooked and served fast, with a lot of turnover. The food moves in and out of the taco stand rapidly, unlike restaurants where it might be sitting for who-knows-how-long.

And finally, the taco stand is probably the most ecological fast-food operation in the world. No plastic cups, plates, or utensils. Think of the garbage generated by a MacDonald’s or Burger King for their high-fat food products and then go to a taco stand, eat your meal with your fingers, leave your soda bottle to be recycled, and think about the efficiency, as well as the economy and healthiness of this typically Mexican way of eating.