reviews of tacos!

Taqueria Guadalajara

Madison WI

1033 s park st, madison WI 53715
mon-fri 10am-11pm, sat-sun 9am-11pm

Taqueria Guadalajara - taco review

thumb read some more of these great taco reviews! read some general articles about taco consumption find out more about tacosmog, and get in contact with the creators go back to the tacosmog mainpage thumbthumbthumbthumbthumbthumb


Rating: 87
Price: $$

A modified version of this review appears in The Dish as part of my ongoing collaboration with Madison's premiere culinary magazine.

On a recent evening, I happened to have some business associates passing through town on their way to Taqueria los Paisanos (or, if not there, somewhere in Minnesota). When Emma, Joe, and Rachel revealed their horrible secret - an approximately dinnertime arrival - we naturally agreed to meet at the #1 targeted taqueria in Madison. Emma and Joe, of course, were my guides to the #1 taqueria in America, so I could only hope to return to favor with some adequate Wisconsin-style tacos.

They arrived before me and had consumed all but one of the chips of different chromatic varietals with favorable reviews. Fortunately, our attentive and friendly waitress soon brought us a fresh basket of red, yellow, and green chips to munch on with the two house salsas. We had a a very flavorful and fairly mild tomato-based salsa. It was notable for the size of tomato hunks within. It is rare to find a non-pico-de-gallo salsa with hunks of tomato larger than the hunks of onion, but in Taqueria Guadalajara's case, they mixed pureed tomatoes and cubed tomatoes to great effect. The second salsa choice was a tangy and spicy green (really, more of a brownish orange-green) salsa. It had the ethos of a smoky salsa, but little of the smoky flavor; instead, it overpowered with a mysterious tangy flavor backed up by a kick of spice. For chip dipping (these chips were particularly crunchy), I preferred the tomato salsa, as it offset the flavor of the chips. However, for the previously foreshadowed tacos I am about to describe, the tangy green did a better job livening up the meat.

I placed an order for 3 tacos: 1 pastor, 1 asada, and 1 buche. Business associates Joe ordered the classic 'Mexican Flag Burrito' (sans eagle clutching serpent [or is it a serpent-clutching eagle?]), Emma got the huarache mexicano, and Rachel the tamales. Service was rapid, with just long enough for me to change my mind and order a Tecate (which came, portentiously, with lime), before our food came out. The tacos were served on a double-corn tortilla, topped with cilantro and onions, and a few pyramid-sliced limes on the side.

I started off with the al pastor, and it was a real treat. The meat was finely chopped (it looked almost ground, then re-assembled during marination). While I couldn't see the cookroom, based on prior experiences, I'd doubt that they had a doner-style spit a la Taco Mix. However, the meat took the marinade well, and had that classic citrusy spice that makes al pastor the current favored meat of tacosmog.

Next up, I went for the asada. It was thinly sliced, almost to the width of cecina, but not given the salt treatment. In fact, the flavor was very mild, and the meat didn't have that 'fried' feel that I've come to enjoy from a nice cubed asada. The weaker texture, matched with a fairly mild marinade, did not impress, and when mixed with the tomato-y salsa it strayed fairly far from my nightly asada dreams. The tangy green salsa did a better job accentuating the beefy undertones, but the thinly sliced meat still had a tendency to get lost a bit.

Finally, I finished with the buche. If you're not in the know, buche is a crispy, fried pork intestine/stomach/esophagus. I have tried it only once before, and then not in taco form. I wasn't impressed then, and I wasn't ecstatic this time. In my opinion, the greatest tacos are easily chewed with a slight amount of toughness and some crunchy onion bits (maybe even some crunchy meat exterior, depending on the varietal). Buche was simply too crunchy for me, as it was difficult to bite through but not quite brittle enough to snap off in the mouth. This often led to the unpleasant 'hamburger-tomato-phenomenon' during which you lose your entire burger's tomato in the first bite due to insufficient dental cutting power. While I was impressed by the enjoyably flavored blend of friedness and porkness, the texture just wasn't for me.

One often overlooked aspect of the meal that Taqueria Guadalajara perfected was the quantity of onions and cilantro. They weren't shy about putting a fair pile right in the center of the meat - volumetrically, it probably averaged about 30% of the meat mass for a 0.3 meat mass onion (MMO) ratio. Though it depends on the meat, of course, in general an MMO of around 0.25-0.35 is ideal, giving a crunchy blast of flavor that complements your classic asadas and pollos well. Without any real data to back me up, I'd say that tacosmog's estimated mean MMO for all tacos consumed is 0.18 with a standard deviation of 0.06. Whether these taco places skimp on the cilantro and onions out of cheapness or, conversely, out of a desire to not appear cheap by 'padding' their tacos, rarely does a taqueria take a bold plunge into the 0.3 MMO range, and it paid off in spades for Taqueria Guadalajara. So far, Taqueria Guadalajara beat out Antojitos and Enrique's for Madison's best tacos, and it's also one of the closer taquerias to my office on campus - meaning I'll definitely be back.

(The filed business associate reports were: the burrito mexicano was delicious, though the tongue was a bit chewy [a common lengua problem]; the huarache was delicious, but contained a super-spicy hidden pepper that could not be calmed even by Tecate; and I don't remember hearing anything one way or the other about the tamales, but they looked pretty good to me!).

Reviewed by on