by Joei DeCarlo
Despite the lack of sunshine on this miserable Saturday, the first ever taco festival at SugarHouse Casino packed in a large crowd. The outdoor event was complete with food and drink vendors, free giveaways, a tequila bar, and lots of sombreros. Festivalgoers had the opportunity to purchase food and drink vouchers to sample over 30 different types of tacos, drinks, and other Mexican foods. Vouchers were sold 5 for $15.00, which allows you to have 5 tacos or food samples. I tried four different types of tacos and elotes (grilled Mexican street corn).
My first stop was close to the entrance, and started my experience off the right way. Calle Del Sabor is a local food truck that offered five different types of tacos. I decided to try the Korean Pork Taco topped with pickled vegetables, lettuce, and cotija cheese. It was perfectly crunchy, well seasoned and had just the right amount of spice. One taco voucher well spent!
Next came the popular elotes. I was only able to find one tent that sold them, and they did not disappoint. Los Jarritos restaurant came all the way from New Castle, Delaware to bring a selection of tacos and elotes. For those who are not familiar, elotes is a corn on the cob that is grilled and smothered in mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and cayenne. I opted for no cayenne, but this was a great side dish to the remainder of my taco tastings.
The second taco on my festival rounds was made by Heffe, a restaurant located in Fishtown. Their motto is “tacos that don’t suck” and they sure lived up to this standard. The “Magnifi-Shrimp” taco was my favorite of the day. It was a corn tortilla stuffed with hoisin bbq marinated shrimp and cashew lime slaw topped with crunchy onions. This taco was the most complex but hit all of the right notes. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, and the slaw gave a sweet crunch. I’ll be headed to Fishtown soon just to try more of their food!
The other side of the festival was mostly dedicated to tequila tastings and bars, but I found my third taco spot in a small corner of the festival. My Four Suns is a Korean Fusion food truck whose home is in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. This hidden gem offered several types of tacos. I opted for the rib eye steak taco that had crispy kimchi slaw in a flour tortilla topped with “yum yum sauce”, best known as spicy mayo. This taco was my second favorite (seems as though I favor a good slaw). The meat was tender and the mayo was a refreshing twist on the traditional taco.
My last taco of the day was made by a restaurant located in the casino. Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House offered pork or beef tacos. To my excitement, one of the chefs was Andrew Pearce, a local from Delaware who competed on Fox’s television show “Hell’s Kitchen”. I was pleased to order a pulled beef taco that had black beans, crema, and a corn salsa on top.
Each tent had a line of at least 10 people, but there was mariachi music and excitement to keep everyone entertained. The dishes I tried were delicious, and people were still pouring in two hours after general admission began. I would say Philadelphia’s first ever Taco Festival was a hit!