When dissecting the anatomy of the taco, one must first start with its exterior: the tortilla. Aside from this pillowy vessel, the rest is up to interpretation, and cultures across the world have their own unique take. Blanketing meat, seafood or simple veggies could be any number of toppings, from fresh cilantro to zesty salsa. Its very versatility is what makes it worthy of a weekly celebration (shoutout to the #TacoTuesday crew) and the staple of many food trucks.
We’re not talking ground beef and packaged seasoning in a skillet tacos — these humble eateries serve up wallet-friendly, authentic tacos encased in warm corn tortillas. Often, they’re paired with lime wedges and green and red salsa. And, at all the locations we visited, they’re prepared by friendly, hardworking Cincinnatians.
So, hop in your car and embark on a culinary adventure this summer with five taco truck/trailer destinations within the I-275 loop. ¡Buen provecho!
Taqueria Valle Verde
There’s a new dining option for hungry students at the University of Cincinnati: the Taqueria Valle Verde food truck. They have a brick and mortar location on Vine Street, but the truck is usually in the Stop N Go parking lot on W. McMillan St. They even have two tables set up on the sidewalk for sit-down dining in between classes. Their tacos ($2) come with a meat option, onion, cilantro and lime, but their vegetarian version is the best of the bunch. It has grilled red peppers, mushrooms, green peppers and ooey, gooey, melted cheese on top. And if you’re in need of adult beverages, they carry six packs of Sol and Pacifico. Stop N Go, 141 W. McMillan St., Clifton; 6711 Vine St., Carthage, taqueria-valle-verde.negocio.site.
Tacos El Joven
When you make your way to Tacos El Joven, know that you are also en route to taco nirvana. Once you see the sign for Merkato Market on Queen City Avenue, swing into the gravel parking lot. Permanently parked there is a red-and-white food trailer with tacos ($2-$2.50 each) that are worth braving the hellscape of road construction you have to go through to get there. Tacos El Joven doesn’t have much seating on-site, but you can also take your spoils to go. Two painted signs showcase their protein selection. You’ll see both what you would expect (chicken, shrimp, etc.) and more daring choices like beef tongue, brains and huitlacoche. The latter is a fungus that grows on corn, but it’s considered a delicacy and has been utilized by civilizations as far back as the Aztecs. If you desire something less intimidating for your first visit, the barbacoa is my favorite. It’s tender and juicy and soaks up the juice from the accompanying lime wedge beautifully. This place really piles on the meat, too, so four tacos is a hearty meal. El Joven also offers quesadillas, tortas, burritos, huaraches and sopes. 2157 Queen City Ave., Westwood, 513-208-1713.
In Pleasant Ridge — just a stone’s throw away from the Overlook Lodge (that bar styled after the film The Shining) — sits Tacos Locos, which has whipped up Mexican fare since 2011. For taco protein options, they offer chorizo, chicken, steak, pork (all $2.50 each), beef tongue and shrimp ($3 each). This mobile truck is usually parked in the lot of a BP gas station, but I’d suggest checking their Facebook page before heading out, as they weren’t there the first time I tried going. You can customize your order with a copious selection of toppings: guacamole, cheese, sour cream, lettuce and jalapeños — but keep in mind they all cost extra (50 cents). They even have options for breakfast-lovers, such as a bacon or Mexican sausage with egg taco ($6 for three); vegetarians, with options ranging from veggie tacos with bell pepper and onion to a super veggie burrito with beans, mushrooms, spinach and zucchini; and people who just want a hot dog torta. 6135 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, tacoslocosfoodtruck.com.
Aside from a margarita (or two), a mango Jarritos ($2.50) is my next favorite thing to wash down some Mexican food. Taquitos Uruapan has several flavors kept in their fridge ready to be cracked open and enjoyed alongside their freshly prepared tacos ($2.50 each). Protein options range from chorizo to chicken to barbacoa, but the toppings are kept simple with cilantro and onions. In colder weather they enclose the dining area — a low wooden deck — and have a heater going, but the deck is open to let in the breeze now that it’s summer. They share a parking lot with a car wash, but you can’t hear it due to a large TV playing channels like Video Rola. There’s a wealth of seating with several fold-out tables, so you’ll have no problem securing a spot. And if you need a place to walk off any subsequent food babies, Sharon Woods is less than 5 miles up the road. 7591 Fields Ertel Road, Sharonville, 513-462-7001.
Formerly located on Queen City Avenue in Fairmount, this taco trailer is the stuff of local legend — in 2010, a CityBeat reviewer called it their “secret favorite Mexican eatery.” Now located in Westwood, Taqueria Yolandita is an excellent option for people who want a lil’ more pizzazz when it comes to their taco toppings. They have a three-taco meal ($6) that comes with cilantro and onions, but they also have another trio ($7) loaded with sour cream, cheese, tomato, lettuce, cooked onions, cilantro and hot sauce. This makes them a tad messy to eat since the tortilla isn’t very big, but dirty fingers are no issue since you’ll be licking them clean. I’d suggest their shredded chicken or steak with green salsa poured on top. And don’t be surprised if your meal comes with a lime wedge and a slice or two of radish. The menu also offers quesadillas, tortas and open-faced burritos. They have a fold-out table propped up behind the truck and a picnic bench painted to look like the Mexican flag overlooking the serving window, so feel free to chow down there or take it to go. But come prepared: They’re cash-only. 1881 Westwood Ave., Westwood, 513-551-0828.