Belle Vie is Serving up the Fanciest, Frenchiest Mac and Cheese in Los Angeles!

Last week, French bistro Belle Vie opened it’s doors in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Being a Westsider myself, I can confirm that we are a little bit lacking in French restaurants (unless you counting the endless supply of Le Pain Quotidiens around) so I was beyond thrilled to try a this new neighborhood spot.

Belle Vie 
11916 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
http://www.bellevierestaurant.com/ 

The team behind Belle Vie, Owner Vincent Samarco and Head Chef Cedric Nicolas‘ (who met when working together at Michelin-plated restaurant Le Trianon) aim was to provide locals with classic French comfort food with hints of California flavors: mission accomplished.

My inner Fracophile was geeking out right when I walked in, because the design, decor and the littlest details are spot on Parisian. French restaurants may have a reputation for serving up smaller portions, but at Belle Vie the portions are more generous. This spot is perfect to bring a friend and share a few plates.

Continue reading “Belle Vie is Serving up the Fanciest, Frenchiest Mac and Cheese in Los Angeles!”

Wilbur Mexicana in Toronto

Wilbur Mexicana is where a group of friends can meet for drinks and a taco or even going out on your own for time alone. This is a spot where anyone and everyone is welcomed, while also offering cheap downtown eats with big flavour. Wilbur Mexicana is named after the chemist that discovered the Scoville scale of spicy heat, Wilbur Scoville. They offer an upscale but casual atmosphere serving up fast cheap eats that you would not expect in the downtown core.

Wilbur Mexicana
552 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1M3
http://wilburmexicana.com
https://www.instagram.com/wilburmexicana/

Once you enter the restaurant there is a sign up on the menu board that states, “Wilbur first timers, grab a menu at the door”, when you read this, you look to your left and see some menus hanging off the side rack. Once you figure out what you want to indulge in, you simply order and pay at the cash where you give you a numbered placeholder that contains a photo of a cartoon pepper. If you are dining in, just grab a seat at a table to you prefer and sit pretty; if take out, sit comfy on a stool right next to the cash.

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Taco Tuesday: Buena Onda in Philly

After a sleep deprived night in Center City Philadelphia, Fatboi Jess and friends set off to find a brunch spot worthy of a blog post. Promises of an hour wait from Sabrina’s Cafe led the crew to happen upon Buena Onda Taqueria. This spot opens at 11 and when we arrived at 10:45 there was already a line forming, which proved to be a good sign. Walking into the establishment we were met with dreamy, island decor. A beer tap beckoned with a sign for a free cerveza for patrons of age. Who could fret over a line with an invitation like that?

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Taco Taco in SLC: Naked #TacoTuesday

Situated in downtown SLC is Taco Taco, a modern taqueria that is beautifully balancing authenticity with modern “millenary cuisine.”

Taco Taco
208 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
tacotaco.com

 

 

 

I am a street food junkie and lucky for me once a week, every week, we devote the day to tacos. After grabbing a beerita and some chips & salsa I settled in and got ready to feast.

Authentic and best served naked, these tacos are served to your table sans toppings – just a healthy heaping portion of whatever filling you ordered. As a meat lover and taco purist, it is refreshing to see this Mexican street food served traditionally and authentically.

However, for gringas like myself, they have provided a generous topping bar that, I am ready to say, is hands down the best in Utah. Filled with house made caramelized onions, shredded cabbage, pickled red onions, pickled jalapeños and carrots, limes, cucumbers, and of course white onions and cilantro, their topping bar also includes a selection of fresh salsas/sauces for you to top your tacos – six of them, to be exact.

 

 

 

 

 

The chicken chili verde is a house favorite, so first I ordered that. However, I decided today, like every day, would be a cheat day… so I ordered every taco on the menu, nachos al pastor, and a margarita (for digestion, obviously) then quickly got to work. The meat and zucchini blossom taco is good enough to eat sans toppings, but I was not about to pass up the chance to creatively stuff my face and to make a long story short – I put everything on everything. Tacos also come with a side of tortilla chips that are perfect for scooping up anything that may have jumped out of your taco. 

    

The big surprise here was the zucchini blossom. It tasted fresh and creamy and as a meat lover who is super non-accommodating to my vegetarian friends, I didn’t feel like I was missing a thing. This taco should be named “king taco” for vegetarians because it packs incredible flavor and (honestly) potato tacos are not cutting it. I topped it with mild pico, cabbage, caramelized onions, and a very spicy white sauce that turned out to be spicy crema. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, meat lovers and vegetarians alike.

My hands down favorite was the al pastor taco. Prior to overfilling it with all the toppings, I tasted the meat and this was so perfect naked I could cry. It had the most flavor and the meat was cooked to perfection. It was tender and juicy and at home in the corn taco shell.

The special, which was a mahi mahi beer battered taco with a cabbage slaw, paired well with the lime margarita and didn’t need a thing from the toppings bar. Their daily specials, which are primarily seafood, provide variety for the one person in the group who is doing a stupid diet so it’s fish taco Tuesday for them.

Taco Taco is easily the quiet assassin of all taco restaurants in Salt Lake, delivering a clear message to taco importers. From their laid back atmosphere to their done-up toppings bar they are definitely not to be missed. If you like good inexpensive food grab your friend who’s always down to get tacos and get there.

Dawn Does Tacolandia in Dallas

Tacolandia
City Hall Plaza
1500 Marilla Street, Dallas, TX 75201
http://microapp.dallasobserver.com/tacolandia/2016/

tacolandiaMan, I love some tacos! I was so excited to attend the 2nd Annual Tacolandia hosted by The Dallas Observer and Tabasco, held at City Hall Plaza. It was a great spot with plenty of room to move around and flow through 40 taquerias serving up some amazing tacos. Here are my top picks from the festival.

Numero Cinco: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop – A corn tortilla topped with spicy  pork then topped with lettuce, tomato, cilantro and feta cheese. A good, solid taco and the feta was a nice twist.
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Numero Cuatro: Taqueria La Ventana – This calabacitas taco was the only veggie option I came across. It was seasoned well and substantial. A nice change of pace from all the meat offerings!ventana

Numero Tres: Gas Monkey – I don’t think of  Gas Monkey when I think of tacos, but they delivered. The wagyu beef taco was tender and juicy. It was topped with queso fresco, pickled onions and cilantro. One note of caution: the salsa was HOT. Have a libation on hand to chase it down.wagyu-beef

Numero Dos: El Padrino –  Man, this taco was good. This was your classic barbacoa—juicy and tender with all the flavor that comes from cooking in its juices. All that served up on a corn tortilla with cilantro, onion, green salsa, and a little lime. barbacoa

Numero Uno: Digg’s – Winner, winner taco dinner. This taco was spot on! It was aptly named the Smokey Porkinson. The taco was filled with savory pork and laid on a pillow of a flour tortilla. Then it was topped with slaw, cilantro and salsa. The squeeze of lime added just the right amount of acidity.  This taco got my vote for the day. diggs-smokey-porkinson

Already marking my calendar for next year!gates

The Taste of Mexico Returns To LA

The largest all-inclusive Mexican tasting event The Taste of Mexico (TOM) returns on its 6th annual edition to Los Angeles and Girls of Food (GOF) was invited to the exclusive sneak peek event that showcased some of the food vendors that you would be able to try at the food festival.

Be sure to check out their site here.

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The first thing we tried was a sample of Los Javis Mezcal. It is a family owned Mezcaleria from Oaxaca, México that dates 3 generations back. This mezcal is incredibly smooth. It had a lot of flavor and body but it didn’t leave that burning sensation in your throat that you normally get from drinking mezcal.

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They also brought Chapulines (grasshoppers) and Sal de Gusano (salt with maguey worms).

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Then we tried Anepalco’s Baby Corn which is their version of the Mexican street vendor corn. The Baby Corn was smothered in a Chile de Arbol Aioli, topped with Cotija cheese and grind up Chapulines sprinkled on top of it. We’re excited to try their new spot Maestro, in Pasadena, which is coming soon.

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From Caló Provisions we got to see Ted Montoya in action and to try his Pozole. Ted’s take on Pozole has a twist he cooks it with Chicharron Dashi and adds an egg. I really like the egg, it gives an extra layer of complexity to the Pozole.

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Our pal The Choriman was also at the Taste of Mexico sneak peek and he was making Chori Panes. A Chori Pan is a chorizo sandwich. He made his with his Zacateca’s style Red Chorizo, roasted Corn Salad and Salsa Macha.

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We also got to enjoy the delicious pastries from La Monarca Bakery. We had the strawberry cake, the fruit cake, the orejitas cookies and my personal favorite de Guava cake.

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There will be plenty of drinks at the festival some of the ones we loved at the sneak peek were: The I Love Micheladas, Tepaches from Ancho Reyes a Chile Liqueor and Los Javis.

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There will also have aguas frescas vendors like the Agua Lucha guys. They have flavors like: Mandarin, Lemon, Hibiscus and Tamarind. Not only that they donate some of their proceedings to retired Luchadores (wrestlers) in Mexico.

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The 2016 Taste of Mexico will be the best one so far and it will take place under the stars in the beautiful courtyard of the Plaza de Cultura y Artes Museum in downtown LA. TOM has invited over 35 restaurants to cater the event and you’ll also be able to sample Tequila, Mezcal, Baja Wines & Spirits. And although the tickets might seem a little bit pricey keep in mind that it is an all you can eat and drink ticket so you only have to worry about what food vendor do you want to try next .The event starts at 7pm and ends at 11pm.

#WTFtacos at Who Song & Larry’s in Orange, CA

Who Song & Larry’s
1535 W Katella Ave, Orange, CA 92867
www.whosongandlarrys.com

Nichelle at Who Song and Larry's in Orange CaliforniaWTF! Weekly Taco Feature that is. Who Song & Larry’s in Orange, California, has created a weekly taco menu with the most interesting flavors ever seen in taco form. It’s not your typical taco Tuesday – mostly because it’s only available on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. W.T.F… get it?

We headed to their media tasting event to check out what they have in store for restaurant-goers, and were seriously impressed by what we were served!

 

IMG_5921editedYou’ll enjoy creations like The Silent Lamb, a braised lamb taco with fava beans; short rib tacos; shrimp po’boy tacos; a Caprese concoction with rice paper “tortilla”; and The Shroom taco, pictured below, an amazing vegan taco with portobello mushrooms, asparagus, and “bacon” bits.

Vegan Tacos with portabello mushrooms and asparagus
“The Big Shroom” – perfect for our veggie friends.

Perhaps the star of the show was The Big Dripper, inspired by Chef Vegas’ days when he would end a shift at two a.m. and join his fellow chefs at the local food truck meet up. He would get a burger from one of the trucks with a fried egg on it, with a yolk so runny he had to lean over a trash can to eat it, or it would run all down his arms. Here was born The Big Dripper, a corn tortilla topped with a sunny side up egg, Serrano ham, and shaved Parmesan. Definitely, eat this one while leaning over your plate! We loved every single one taco we were served, so we suggest you try them all!

"The Big Dripper" - get extra napkins for this one!
“The Big Dripper” – get extra napkins for this one!

And of course, they made equally delicious signature cocktail pairings for their tacos. Our favorites were the Strawberry Moon, a moonshine mixer that goes down sweet and smooth like lemonade, and the Agua Fresca, a delightful cucumber refresher.

Get these weekly featured tacos every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at Who Song and Larry’s In Orange, CA.

Who Son and Larry's

Dim Sum Good Takos!: Tako Cheena in Orlando

Tako Cheena
932 North Mills Ave, Orlando, Fl 32803
Tako Cheena by Pom Pom

 

Tako Cheena is the prime late night stop in Orlando. Located in the Mills 50 area, it is surrounded by cool dive bars and is just a few minutes away from the crowded downtown scene. Open until midnight most days and four a.m. on the weekends, Tako Cheena always feels like a party. The staff treats you like a friend and the throwback hip-hop on the stereo adds to the relaxed vibes.

I first visited Tako Cheena when it started out as a food truck owned by Pom Pom’s Sandwicheria. Quickly, people realized that they had been suffering from a lack of Asian coleslaw and Mexican arepas dripping in spicy mayo. The food truck gained a big enough following to move to a permanent location and has since expanded to need an even larger building! The popularity is partially due to the inclusive menu, which accommodates any diet- vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, you name it. I suggest trying to make it in before everyone finds out about the churros!

We stopped in last night after a delayed flight home, and it was the best decision I have ever made. After a chilly weekend in New York, I was dying for some warm, seafood tacos. I ordered one Tom Yum Mojo Shrimp Tako, which somehow captures the complexity of the Thai soup in a soft tortilla shell. I also had the Panko Crusted Cod Tako, covered in a sweet and sour sauce and topped with pickled onions and carrots. Both had crisp cilantro and were so colorful they could have just come from a Life in Color festival. The flavors were insane. The textures were next level. I want at least five more of each.

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Needless to say, both of my tacos disappeared as soon as they got to the table. So I did what any hungry girl would do and ordered a Vegetarian Empanada and half of a Three Cheese Arepa. It may seem like a lot, but I have zero regrets. The empanada ingredients rotate daily, but this one had potatoes, peas, corn, and cilantro baked in a yellow curry sauce. The waitress suggested the Sweet Chili and Smoked Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce, and it did not disappoint. It was spicy, tangy, sweet, and delicious. I brought a cup home to pour on everything. The arepa satisfied every cheesy craving I never knew I had. With a thick, fried patty of Queso Blanco and two other melty, Mexican kinds of cheese, I was in heaven. The spicy mayo and Asian slaw gave it the perfect crunch and kick of flavor. I was about to give into a food coma when the waitress mentioned dessert.

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Of course, I ordered dessert! The Cinnamon Apple Empanadas were everything I could have hoped for and more. I wanted to lick what tasted like the Cinnabon cream sauce off the plate when I finished.

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A mix of Asian and Mexican food seems like a challenge to get right, but Tako Cheena blew every expectation out of the water. I may have flown across the country yesterday, but my taste buds went around the world. By using fresh, unusual ingredients, the chef combines the best parts of both Latin and Pan-Asian cuisines. Named as one of the Best Late Night Restaurants by Orlando Magazine, Tako Cheena is quickly gaining a loyal customer base. Their slogan doesn’t lie: “Dim Sum Good Takos!”.
Tako Cheena by Pom Pom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tacos with an Asian Twist: Rakken Tacos in Commerce, CA

Are you in the mood for some yummy food? Let’s taco ’bout it!

Guys, I love puns just as much as I love food. I just had to get that out of the way. Ok! Now let’s begin.

Rakken Tacos is a very unassuming restaurant in the middle of a strip mall in Commerce. I admit, I had no idea how far Commerce was when I volunteered to go to a tasting here. But let me tell you, it was worth the drive.

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Rakken Tacos
 2444 South Atlantic Boulevard, Commerce, CA 90040
www.rakkentacos.com

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Black Rose Tea

The décor is so cute. A large chalkboard with the menu items is the first thing you see when you walk in. There are beautifully stained wood trim, counter tops, and tableschalkboard As I approached the counter top, I was overwhelmed at what to try, so Ken, the owner, recommended that I have a little of everything. I did not argue. First, he encouraged me to try one of their teas, they are native to the east coast and are shipped in just for Rakken. They will soon have an exclusive west coast list of teas. I tried the black rose flavor. They are unsweetened, so it’s perfect for those who don’t want sugar overload. And there are no calories. Trust me; you’ll want to save that for the food.

After taking my order, Ken insisted I try the homemade jerky. His mother makes it especially for the restaurant. How cute is that? And it’s just as delicious. Not too tough and seasoned just right. I decided to look around while I waited for my order. A beautiful mural caught my eye at the other end of Rakken.

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Rakken’s custom mural

 

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Garlic Crab Fries

The rest of the walls were left simple, with the exception of the taco joint’s clever slogan on the adjoining wall that says, “Play hard. Eat harder.” Now for the food! First up, was the crab fries. Oh man, I could have easily filled up on these bad boys, but I showed restraint. Definitely a dish worth sharing.

I tried four different tacos. The Rakken al pastor taco, their namesake, had grilled Vietnamese lemongrass pork, sriracha mayo, onions and shiso leaves. The Pho taco had flank steak simmered in pho broth, onions, basil leaves with a hoisin-sriracha drizzle. Buttery shrimp taco had, you guessed it, buttery garlic shrimp with lemon and purple pickled onions. And lastly, but certainly not least, was the yuzu carne asada taco with marinated steak, Japanese citrus sauce, onions and shiso leaves.

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From left, clockwise: Al Pastor, Pho, Shrimp, Yuzu

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I have to say the Pho tacos were mine. It was such an interesting take on a taco and just the right amount of crunch. But, a close second was the butter shrimp taco. For dessert, I chose the Oreo churro with Vietnamese coffee drizzle. This is the stuff of angels. Rakken is a hip place and an easy drive from the east side of LA. I recommend making stopping here on your way to the casino, before a trip to the outlets, or just anytime you are hungry for a little something different.

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Pho Taco
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Oreo Churro

 

Taco Tuesday and Craft Cocktails at Harlowe in West Hollywood

My friends and I are bar quiz junkies, so when a new quiz set up shop at Harlowe Bar in West Hollywood that coincided with their Taco Tuesdays, I knew we had to go. And, as it turns out, Harlowe has both delicious tacos AND great drinks. Score!

Harlowe Bar
7321 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
www.harlowebar.com

harlowe3Tacos are $3 a piece, and while they are more like h’orderve tacos (the shrimp taco has exactly one fried shrimp on it) they are DELICIOUS. They are the perfect snacks for later in the evening and at $3, they are well worth it. Choices include chicken, beef, and a killer ceviche and each has delicious sauces and vegetables to top your tiny taco. All the ingredients are top quality and each taco packs a bunch of flavor into a small package.  If you’re seeking something a little heartier than a couple tacos, they have a full menu that is also delicious and wroth investigating- but come on, it’s Taco Tuesday!

harlowe2But you don’t just come for the tacos- oh no! Taco Tuesday includes a margarita special as well as a special on a horchata porter than is not to be missed (think the Blue Moon Horchata beer, but richer, chocolatier, and just generally better). But if you feel like going from something off the beaten path (or an old classic with an upgrade) take a look at their draught and specialty cocktails. I have yet to meet a Harlowe cocktail I don’t like. My very favorite drink on the menu might just be the Barrio Sour, which mixes mezcal AND tequila (so you can really get your Taco Tuesday on). However the Slow Dance (St. Germain, sparkling wine, and some other tasty liqueurs) and the Swipe Right (yup) are both winners too. Plus, they have fantastic makeovers of classic cocktails. The updated Aperol Spritz is oh so refreshing and the Sazarac is just fantastics. All their drinks use top shelf ingredients too, so you know you’re getting good quality for your money (or you can play quiz and win them for free!)

harlowe4The bar itself is also just super cool- the whole place is decked out with vintage portraits and has an old fashioned antique vibe. There’s a beautiful porch you can sit on out back and enjoy the nice weather while you feast on your tacos. While Harlowe might not be your typical Taco Tuesday place, it’s work visiting if you want to try something different and get some killer drinks while you snack on some unique tacos.
Harlowe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taco Tuesday at Joyride Taco House in Gilbert, Arizona

I have lived in Arizona my entire life; born and raised. Which, I would consider pretty lucky. With thousands of authentic and delicious Mexican style restaurants around, it is pretty easy to always find a place to try something new. Enter, Joyride Taco House.

Joyride Taco House LogoJoyride is a part of one of my all time favorite companies in the valley; Upward Projects. Upward Projects are all about creating inspired restaurants that are connected to the communities they serve. Upward Projects began 11 years and has since grown into something many Zonies still get excited about when they announce a new location or restaurant.

Joyride Taco House (two locations)
302 North Gilbert Road
Gilbert, Arizona 85234
www.joyridetacohouse.com

Joyride Taco House, set in the ever growing and vibrant downtown Gilbert, Arizona, has an insane atmosphere. The good reviews, the location, and of course, the delicious food draws you in. It is the music, the employees and the house made cocktails that make you want to stay.

Joyride Taco House mealBoth locations of Joyride Taco House (Gilbert and Phoenix) have some really great deals on Tuesday nights. From 2:00 PM to close you can get $2 tacos such as braised beef, chicken tinga, crispy fish and more.  The chicken tinga taco is one of my favorites. It includes avocado, cabbage, cilantro and white magic. White magic is essentially just a house lime aioli sauce, but it sure is delicious. The Tuesday night specials also include great deals on their house made margaritas or pitchers of your favorite Mexican beer for $5. One of my favorite margaritas that they offer on special is their blood orange margarita. It is a blend of tequila, triple sec, house blood orange sour and hibiscus syrup. To make things even better about Joyride Taco House, from 2 to 6 p.m you can double up on deals by taking advantage of the their weekday happy hour. Those specials include $4 quesadilla or $6 ceviche. But you don’t have to stop at what is on special that night. Why not splurge on some of their other delicious items including burritos, enchiladas or one of their agua frescas, which are made fresh daily. You can order pineapple, ,cucumber mint or almond horchata; virgin or spiked. And the best part? You get to decide what type of booze you want to add. You can choose from tequila, vodka, rum, gin, amaretto or frangelico.  I would highly recommend the pineapple with tequila. It is absolutely delicious.

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I am telling you guys, they know what they’re doing. So when you get a chance to visit Arizona, make sure you hit up Joyride Taco House. I would recommend visiting the Phoenix location over the Gilbert location. Phoenix doesn’t seem to have quite as long of a wait time as the Gilbert location does. Either one you chose, you are sure to enjoy!

We also recommend you check out our friends at the Village Bakery for more cooking tips and recipes.
Joyride Taco House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brooklyn’s Finest: Taco Tuesday at Rocco’s Tacos

IMG_4227-e1439948760880So, it’s Tuesday…what are you doing today/tonight? I’ll tell you something you should do (or plan to do on any future upcoming Tuesday). You NEED to get over to the Rocco’s Tacos closest to you for Taco Tuesday! Roccos’ Tacos boasts an impressive six locations; including one in here in Downtown Brooklyn! I’ve been here a bunch of times, both for Taco Tuesday, as well as other nights of the week, and I’ve never had a disappointing experience. I work literally a half a block away, so my friends and I love to go here for some post work munchies and drinks.

Rocco’s Tacos
339 Adams Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 246-8226
www.roccostacos.com

Wall art inside Rocco's Tacos Brooklyn
Wall art inside Rocco’s Tacos Brooklyn

The décor is so colorful and funky, with burst of oranges, purples, and blues everywhere. The crowd is fun & hip, and the energy inside that place is ridiculously infectious; like a constant party complete with a modern twist on Mexican Dia De Los Muertos artwork and skeletons that grace the inner walls.

 

 

 

The Mercado
The Mercado

Taco Tuesday is an all day thing here; $15 per person for an “all-you-can-eat” fest of various tacos, with drink specials beginning at 7:00 p.m. Be adventurous and order Guacamole, which they prepare tableside according to your heat tolerance. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Tequila, but from what I hear, their selection of over 400 different ones is impressive. If Tequila isn’t your thing, they make a mean Margarita. You can have it classic, or opt for flavors such as pomegranate, strawberry, or prickly pear, just to name a few. Love mojitos? Pair one of those with your tacos if that’s your thing.

Shrimp Taco
Shrimp Taco

Whatever your poison, just get yourself to Rocco’s Tacos ASAP. See you there! 

Rocco's Tacos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato