When it comes to tacos in Mexico City everybody has their favorite spot; funny enough, most of us share the same feeling. Just ask anyone -and I mean anyone- where to find the best tacos and they will direct you to my personal favorite: Taquería El Califa.
Taquería El Califa
Altata # 22
06100 México, D.F.
The place is located in the heart of La Condesa, one of the oldest and also trendiest neighborhoods in Mexico City. It has been there for over 20 years redefining the traditional concept of what a taquería should be. What sets El Califa apart from any other taco joint is that it specializes in serving full filet tacos with handmade tortillas. I’ve been coming here for the last 15 years. It used to be a small colorful restaurant that was always crowded. Although the crowds have not changed, a few years ago they expanded and renovated the place into a more vibrant and modern atmosphere. The only façade that remains from the old days is a memento of what was and what continues to be amazing tacos.
We started our meal with the chicharron de queso. They fry Manchego and Chihuahua cheese on the grill and then roll it into the ultimate cheese wave. Once you’ve had it you can’t stop eating it. It is like the best chip you have ever had: cheesy, crispy and crunchy. This is a must-try appetizer.
Another famous appetizer is the jugo de carne. This is a beef broth/soup that has been cooked for hours. It has all the goodness of the beef. It is thick, strong and has a complex almost caramelized flavor. Specially made for all the beef lovers. Squeeze a lemon wedge and drink it up. It will make your belly happy, I promise.
After that, we had tacos al pastor. The pork is lustily marinated in their secret sauce and then cooked over a vertical trompo (charcoal grill) until they are ready. Al pastor tacos are my favorite tacos and the ones at Califa are sublime, no exaggeration here.
The bistec taco was what followed. Grilled tender flank steak on top of a fresh homemade tortilla. The steak is thin and cooked to perfection. Simplicity at its best!
Then came the taco de costilla con queso. They add cheese on top of the rib taco and do a light burn on the cheese creating this cheesy crust on top of it. I like to eat this taco with freshly grilled green cactus. The costilla taco con queso is soft, fatty and tasty almost like having queso fundido on your taco.
For our last taco we had the taco de gaona campechano con queso. Let me explain this taco since it has more moving parts than your average taco. The gaona is Califa’s signature cut. It is a high quality steak that is so soft it melts in your mouth. The term campechano means “with a little bit of everything” and the “everything” at El Califa is blood sausage, crispy pork chicharron and chile morita salsa. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a taco that measures up to this one. It is the king of all tacos.
For dessert we had the pastel tres leches. A traditional old school Mexican cake that takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen when she used to bake it for us. It is made with three kinds of milk: whole, evaporated and sweetened condensed milk. It is covered with dulce de leche icing. It is decadent. Prepare yourself for sugar shock that’s #totallyworthit.
What makes El Califa’s tacos so good? It is all about the ingredients. They use high quality cuts of meat and local produce. They also make their own cheese, salsas and handmade tortillas. El Califa has an amazing and professional staff of taqueros, cooks and waiters that make sure that the customer experience is like no other. El Califa is a Mexico City food landmark. Everybody knows it, everybody loves it and they all aspire to be like El Califa.