I had an unfortunate run-in with California for three years, and I still think about my first meal when I moved back to town. Eaten on the floor at 2 in the morning after driving for 10 hours: a styrofoam treasure chest of silken refried beans, foil-wrapped tortillas and that spicy, sublime machaca beef.
I like to tell this story because for a lot of people, The Taco Shop Co. is Tucson. When you're in that posh Berkeley taqueria asking for no lettuce, no sour cream, no rice in your $7 burrito, your soul weeps for home: That crazy little 24-hour joint on Broadway with simple toasted breakfast burritos and the soothing hum of the horchata machine.
To appeal to non-meat eaters, Taco Shop also makes a plate of fried potato tacos stuffed with shredded cheese, cabbage and juicy pico de gallo. They cook the potatoes until they're perfectly mushy, and then stuff them into bright green tortillas because they "look more vegetarian." At first glance, they reminded me of all those healthy spinach tortillas I settled for in the Bay Area. But no, these tacos are all Tucson: Crisp and colorful on the edges, but soft and welcoming in the middle.
Insider's tip: The tacos aren't really on the menu because they run out sometimes, so you might want to ask ahead.
Location: 1350 E. Broadway
Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Payment: accepts debit and credit cards