To celebrate Tucson this holiday season, our food writer is putting the spotlight on La Doce. Follow along as we eat tacos and soak up the atmosphere at 12 different joints along iconic South 12th Avenue. Share your favorite taco memories with us on Facebook, Instagram or email@example.com.
Tacos Mexicali has a short menu. You can choose between cabeza or borrego, in tacos or in bulk; jugo con carne; and imported drinks in glass bottles.
I had never tried borrego before. When I first tasted the taco, I was in disbelief: “This tastes like lamb,” I said to my dining partner, “but that would be way too expensive. With the gaminess, it has to be goat.” But, we agreed, the meat was very mild. It was a mystery, until I Googled “borrego meat” and discovered the truth: borrego is barbacoa of sheep or lamb. (For anyone who is familiar with the word “borrego” in Spanish, this would be no mystery.)
While many taco spots on La Doce specialize in mesquite-grilled meats, the cabeza and borrego at Tacos Mexicali are closer to stews.
Every single car in the parking lot (except mine) is a truck. If you’re in the know, it seems, you order jugos con carne that comes in a styrofoam vessel too big to be a cup and too small to be a bowl.
Tacos Mexicali doesn’t have a salsa bar. Instead, they let you know what garnishes best complement their two meats: white onions mixed with cilantro, finely-chopped cabbage, and small halved limes. Their tortillas are all corn, and sturdy yet flexible enough to hold strong despite the stewlike consistency of the meat. The acid of onions has aerosolized and permeates the seating area.
The winning combination is the borrego with their salsa verde, one of my favorite tacos amid the tough competition of La Doce.
A man wearing a black apron goes around to the other single men sitting at tables clothed in red laminate. The spot is just off 12th on Irvington, sharing a parking lot with El Movimiento Sonoran Dogs. I imagine the place is crowded during the workweek. On Sunday, it’s relatively quiet. You get the sense this place is a favorite lunch spot for the workers in the surrounding area, or coming home right off the I-19.
Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
For more information, check out their website.
Both borrego and cabeza tacos are $2.25 each.