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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’ll be greeted by Tacos de Cabeza’s blue banner on the corner of Alaska Street and 12th Avenue. In order to get into the parking lot, you have to enter from Alaska. If you try to pull in on 12th, you’ll be excluded by a beige metal fence. Its shelter is a big metal frame sturdy enough to have an air conditioning vent running down its spine.
By 1:15 p.m. the lunch crowd is clearing out and the thinner late crowd is coming in: pickup orders by young single women; two older ladies who look about the ages of my mother and grandmother; a single man with work boots, a mustache and a baseball cap.
The woman in charge at the front table is wearing huge, square Michael Kors sunglasses and a hoodie. Her apron cuts off at her waist. The open-air restaurant is lightly filled with the smell of her sweet-but-not-sickly, probably expensive, perfume.
She waits for the tables to fill and then takes everyone’s order in one quick round, in order of how close they are to her. She is as cheerful as she is efficient. A compatriot brings me salsas in ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles: red salsa in the ketchup bottle; green, so-pale-it’s-yellow salsa in the mustard.
I order a taco de cabeza. Though I know they have a more extensive menu, it’s nowhere to be seen. “With everything?” she asks, and I say, “of course.” The abuela next to me orders the bichi, so I flag the waitress down and order one of those, too. When the taco comes, there aren’t any toppings, so I realize that “everything” probably meant all parts of the head.
Cabeza is a crowd-pleaser, and they do it well here: the faint sweetness of the meat conspires with the corn sugar in the tortilla. Try it with the tangy green salsa that is the kind of spicy that fills your mouth with tingly heat, and you have a treat that’s hard to deny.
The bichi is saturated with shredded beef and comes with several corn tortillas, wrapped in foil and so hot I burn my fingers. The soup’s freshly chopped onions give the broth texture and bite absent in the succulent, mild cut of meat. The broth has a special funkiness that has been stewed out of the meat itself. Put lime and salsa verde on everything to raise the volume of this pop sensation. Yummy!
Tacos de Cabeza Estilo Cajeme
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily
For more information, check out their Yelp page.
One taco de cabeza and a cup of bichi with meat cost $6 total.