The Tyler Loop Taco Tour begins! First stop: Tacos Mexico

The Tyler Loop is on a mission: we’ve recruited a small army of Loop readers to help us try every taco on the market in Tyler, Texas. Our first visit was to Tacos Mexico, a homey, unfussy spot along Gentry Parkway in Hispanic northeast Tyler.

Joining Loop editors Chris and myself were two locals with serious taco credentials.

This week’s panel: Chris, Patricia, Octavio, and Tasneem

Patricia Peralta is a native Tylerite and an assistant to the city attorney. She looks for nostalgia in her tacos: “I like to feel like I’m eating tacos back at my grandparents house in Michoacán.” She’s a sucker for spicy al pastor and can usually tell whether tortillas are store-bought or handmade.

Octavio Téllez, an industrial engineer and former co-owner of Strada Cafe, was born and raised in Mexico City, where he’s still a go-to for taco recommendations among his friends. Since moving to Tyler in 2008, he’s also developed a taste for good Tex-Mex (begrudgingly, at first). His taco bucket list includes the $85 duck carnitas at NYC’s Cosme.

On to the tacos!

Tacos Mexico has a sprawling menu friendly to both Tex-Mex lovers and not. Taco fillings include the usual suspects — carne asada, barbacoa, al pastor — plus a few items that are harder to find in Tyler, like lengua (beef tongue) and rajas con queso (sliced poblano peppers with cheese). Between the four of us, we tried all of the above, plus shredded chicken.

A taco plate at Tacos Mexico

We rated the tacos on filling, tortillas, salsa, and toppings. We also asked each taster to rate their meal overall. Our rating system went from 1, meaning “I probably won’t order this again,” to 5, meaning “everybody needs to try this.” Here are the top items our panel thinks you should go try at Tacos Mexico:

Al pastor (marinated pork): Probably the best in Tyler,” says Octavio, giving them a 5. “A truly awesome sauce,” says Chris.

Carne asada (grilled sliced beef): Patricia gave these the highest possible score of 5. “Cooked, seared, and seasoned perfectly,” she says. I found them bold, bright, and citrusy.

Barbacoa (slow-cooked tender meat, usually beef): The word “smoky” kept coming up, in a good way. Chris called them “deliciously fatty” and I definitely agree. Other being a bit under-salted for my taste, these are slow-cooked beefy perfection.

Our tasters agreed the tortillas were likely store-bought but perfectly serviceable; they come two to a taco, and no one’s toppings bottomed out on them. Salsas played a mostly peripheral role to the meat, though Octavio particularly liked the green tomatillo salsa: “just the right amount of heat” and “well-balanced flavors,” he says.

Overall, on average, our panel gave Tacos Mexico a rating of 4, and Chris and I have already lived up to our recommendation, having gone back for lunch once already since our Taco Tour meal with Patricia and Octavio.

Who wouldn’t want to eat great tacos here?

We’ll be back soon with another visit to one of Tyler’s best taco spots!

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Tasneem Raja is the Editor-in-Chief of The Oaklandside. A pioneer in data journalism and local nonprofit news startups, she co-founded The Tyler Loop, a nationally recognized community news platform in East Texas. She was a senior editor at NPR's Code Switch and at Mother Jones, where the team she led helped built the first-ever database of mass shootings in America. She started her career as features reporter at The Chicago Reader and The Philadelphia Weekly, and lives in Oakland with her husband and two imperious terriers.