Sometimes in life, you meet a taco that changes you forever. One Sunday, in the parking lot of a country market, I met that taco. This is our story.
On the Central Coast, there is a chef who simply goes by the name “The Unknown Mexican Chef.” Though primarily a private chef and caterer, once a week on Sunday mornings, he runs a popup taco stand outside the Los Berros Country Market. This is where I found the taco of my dreams.
At 10:45 am, 15 minutes before the stand opened, a line was forming. Grill’s burning hot, giant pots of beans and taco consume bubbling on the outdoor stove top. The scent, euphoric. For these are the tacos of legend. The Queso Taco.
The Queso Taco is exactly as it sounds. Copious amounts of cheese are applied directly to the surface of the tortilla, which is then slowly melted before ~the flip~. Now, the cheese meets the surface of the hot flat top, searing to a crisp crunchy coating around the exterior of the taco.
Incidentally, I can’t eat cheese. My body just doesn’t tolerate it. So I ordered my Queso Tacos “sin queso” (without cheese). The result? Still totally, utterly delicious.
This, I’m sure, is because of the filling. Choose from carne asada, chile colorado (chicken), birria (pork), or al pastor (pork). My default is always al pastor, and this one is one of the most delicious al pastor tacos I’ve ever had.
Thick chunks of pineapple provide a light sweetness to offset the rich pork, bites of onion and cilantro, the heat of the smoky chipotle salsa and a dash of acid from the squeeze of fresh lime. A perfect bite.
I’ve tried countless tacos in my life, many off a taco truck on the streets of LA. This taco reminded me of those –authentic, delicious, made with love — but it gave me something more.
A container of consuming (like a thin, saucy dip) in which to dunk my perfect taco. These tacos require a level of detail, the passion in which you can taste in each bite.
Too on the menu is a giant quesadilla. No, it’s not a cheeky name. It’s quite literally a GIANT quesadilla. Filled with your choice of meat, rice, beans, cilantro, and onion, it’s reminiscent of a burrito, flattened into a rotunda of tastiness.
Finally, the pozole. Oh, pozole. Pork, hominy, that luscious broth. Top it off with some onions, cilantro and a spot of fresh cabbage. Like the tacos, and giant quesadillas, this pozole is worth writing home about.
In this life full of turbulence, of tragedy and uncertainty, we must gather joy wherever we find it. I found joy in these tacos. This perfectly messy, dynamic, thoughtfully constructed food.
With food this good, The Unknown Mexican Chef is destined to become well-known before too long. Perhaps, someday, we’ll call him the Master Mexican Chef instead. These magical tacos, each made to order, are deserving of such recognition and appreciation.
If you’re on Instagram, give the Unknown Mexican Chef a follow. There I learned he is a man who cares passionately about his work, family, faith, and those glorious, glorious tacos.
You can find the Unknown Mexican Chef at Los Berros Country Market in Arroyo Grande on Sundays at 11 am. Check his Instagram page for more information about private parties and catering.