CAMBRIDGE – Tasty tacos wrapped in house made tortillas; a sandwich submerged in sauce; and craveworthy sides cooked up in a trailer. Located in Cambridge, Naco Taco is a big, fun taqueria specializing in Mexican street food.
The space has all of the stuff you’d find in any happening restaurant: an active bar, casual dining room, and an outdoor patio facing busy Mass Ave. One thing you’ll find here that you won’t see at most places, is a kitchen running completely out of a trailer, no matter the weather.
“Even in the winter we do all of our cooking in there and just run it through the building,” said owner Alex Tannenbaum. “During the summer, when the patio’s open, all the food comes right off the trailer and you can watch them cooking all the tacos.”
Coming out of that intense kitchen are some intensely delicious eats. There’s the flavor packed chilled gazpacho soup, or hot tortilla chips served with chunky hand hacked guacamole. Since “taco” is in the name of the restaurant, you better believe they’re making the hand held treats to perfection.
“We have some really straightforward ones, but then we also do some really great, exciting tacos that are not necessarily traditional, not necessarily authentic,” Alex explained.
There’s smoked chicken topped with shredded romaine and crema; ultra-crispy fried cod served with cabbage slaw and chipotle aioli; and the intensely flavorful Barbacoa.
“Barbacoa is a shredded beef taco. We braise beef overnight, shred it up, has a nice kind of spicy sauce to it, and we put a chipotle-lime aioli on it, and some pickled vegetables to kind of cut through that richness of the beef,” described Alex.
The house favorite has to be the Al Pastor taco, made with spit roasted pork and burnt pineapple for a mix of sweet and spicy that will make your mouth happy.
“It’s got that sweetness from the burnt pineapple, that little caramelization, and then you have a little bit of that savory from all the different chilies,” Alex said.
For a little breakfast in taco form, he said to try the Fried Egg Tostada.
“That’s the closest thing we have to a breakfast taco. We take our corn tortillas and we fry them until they’re crispy, and we put a black bean puree on it, some mashed avocados, and a fried runny egg, and most people add bacon as well. It really is the most simple thing on the menu and it’s absolutely perfect.”
Just like a sandwich is only as good as the bread it’s made on, a great taco starts with a terrific tortilla. So at Naco, they make them in house.
“It’s a little thicker. They’ve got a nice chew to them, and they really hold together. They hold really wet tacos together. It doesn’t all fall apart and get soggy,” Alex boasted.
Tacos aside, Naco offers a variety of Tortas, or Mexican sandwiches, like the hamburguesa served on house made bread, with Chihuahua cheese, crispy bacon and an egg; or the Pavo, which is anything but your typical turkey sandwich.
“It’s a braised turkey sandwich and it’s got a jalapeno jam on it, some mashed avocado, and a chipotle aioli. And that is like, as good of a turkey sandwich that you can get,” Alex said.
If you’re looking to get messy, look no further than the Cabeza Hogada. This pork filled sandwich is topped with Applewood smoked bacon and served sunken in a bowl of rich chili broth.
“It’s just like crispy, delicious pig with bacon in a pork broth,” described Alex. “It’s pressed down on the flat top, so it gets a nice, crispy edge on it. It’s just like, out of control. You’ve gotta take a nap after eating that one.”
There are plenty of options to put on the side, like yuca served with fried chicarrones, and sweet plantains smothered in cheese. The kitchen at Naco Taco takes the hassle out of eating Mexican street corn, because Alex’s team takes it off the cob for you.
“It’s similar to the corn you could find on the street in Mexico, but we just think it’s easier to eat and tastes a lot better off the cob.”
And with every menu item coming in under $12, you won’t need a lot of pesos to eat here.
You can find Naco Taco at 297 Mass Ave in Cambridge, and online at nacocentral.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.