Santo Tacos sits in a nondescript building with strip-mall vibes. It’s in an odd part of town: north of the fair park, and right off the 1000 North exit of I-15. If you’re not looking for it, you’d likely miss it, camouflaged in with the barber shop, smoke shop, and quick stop convenience store.
The interior is light and bright, and is set up quick-service style. Signs point diners to the various locations along the line to order (“tacos order here,” “nachos order here,” etc.). The staff is busy, grilling various meats and building orders. Their menu states “tortillas recien hechas” (fresh-made tortillas), and that isn’t just lip-service: one employee stays busy full-time making the masa, putting it into the tortilla press, and bagging up for service.
The menu is clean and simple. Almost In-N-Outesque. You have your choice of tacos, quesadillas, mulitas (quesadilla made from corn tortillas), asada fries, nachos, and burritos. Pretty simple. The fun begins once you notice the amount of meat choices you have: I counted sixteen different choices, with three of them vegetarian. The more adventurous diners may gravitate towards their tacos de cabeza (head meat tacos), tripa (tripe), and lengua (tongue), leaving carnitas, carne asada, grilled chicken, and brisket to everyone else. Sadly, when I arrived, they were still putting together the al pastor spit for the day, so I was unable to try it. However, I am sure that this impressive rotating mound of meat, rotating on a vertical spit and shaved off to order, will be the star of the show. I can’t wait to go back and try it out.
I tried the chicken mole taco, carne asada, and the carnitas. The mole is made by Puebla, Mexico native Agustina, who has been making mole from the age of 6, and learned the craft from her grandmother. The dark, rich, chocolately flavor is exactly what you would expect from a mole Poblano. The carne asada wall well-cooked, tender, and had a nice “right off the grill” smokiness. Carnitas were a bit dry, and not as tender as I generally expect carnitas to be, but were easily fixed up with the addition of some pickled onions and salsa. Santo Tacos understands the importance of presentation, and the impact it can have on a diner’s overall experience. I was blown away by the beauty of what is typically a pretty plain three-taco plate. Other nearby diners’ meals looked just as impressive. Accompany your meal with some chips and salsa, fresh-made guacamole, or some rice and beans. Beverages offered include various aguas frescas, bottled sodas, fountain sodas. Finish your meal with a milkshake or a café con leche.
Prices are fair, with tacos between $2 and $2.50, meat-filled quesadillas at $6, and burritos at $8. For $6 I filled up with three tacos. Definitely a fair price, especially considering these are essentially street-cart prices with the added overhead of brick and mortar.
Alfonso Brito, the owner, can be seen running the register, mopping the floors, and saying hi to guests. After I had paid, he asked me if my toddler wanted to eat some rice, and proceeded to dish her out an adult-sized portion of rice (not the size of an adult, just what an adult would eat). He is warm and affable, and his enthusiasm for his restaurant shines through. What was once a food cart, then a food truck, has now blossomed into a full-fledged restaurant. To celebrate the new restaurant, they are hosting a grand opening on February 15th, featuring free tacos and a mariachi band.
910 N 900 West, Salt Lake City
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