It’s safe to say that the crew over at MMTM headquarters has an established affinity for tacos. If I could, I would probably assign a food group to the universe of tacos and justify ungodly consumption of said food. However, much to my dismay, tacos have been done before, a million different ways, and it’s increasingly difficult to find any novelty in a taco shop or feel like it’s not trying too hard. That said, the trend lingers on and every few months it seems we have a new taco place popping up. Most of these restaurants are pretty darn good (and some are mediocre,) but every now and then you stumble across one in particular that is so good, it makes you want to put on a sombrero.
That’s the case with SoCal Taco Co. The pop-up that won’t quit, we initially visited SoCal when it was still on SW 7th Avenue, only a few days before it moved out. Now back up in Mary Brickell Village, sharing space with Dolores, But You Can Call Me Lolita, there’s no time to be presumptuous. Wherever they are, the moment you walk in you feel comfortable and at ease, and that’s really the only way you should feel when you’re going to eat food with your hands.
You can “Start Your Engines” with a cleverly named appetizer section that offers simple, traditional Mexican dishes that will knock you off your feet (and that are only $5!) Expect simple, but strong dishes like a traditional Homemade Guacamole to Chips & Pico de Gallo, or fully indulge in the more unique items like Mama’s Green Chili or Homemade Bean Chili with Bacon. Mitch and I, being the adventurous foodies that we are, tried the both chili apps and basically found an excuse to lick the plates. Typically, I’m not a huge fan of beans, but this particular dip felt fresh and not too heavy, and the chips were perfectly crunchy, making this combo a total success.
After fully devouring the bean dip, we went on to try five out the six tacos on the menu. We skipped the vegetarian taco but huge kudos to SoCal for having one for all the meatless foodies out there. Below is a round-up of the only-$3-each tacos so you can start dreaming about your SoCal visit.
Surf Taco – Lightly fried fish on top of SoCal’s cheese blend. Topped with crispy marinated red cabbage, lettuce, cilantro, and their signature lemon dill sauce. This is the kind of taco you want to eat after a long day at the beach.
Los Angeles – Marinated carne asada steak topped with onion cilantro and queso blanco. You know that saying, “less is more?” That’s how we feel about this timeless taco. It’s simple and classic perfection.
San Diego – Slow cooked carnitas topped with an avocado, onion, and cilantro mix. This is the type of taco you would have at a family party. It feels like mom cooked it and, in my case, that’s a huge compliment.
Santa Monica – Pulled chicken topped with an avocado, onion, and cilantro mix and queso blanco. Here’s the option for all the chicken lovers. I’d go with some of the other choices, but this taco was still great.
Tijuana – Flour tortilla topped with seasoned ground beef, SoCal’s cheese blend, bacon, sour cream, lettuce, and pico de gallo. Without a doubt, this was one of my favorites of the night. It’s everything you want in a taco: traditional, innovative and messy. I had to contain myself from ordering another five.
Rodeo Drive – Marinated Portobello mushroom caps topped with a spicy roasted corn salsa and queso blanco. The menu describes this as “a vegetarian taco so good even a T-Rex would eat it,” which makes me a little sad that this was the only taco we didn’t try. It’s now my excuse to go back.
I must also give a very honorable mention to the cocktails, which are all craft and made with fresh ingredients, juices, and a whole lot of love. SoCal also has an impressive happy hour special with even better nightly drink specials. It’s like college without having to sacrifice the quality of your tacos!
Mel’s take: This is the taco shop you want to visit. Tacos weren’t meant to be fancy or trendy; they’re meant to be simple and plain ol’ good and that’s exactly what you will find at SoCal. Something else you will love about this place? The affordable (and appropriate) prices.
Standout dish: I’d like to point out just one thing, but everything we tried was memorable. Mitch went on to say that night that he felt like he had a gourmet meal at Taco Bell. I would go on to add that SoCal is like gourmet Taco Bell that tastes just as good (if not better) when sober. Give all the tacos at least one try, but if you have to choose, choose the Tijuana. It’s described as “down and dirty,” and that’s really the only way anyone should ever eat a taco.