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Best tacos in the universe? Small taco place making big claim on Atlanta Highway
El Carreton Taqueria talks a galactic game
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Best tacos in the universe? El Carreton Mexican Taqueria, a roadside taco and torta shop on Atlanta Highway, boasts just that, including these tacos al pastor, left, and steak tacos, pictured Tuesday, Dec. 18. - photo by Kelsey Podo

While many Mexican restaurants boast the best food in Gainesville, only one labels itself in bold blue letters for having the “best tacos and tortas in the universe.”

Being a lover of Mexican street food, I decided to investigate El Carreton Taqueria’s confident claims.

Gems can be found in all shapes and sizes. For the case of El Carreton Taqueria, this gem takes the form of a little, pink trailer attached to a brick shack at 608 Atlanta Highway.

When I walked up to the restaurant I hesitantly looked at the menu, which is mostly in Spanish, but was then greeted by a smiling Ileem Alonso. After telling her that I wanted to try the best tacos and torta on the menu, she suggested ordering a steak taco, al pastor taco and the Mexicana torta.

Two tacos on the menu cost $3.95 and the tortas range from $5.95-$7.25.

I went with Alonso’s advice and awaited the scents of cilantro, fresh corn tortillas and onions.

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El Carreton Mexican Taqueria has run on Atlanta Highway in Gainesville since 1994 and has proclaimed itself the maker of the best tacos in the universe. - photo by Kelsey Podo
El Carreton Taqueria

Where: 608 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville

Contact: 770-535-2665

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday-Wednesday and Sunday and 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday-Saturday

In the meantime I took in my surroundings and chatted with two regulars, Alex Martinez and Alberto Lare, who were chowing down at the place’s outdoor table.

I walked up to them, pointed at their tacos and said, “Are those the best tacos in the universe?”

The two smiled and said they drove 30 minutes from Habersham County to El Carreton Taqueria.

“Many Mexican restaurants are not really authentic, they’re Americanized,” Martinez said. “This is as authentic as it gets.”

Lare, cousin of Martinez, said they have traveled to the taco joint since they were kids.

“It’s just a place where you can kick back and hang with friends,” he said.

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From left, cousins Alberto Lare and Alex Martinez drove 30 minutes from Habersham County to eat tacos at El Carreton Taqueria on Tuesday, Dec.18. - photo by Kelsey Podo

Hearing my number being called from Alonso broke the conversation, and I rushed up the counter to try what could be the Holy Grail of Mexican food in Gainesville.  

From an outward impression of the tacos, the filling was generously piled into the center of the tortillas, catching my attention with the vibrant color contrast of the onions and cilantro. Before taking a bite into my first taco, I made sure not to forget bathing the ingredients with lime juice.

While the flavor of both tacos proved delicious, I found myself favoring the al pastor over the steak. I’m sure every day is different, but the al pastor was juicer and spicier.

The next stop on my ride to flavortown on flavorplanet — in flavorgalaxy in the deepest reaches of flavoruniverse — was the Mexicana torta.

Piled with chorizo, avocado, jalapeños and queso blanco, the sandwich thrilled my tastebuds with savoriness and heat.

Out of all of the chorizo tortas I’ve tried, this one takes the cake.

As the lunch rush kicked into full gear, and people began flooding into the restaurant’s tiny parking lot, I couldn’t help but feel a part of a secret.

I had just tasted the best tacos and tortas in the universe. Were they actually the best tacos and tortas in the universe? Possibly, or at least until we hear back from one of the Voyagers. Did I enjoy the food and the ambiance? Absolutely.

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Jon Smith of Gainesville grabs a Mexicana torta on Tuesday, Dec.18 before heading back to his job as a youth pastor. - photo by Kelsey Podo
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