Over the past few days, taquerias in Hall County have strategically geared up for one of their busiest days of the year — Cinco de Mayo.
In the U.S., May 5 has become a day of revelry and consuming inordinate amounts of tacos, margaritas and other beloved Mexican dishes.
Gustavo Godinez Jr., who co-owns Big Burritos Mexican Grill in Oakwood, said despite its popularity with Americans, the day isn’t a federal holiday in Mexico, nor is it widely celebrated in the country. May 5 commemorates Mexico’s victory over the French in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Mexico’s Independence Day is Sept. 16.
“People made it a big deal up here (U.S.) just so they could sell a lot of tequila and beer,” Godinez, whose family is from Mexico, said. “It’s a lot of fun. We have nothing against it.”
To help community members on their Cinco de Mayo hunt for delicious Mexican food, The Times has compiled a list of the top five places in Hall to find authentic tacos. We're not talking about your Tex-Mex hard-shell, ground beef and cheese tacos topped with tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream. These tacos are the real deal. Think corn flour tortillas and shredded meat amplified with onions, cilantro and a sprinkle of lime juice.
These local spots are listed in no particular order. We love them all.
El Carreton Mexican Taqueria
This little pink food truck attached to a shack on Atlanta Highway has been serving fresh tacos in Gainesville since 1994. El Carreton boasts the title of “best tacos and tortas in the universe,” and many who live in the area support this bold claim.
The meat is cradled by two fresh corn tortillas and topped with cilantro, lime juice and onions. People can choose authentic fillings like steak, chicken, chorizo, pork, frankfurter, barbacoa and more. The tacos are best enjoyed outside on a sunny day, sitting at one of the vibrantly painted picnic tables.
Hours: 9-1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday; 9-3 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Price: Two tacos ranging from $4.29-$5.19
Big Burritos Mexican Grill
Owned by the Godinez family, who used to run El Griton off Atlanta Highway, Big Burritos Mexican Grill offers a wide selection of customizable tacos. Gustavo Godinez Jr. said the corn, flour and hard-shell tortillas are made from scratch every day. Some of the fillings include grilled chicken, steak, beef, pork and birria de res, beef that’s been braised for hours in “secret sauce.” This scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth birria recipe was passed down from Godinez’s great-grandfather.
“You’ve got all kinds of textures, flavors and tortillas,” he said. “It can be any kind of meat or any kind of tortilla with any kind of toppings.”
Where: 3652 Wallis Road, Oakwood
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Price: Three tacos ranging from $8.45-$9.25
Taqueria El Antojito
Taqueria El Antojito doesn’t shy away from embracing the flavors of Mexico with beef tongue, tripita (cow intestines), chorizo and other meat fillings. The tacos come served on two corn flour tortillas with cilantro, onions and lime. People have the option of adding green or red salsa.
Karen Lopez, who works at the business, said the restaurant has been in operation for 15 years and was originally located on Atlanta Highway.
“People will go into Mexican restaurants, and it’s kind of Tex-Mex,” Lopez said. “But here it’s more authentic.”
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight Friday; 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday
Price: $1.49-$2.25 per taco
Restaurant El Guero
This diamond in the rough is worth seeking out. Restaurant El Guero is tucked away inside a supermarket off Pearl Nix Parkway. Don’t let the location fool you -- this tiny place doesn’t play around when it comes to tacos.
The customer favorites include the chicken and steak options. Unlike many places that serve Mexican street tacos, this one smothers the meat with melted cheese. If your server asks if you want cheese, say yes.
Where: Inside Supermercado Carrillo El Guero, 730 Pearl Nix Parkway, Gainesville
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Price: Around $1 per taco
Taqueria El Mercadito
If you’re in the market for a top-notch street taco that never disappoints, pop by Taqueria El Mercadito in Gainesville.
When you enter the restaurant, the smell of cooked meat will seize your senses. Some of the taco filling options include chorizo; beef tongue, called lengua in Spanish; pork stomach, called buche; pork skin, called cueritos; and other selections. The flavors are brightened with the addition of cilantro, onion and lime juice.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Closed Monday-Wednesday
Price: Around $2 per taco