South Florida's Taco Boon in Tough Times


driving question behind this week's column is, Why are so many chefs

opening taco stands in this area? I went to every taco joint that has opened in the

past year, some multiple times, as well as Tacos al Carbon and El Guanaco, and

a slew of cheap ass burrito joints.

The proliferation of taco restaurants reminds me

of an extremely profitable take out spot in DC that was started by a trio of Georgetown

grads in 2007 who are connected to the food world luminaries such as Danny Meyer and

others in New York.

Their concept, Sweetgreen, is an organic, locally

sourced salad and yogurt shop in a stylish setting. The shop

pleased the business set that wanted healthier options. It pleased

fro-yo fans at the peak of the trend. And in the lowest point of the

recession in 2008, while other restaurateurs were struggling to break even, I reported for Washington Post Express that

these guys made at 25 percent profit in their first year, at age 22.

Most restaurants are lucky if they bring in a 10% profit. Their concept was a gold mine. Five years later, the trio has opened ten shops, with plans for national expansion

In 2011, still hobbled by recession, Lauderdale and its taco shops are DC's salad stands, providing inexpensive food that's not as finicky as burgers for example; a concept that doesn't require as much labor as a bistro or fine dining place; and one that allows for chefs

to show off skill while cutting the expense of running restaurant. 


choosing El Jefe Luchador, Jo-Jo's Taco, and Taco Beach Shack, the combination of their pedigree and the

quality of the product helped me narrow down which shops were the focus in this week's review.

Will shops such as Jo Jo's, El Jefe Luchador, and Taco Beach Shack strain the businesses of the mom and pop shops so beloved by commenters such as this one?


missed the best taco shops in the county, and they aren't these main

stream wannabees either. Alegria on Andrews is a true taco shop and

would put any of these to shame any day of the week. El Guanaco on

Oakland Park would as well. Please, when you do articles about mexican

street tacos, don't use people who used to be celebrity chefs, whose

likeness is the main reason you promote these places. Focus on the REAL

mexican street food that Broward lacks so much of.

I'm guessing that for now, there's room for both. Food lovers like this guy aren't likely to pay a couple of extra bucks per taco just because a fancy chef is making street fare. There's something to be said to patronizing authentic, hole in the wall places, particularly for foodies. And there's nothing like dirt cheap eats, especially when they're delicious.

But perhaps I'm wrong and haven't seen the ebb and flow of which restaurants live and die around here, and why. Perhaps you can enlighten me in the comments.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart