El Vez (Credit, Michelle Hein)
121 S. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Innovative restaurateur Stephen Starr's El Vez is a modern take on classic Mexican cuisine. The menu boasts unique dishes such as guacamole with truffles, duck confit flautas and lobster tacos. It's the pibil pork tacos though that keep many guests coming back (and keep many festival-goers happy each year at the Midtown Village Fall Festival!). The tender pork is marinated in an achiote citrus blend, slow roasted and then topped with pickled onions, smoked jalapeno vinaigrette and avocado salsa, all nestled in a corn tortilla.
402 S. 2nd St.
Philadephia, PA 19147
Brightly colored walls with wooden carvings and flickering candles create the relaxed and cozy -- yet upscale -- feeling at Xochitl. In addition to entrees like braised short rib and red snapper, Xochitl also serves impressive tacos on its menu of classic Mexican dishes with updated flair. The spicy brisket taco is a popular choice: Homemade tortillas are filled with shredded beer-braised and spiced beef brisket and topped with refried beans, pickled vegetables and crumbled cotija cheese.
2013 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
El Rey is Stephen Starr's most recent Mexican venture in Philadelphia. With a homey roadside diner/bar feel to it, make no mistake -- this isn't El Vez Part 2. What they do have in common, however, is some great tacos. Chef Dionicio Jimenez, formerly of taco favorite Xochitl, works his magic with fish, chicken, lamb, pork and the more surprising taco variety, mushrooms. In fact, it just might be the portabello taco that gets the most rave reviews. With fried shallots, fresh pico de gallo and a unique pumpkin seed crust, this meatless taco has been known to impress even the most carnivorous of guests.
1651 E. Passyunk Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19148
Referred to simply as "Cantina" to those in the know, Cantina Los Caballitos is often given credit for the rebirth of the restaurant scene on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia. With its casual and hip atmosphere and plenty of additional outdoor seating, it's no surprise that it has become a popular hangout among locals. Along with a top-notch cocktail menu with items such as blood orange margaritas, you'll also find a fine selection of Mexican fare. If you're going for tacos, try the goat. Spicy and just a bit gamey, this less common item is nice for something a little more adventurous.
261 S. 44th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Originally known for selling West Coast-style tacos out of his brightly colored truck, owner Tom McCusker has since traded his wheels for an actual restaurant in University City. What hasn't changed is his dedication to tacos. The taco standards -- chicken, pork and beef -- are all available, but it's options like the sweet potato taco that really sets Honest Tom's Taco Shop apart. Smoked brisket and shrimp also rotate as specials. To start your taco eating early in the day, order the breakfast taco. Homefries, cheese, eggs, guacamole, salsa and bacon fill a tortilla in this Honest Tom's favorite.Related: Top Spots For Margaritas In Philadelphia
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Michelle Hein is a copy editor for a women's fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn't pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery...perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer boyfriend would love to open. Examiner.com
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