For many Americans, Cinco de Mayo may as well be called Cinco de Drink-o. The fifth of May is an excuse to go out for margaritas and cerveza. While the occasion is certainly festive, did you know it marks the anniversary of Mexico’s resistance to a French invasion in the 19th Century?
Traditionally, this celebration of Mexican unity has included parades, music and dancing, and of course food. What better way to tip your sombrero to our neighbors to the Southwest than by enjoying the ever-popular taco (or three) on Cinco de Mayo? Here are five places you’ll find amazing tacos in Pensacola:
Taqueria El Asador
At first glance, you may be reluctant to buy your dinner from a shack tucked behind a gas station next to Interstate 10, but don’t let the appearance fool you. The aroma of freshly grilled meats will draw you into the unassuming Taqueria El Asador, which consistently garners five-star reviews on websites like Yelp. The tacos here have been named the number one taco in the state of Florida by Business Insider, making an appearance on its list of the best tacos in every state for two years in a row. That is some serious praise for a $2 taco, which is available in your choice of carne asada (steak), pastor (pork), Pollo (chicken), Lengua (beef tongue), chorizo sausage, or a combination of steak and chorizo. Onions and cilantro are the standard toppings, but you can order tacos supreme to add cheese and guacamole. Enjoy your meal at one of the small tables with folding chairs or take your order to go. You’ll find no pretense here; just friendly people focused on serving delicious food.
After an initial stint in Gulf Breeze, which earned the taco stand a loyal following among locals, Tacos Mexicanos made its home in East Hill. The picnic tables and nighttime lighting give this place a neighborhood vibe that is laid back and welcoming. Bring your kids and dogs if you want, and enjoy your choice of tacos, burritos and quesadillas. The $5 lunch, featuring three tacos, is available 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Choose from Azada, chicken tinga, barbacoa, pastor or veggie. All fillings are wrapped in two corn tortillas and topped with cilantro and onion. Family trays are available, too, and a smart choice if you’re feeding a crowd.
Cactus Flower Cafe
Cactus Flower Cafe, with locations in West Pensacola, East Hill and Pensacola Beach, offers California-style Mexican cuisine. It is one of my favorite local restaurants, and the tacos do not disappoint. Choose from flour, corn or (for an extra charge) whole wheat tortillas topped with chicken, steak, or shrimp. Vegetarian and vegan variations can be made, by request, for most menu items, too. The Mahi Fish Tacos entrée is a popular menu item in its own right, featuring three flash-fried mahi-mahi tacos topped with shredded cabbage, Monterey Jack cheese and creamy lime dressing. Entrees come with a choice of rice – Spanish or cilantro – and choice of beans – pinto or black. You’ll remember Cactus Flower for the fresh, flavorful ingredients, no matter what you order.
Z Taco at Al Fresco
Spring is the perfect time to visit Z Taco and enjoy the atmosphere of Downtown Pensacola. The main focus of the menu here is tacos. With eight variations to choose from, you can opt for slow-cooked pork or beef, chicken, shrimp, mahi-mahi or fried avocado. Freshly made salsas and queso, and sauces like habanero, smoky chipotle, and southwest cilantro white sauce add extra zing. It is hard to imagine anyone would not want tacos, but if you’re dining with others who prefer something different, the neighboring food trucks at Al Fresco offer something for every palate, and all share a common patio dining area.
Located across from Pensacola International Airport, Cactus Cantina is a large restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. It has an expansive menu of Tex Mex favorites. Steak, chicken and ground beef tacos are staples, but for something more adventurous try the Gringo Tacos, which feature grilled chicken topped with grilled pineapple and chorizo. If you cannot choose, the Texas Tacos entrée includes one steak, one chicken and one shrimp taco. Look for specials like $0.99 tacos on Mondays, and wash it down with the most colorful margaritas in town.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Left a favorite off the menu? Comment below with your favorite place for tacos and why!