Quest for the best: Top 5 tacos in OKC

By
Ben Ezugha

Here at liquidfish, one of the things we like to do together as a team is eat. We eat during team meetings, we order out breakfast in honor of new-hire first days, and given the fact that we are located in Bricktown, OKC, we’re often prone to assemble a moderately sized group of co-workers for a walk to an impromptu lunch (weather permitting).

One day, the prospect of a Taco Tuesday lunch swept through the office in the late morning. In an attempt to discover which taqueria we would attend, we quickly realized that we couldn’t come up with a definitive answer immediately. Having lived in San Diego, CA for 12 years, I can attest that the taco shops there are as abundant as Mcdonald’s and Starbucks franchises. I also know that every San Diegan has their go-to, day-one shop of preference (mine was Silvas on Fletcher Blvd in El Cajon.. ask for the pollo asada fries). Understanding how taco shops breed fierce loyalty, I could tell that my co-workers had taquerias that were near and dear to their hearts as well. Since I am a relative outsider to the OKC taqueria game, I wanted to know which one was the best. And that’s how “Quest for the Best” (QFTB) was born.

How we narrowed down the field:

We gathered a list of every liquidfish member’s favorite taqueria in the OKC metro area (within a reasonable driving distance so that we wouldn’t be burning two hours on a lunch in Del City *sorry, Jessica*), and out of all of the options available, we made our tallies next to the ones we wanted to eat at the most. We counted those votes and chose the five with the highest point totals. Any commercialized/franchised spots were excluded (i.e. Fuzzy’s or Torchy’s).

Scoring criteria

This was the tricky part. Since none of us are qualified enough to judge on an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped”, we had to come up with a system to rank the taquerias individually. The first idea was to introduce a control variable into everyone’s order: the carne asada taco. Order whatever you want, but save room for the taco to compare/contrast between taquerias. That Idea got shot down due to counterarguments like: “But what if you don’t want a carne asada taco?”, and “You can’t force everyone to eat the same thing if you’re asking them to pay for it”. OK, fine. Scratch that.

Then an idea surfaced: What if we went to each taqueria, asked what their most popular item is, and just order that? That way, we could truly compare the best of the best! That one didn’t get off the ground either. Another suggestion: ordering your favorite thing at each one. “But what if you want tacos one week and a quesadilla the next?” We quickly learned that people don’t like being told what to do with their own money (who knew?) and scrapped all of it. It was impossible to narrow down a single control variable, so we just decided to let it be a free for all. Order whatever you want and give it a 1-10 ranking at the end of the meal. But you could vote based SOLELY on the food. No adding or docking points on the decor, atmosphere, location, music, etc. Just food.

So without further ado, here are the findings in our quest for the best taqueria in OKC.

Tacos San Pedro

Tacos San Pedro was first on our list. This is Cody’s (the President and CEO), go-to spot in the city. When hosting out-of-town friends and clients to lunch, Tacos San Pedro is one of the places he takes them (so we kinda had to go, lol). Some of us have already been here in the past as a group with Cody, so we knew what was in store. This time, we came with the intent to critique —and it didn’t disappoint. Tacos San Pedro was one of the most picturesque, Instagram-ready food of the lot. The carne asada was flavorful and consistent. The horchata’s come in these big, thirst-quenching cups. And everything is just well prepared. I couldn’t remember a single complaint aside from Billy’s wife (but she’s not a liquidfisher).

During the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities, the penultimate event that has the sports world watching is the Slam Dunk Contest. As the contestants take center stage, they are announced in order from newcomer to the presumed winner. You can’t show the best dunker first. You don’t pull out your best dunks from the jump. That’s where I think Cody and Tacos San Pedros faltered. It might have suffered from being the first up, and people tempering ratings in anticipation of something greater down the line.

If you drove out here for lunch, you will definitely want to come back again.

QFTB SCORE: 7.7

El dicho + la loteria (formerly Hugo's on 23rd st.)

So there’s a story to this one.

Largely everyone from liquidfish has been to Hugo’s on 23rd street at one point or another. As a design team, “Hugo Tuesdays” (a phrase I just made up) was a monthly staple. It was a place we were so familiar with, you could just say “Hugo’s”, and the caravan knows where to go. This time we said “Hugo’s”, and the caravan departed. I was in the first car that arrived and we were a bit confused because the signage was different. Our Executive Assistant Hannah was in the car as well. She gave us insight that the taqueria formerly known as Hugo’s has now split into two locations: “El Dicho” (where we currently were), and “La Loteria” (further down on 23rd street, and N. MacArthur). She knew this info because her parents live nearby and they used to frequent the old Hugo’s all the time. Hannah also stated that the old Hugo’s is now the new La Loteria.

With this information in mind, we messaged the other cars in-route that we were going to La Loteria. As we get there, two other liquidfish cars arrive. While we are waiting for the final car to show before ordering, we find out that they are at El Dicho (the old location) already ordering.

At La Loteria, we had a great time! I stepped outside of my comfort zone and ordered a chorizo quesadilla (which was fire), and people laughed and ate (always an indicator of good food). On the other hand, the people that went to El Dicho expected Hugo’s and didn’t quite get what they anticipated. The menu was different —which forced people out of their Hugo’s go-to’s—, and I think they simply weren’t ready for the change after thinking about Hugo’s all day.

When the organizer and scheduler go to one spot, and the in-house photographer goes to the other, we didn’t have much of a choice but to combine the scores of both locations. Under normal circumstances, El Dicho would have the benefit of a clean slate, and La Loteria might’ve scored higher, but the scheduled show must go on! Like Tupac once said: “Hey, that’s the way it is…”

QFTB SCORE: 6.5

Big Truck Tacos

Of the five places chosen, I would think that Big Truck Tacos may be the most popular of the bunch. While Big Truck does Mexican street tacos, they specialize in a more non-traditional approach to Mexican taco ingredients and cuisine. If you do not frequent Big Truck often, the emphasis on the non-traditional might persuade you to steer away from the known, and into the unknown (as I did).

I, personally, wasn’t exactly pumped with the chance that I took as I was eating it, but the beef al carbon (carne asada) taco that I ordered on the side was SLAMMIN’! The roasted slices of onions and poblano peppers set it off, too. The meat was cooked with just the right amount of slight char that gave it a memorable texture. Now that I think back to it, I should have ordered three more of those bad boys instead. I think that Big Truck’s carne asada taco might have been the best of any carne asada taco I had in the entire competition.

But, as stated before, this is a contest that is judged by the totality of the menu. In an isolated visit, goat cheese and sautéed mushrooms in a taco are innovative, but under these circumstances, we’re comparing that to some of the OKC’s finest street tacos. On this day, in my burrito entrée selection, it wasn’t on par with what I was expecting to push for the top spot. And judging by the cumulative score of my work colleagues, I think they might be with me on this.

QFTB SCORE: 6.8

Taquria Rafita's

Truth be told, Taqueria Rafita’s didn’t make the cut before all of this started. The only reason why we went there was because of the original place (which shall remain nameless) not being able to accommodate seating for all of us. On top of that, it was outside, around noon-ish, in 90-degree heat, with no clouds in the sky (ain’t no damn way). We had to make an audible real quick. I remembered Taqueria Rafita’s from a bike ride I took with a friend once. We stopped for lunch and it was memorably good. I didn’t know the name of the place, so it didn’t ring a bell when it was up for voting. As we were mulling over our options, I asked about “that one place in the Paseo”, and the response I got was “that’s Taqueria Rafita’s!”

When we arrived, we arranged the tables into a long, ‘The Last Supper’ table where we sat on both sides. Curious about the 20-something odd people that came into her establishment as a single group, the owner approaches us. We tell her about our “Quest for the Best” contest, and she lights up with glee and gratitude that we chose to patronize her establishment. She proceeds to tell us about her backstory, and how the Taqueria has been kept in the family for several years while helping to put the kids of that family through school and financing emergency medical procedures. This woman was the American Dream personified. Not only did she provide us very tasty food, but it came wrapped in a heartwarming story.

The food was already killing it (in my personal opinion, the best yet), but this was the first place where we could eat an enchilada and know the story behind it. If you ate it and gave it a 7, you’d bump it up a point after listening to the owner’s genuine story. These were inspirational tacos. Granted, it may have affected our “just food” scoring system, but what do you do when you unintentionally combine triumph, perseverance, and stellar Mexican taco shop food?  

QFTB SCORE: 7.7

La Tropicana

Due to the efforts of our Director of Digital Marketing, Zena, La Tropicana is almost in the same headspace for us at liquidfish as Tacos San Pedros. The food is noticeably good, and the majority of us have been there at least once. This time, with Zena hyping up her go-to shop (and it being the last taqueria on the list) the pressure was considerably high for it to exceed expectations. La Tropicana did that and then some.

La Tropicana’s clutch food in this pressure-packed moment was like watching a gymnast needing to hit a perfect 10 in the floor routine at the Summer Olympics —and then doing it. Where Taqueria Rafita benefited from a little emotional bump to get to the top of the leaderboard, Tropicana pulled it off strictly with food, no stories. Just a “how can I help you?” and boom, there’s your order. They weren’t messing around in there, AT. ALL.

My only knock on LT: they are closed on Tuesdays. TACO Tuesdays. We should have docked a full point on principle alone.

Full Disclosure: The story at Rafita’s got me. The food was great, but the story made my heart tender. I *wanted* it to take the crown, but La Tropicana ran away with this competition. It was the only taqueria to have an authentic “10”, and it had three of them. It also boasted seven “9’s”. Zena truly did save the best for last.

QFTB SCORE: 9.0

In Conclusion

This was a very fun experience that we had as a collective office. I would recommend it to any workplace in the metro area to put forth a similar effort to boost morale and generate some extra money for some local businesses. We did the heavy lifting to show you the Best Taqueria of Oklahoma City, but we encourage you to visit all of the locations listed above to see for yourself. Did we miss any contenders? Shout them out for us in the comments so that we can try them out too.

In the meantime, stay tuned for a new liquidfish Top 5 quest shortly as we gear up for our next food category: pizza!

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