Hi, all! I am super excited to share today’s place with you because it is an absolute gem and I’m OBSESSED with it after eating there a few weeks ago: Taqueria El Rey in Detroit. From this Mexican restaurant, I ordered literally THE BEST tacos of my life – and very possibly the greatest meal of my life to date. They were THAT good.
I’ve visited and reported on some incredible Mexican restaurants for 100 Places in the D; El Patrón in Pontiac, Las Tortugas Taqueria in Shelby Township, and Taqueria Alma in Center Line immediately spring to mind as establishments whose wares still haunt my gastronomical dreams (in the best way possible). I have to say, though, that the carnitas tacos I had from Taqueria El Rey edged even the offerings from those fantastic establishments in the “Mind is BLOWN!” (or rather, “Taste buds are BLOWN”!) realm for me. They were ridiculously, life-affirmingly, all-is-right-with-the-world-level delicious.
Let me set the scene here before I elaborate on how insane these godly carnitas tacos were. Taqueria El Rey is on Vernor Highway in the Mexicantown neighborhood of Detroit. It’s a cash-only establishment (one that, take my word for it, is def worth withdrawing cash for) with a small dining area, a front counter with stools, and a grill near the front door where the magic is happening in real time.
The vibe inside was welcoming; I immediately felt a sense of easefulness. I felt like I had stepped into another realm far from home, one where cell phones didn’t exist and people ignored their to-do lists to relaxedly eat their lunches at counters while forming bonds with the benevolent strangers next to them.
I don’t know what exactly moved me to feel this way. Maybe it was the carefree ambiance afforded by the Latin music playing. Maybe it was that there were indeed people sitting at the front counter eating their lunches in a relaxed manner. Maybe it was the friendly young woman who took my order and told me her name was also Jackie and preceded to ask how I spelled the full version of my name (a common question when fellow Jackies meet; I am the “Jacqueline” brand of Jackie; she was Jacquelyn, if I’m remembering correctly). Whatever it was, the place emitted enough good feels in the short amount of time I waited for my carry-out order that I was like, hmm, maybe I should’ve just ordered the food for here. I’m digging this place. But when my order came, I decided, nah, I’ll wait until I get home. The practical side of me overrode the spontaneous side.
But when I got to my car and opened the carry-out box to peek in at my order of two carnitas tacos, all steaming pork and corn tortillas loaded with diced onions and cilantro and accompanied by lime wedges, radish chunks, salsa, and an intriguing green sauce, the spontaneous side roared back all like Are we insane??? We need to eat these ASAP, while they are fresh. So I did, right there in my car in the gravel parking lot abutting Taqueria El Rey. And my world was turned upside down, because they were the BEST.TACOS.EVER.
These tacos were so fresh and flavorful on their own, and then with the additions of the lime juice and the radishes and the hot salsa and the green sauce, which turned out to be an insanely good creamy jalapeño sauce, the ante was upped times a million. And all this for only $3.18 – $3.18!
I am in love with these tacos, hardcore. Like, introduce-them-to-the-family hardcore-in-love. In fact, as I exited Taqueria El Rey’s parking lot after gorging on both of them, I was like, when can I take my dad and brother here? They would love this place!
I can’t wait to make my next trip to Taqueria El Rey to eat these magical carnitas tacos drizzled in lime juice and salsa and dunked in that spicy jalapeño sauce again. I am actually hoping to make another trip down to Mexicantown this Saturday. Although here is the dilemma: my addiction to trying new places is calling me to check out another Mexicantown establishment; I’m pondering one that specializes in tamales. But hey, those two Taqueria El Rey tacos were only $3.18; certainly I could afford to visit both when those tacos cost less than the price of a latte, right?
4730 W. Vernor Hwy.
Detroit, MI 48209