Review: Fresh flavors abounds at Dinky’s new taqueria

Tacos Locos, Dinkytown’s latest restaurant addition, brings invigorating Mexican street food to campus.

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Bel Moran

An order of birria tacos from Tacos Locos, served with fresh lime and a zingy sauce.

by Bel Moran

A truly good street taco is hard to find in the best of times, let alone within walking distance from a Midwestern college campus. For too long, we have settled for late night drives to the Quarry Taco Bell or frenzied DoorDash orders from mediocre Tex-Mex chains with corporatized flavors. Newly opened Tacos Locos in the heart of Dinkytown ensures that we won’t have to suffer any longer.

Opened last month by local restaurateur Ruben Arellano (El Loro Mexican Restaurant owner), the new taqueria seeks to achieve authenticity and freshness with their menu. Early staples unsurprisingly include their wide variety of tacos — available fillings include birria, al pastor and even lengua (beef tongue, delicious), all gingerly tucked into fresh corn tortilla blankets — though the vast menu also offers tortas, sopes, enchiladas and much more.

Nestled on 15th Avenue Southeast between University and 4th, Tacos Locos makes a warm, bright addition to the existing restaurants at Sydney Hall and Dinkydome (Raising Canes and D.P. Dough, to name a few). Upon entry, employees offer a smile from the open kitchen. Large street-facing windows illuminate the alternating citrus colored walls.

Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, the taqueria focuses on dinner and lunch service and offers an array of different soft drinks as well as their own housemade horchata and aguas frescas. Though the menu is meat-heavy, there are plenty of meatless options and opportunities for customization to suit dietary needs. They also boast dozens of different platter specials that make a perfect standalone meal.

I stopped in on a (taco) Tuesday afternoon for what the person working the counter helpfully told me was a crowd favorite, their birria tacos, along with my favorite flavor of Jarritos, and seated myself at a sturdy wooden table to watch them prepare my meal.

Served with fresh lime and a zingy cilantro-based sauce on the side, the tacos arrived crisp and glistening with the birria broth. The gracefully folded corn tortillas seemed to glow from within their parchment-lined basket. The interior bulged with adobo-stewed goat meat, crisp white onions, gooey chihuahua cheese and cilantro.

Each bite contained the perfect amount of everything, with all flavors in harmony with one another. The sharp tang of lime and cilantro cut through the rich cheese and succulent stewed meat, the outside crunch balancing with a springy interior.

Satisfied and a little greasy (in a good way), I decided to order dessert to go, thinking a little baggie of churros would be the perfect accompaniment for my walk home. I thought wrong. The towering and delicious result was hardly fit for a walk-and-eat situation.

First, a generous heap of vanilla bean ice cream placed in the center of a pinwheel of fried goodness. Then came a twirling whipped cream cloak, enveloping the mountain. The syrups followed: cherry, caramel and Hershey’s chocolate, all delicately adorning the whip like fine, colorful robes.

Fresh-from-the-fryer churros radiated heat into the whip, melting it slightly and causing it to mix into the cinnamon sugar coating. To complete this culinary work of art, a literal cherry was placed on top, straight from an enormous (and beautiful) jar of cherries about the size of a watermelon.

With its impressive menu and gloriously fresh ingredients, Tacos Locos will hopefully become a new Dinkytown institution, one that should survive the devastating barrage of local restaurant closures.