If you’ve never experienced eating 8 different tacos in one afternoon and declaring an overall winner, then you must come to St. Louis and do exactly that. Because let me tell you: it. is. phenomenal. And you deserve that type of bliss in your life.
How can you do that, you ask? By eating your way through St. Louis’s first annual Taco de Oro, a bracket-style competition to see who makes the best taco on Cherokee Street.
Introducing the Taco de Oro:
There are 3 rounds in the Taco de Oro competition. There are 8 taquerias on Cherokee Street, where the competition takes place. Round One consisted of 4 different categories of tacos, each one having two taquerias competing against each other. Those 4 winners will move on to round two, and then those 2 winners will face off in the third and final round. The Round One categories at Al Pastor, Carne Asada, Wild Card, and Tacos From Around the World.
My family and I spent an entire Saturday eating (and drinking) our way through Taco de Oro, and honestly??? It was one of the best Saturdays of my life.
Taco de Oro is brought to you by do314.com, a website highlighting all of the fun, food, and events around St. Louis. Round One has JUST concluded, but if you’ll be in St. Louis anytime in May, then you can still vote in Rounds Two and Three through the end of the month. You can see all of the event details and vote in Rounds Two and Three on do314’s website.
How to Eat Your Way Through Taco de Oro:
Taco de Oro can take up as much time and money as you want it to. Most of the tacos range in cost from $2.50-$3.50 per taco, and each location also serves Mexican beer and margaritas. All 8 taquerias are close to one another, and it’s all totally walkable. You and maybe a date or a friend can spend about 1.5 hours to order 1 taco from each place, split all 8 of them, and skip any booze. Or, you can make a whole day of it like we did. Order one taco per person, get some drinks along the way, and stay for dessert. Whatever you want.
If you want to partake in the Taco de Oro competition at any point after May 2021, then you use my free downloadable taco bracket PDF, which walks you through trying all 8 tacos and choosing your winner. You won’t be able to vote online and your vote won’t count for this year’s competition, BUT it will count in your heart. And that’s really all that matters. You can also follow do314.com to look out for next year’s competition dates, since Taco de Oro is annual.
Eating your way through Taco de Oro will not only deliver delicious tacos into your life, but it will also bring you to one of St. Louis’s best strips: Cherokee Street. Cherokee Street is a vibrant, delicious part of town. There is an authentic Mexican bakery and a Mexican grocery store. There’s art and colors everywhere. There’s also a Buddhist temple, an excellent brewery, and a cat café because why not? It’s just a great strip of life, fun, and food, and you should definitely add it to your St. Louis bucket list.
NOW. Let’s get down to business. I’m about to show you all 8 of the tacos you’ll try when YOU do the Taco de Oro. I’ll tell you who we voted for, and then I’ll reveal which 4 taquerias won in Round One, according to the general public. Make sure you follow me on Instagram to see who ends up being the #1 overall winner, and also follow do314.com to keep tabs on all sorts of cool stuff happening around St. Louis.
Category One: Al Pastor Tacos
La Vallesana Tacos and Ice Cream was the first stop in Taco de Oro, aka the Taco Walk-O-Fame. This first category of the bracket is TACOS AL PASTOR. One of my favorite tacos ever.
This place was pretty awesome. It really operates a quick service restaurant on one side and a full-blown bar on the other, AND they also serve homemade ice cream by the pint.
This taco was super fresh and juicy and pretty much exactly what I think of when I think of a good, classic al pastor taco. That meat was flavorful, and the pineapple was fresh. They do use a lot of cilantro, which I personally love, but I know that some people may not.
There were two sauces that came with our tacos, and both were really good. We used a little bit of both of them and they definitely enhanced the flavor of our taco.
My husband really liked this taco and ultimately rated it a 7 out of 10. I also thought it was really delicious and rated it a 7.5/10
All we had to do was cross the street to try the competing al pastor taco at Don Carlos. This restaurant is operated through the food cart on the corner. You order at the cart and then pay inside of the grocery store. They also have an outdoor patio sitting area right behind the cart, where you can eat your meal.
This al pastor taco was also loaded up and served classic style with chopped onions and cilantro. It also came with a generous portion of homemade green salsa and, of course, fresh lime. Don Carlos’s taco was tasty and fresh and certainly something I’d be happy to eat again, BUT it wasn’t nearly as delicious as La Vallesana. We both gave it a 6.
So there you have it, our Round 1 winner for the al pastor category is: La Vallesana.
Category Two: Carne Asada Tacos
The second category in Taco de Oro is carne asada.
The first contender in the carne asada category is once again right across the street, so it’s just a quick hop and a skip to reach Taqueria Hectorito.
This taqueria is a small business that operates on the grounds of a larger restaurant called El Torito. This set up is pretty common on Cherokee Street.
This carne asada taco was BOMB AF you guys. Omg. It was topped with all sorts of crunchy and fresh toppings, including diced cucumbers??? I would’ve never thought to put cucumbers on my steak taco… and I know it sounds weird but trust me it was amazing. The meat was so soft r and flavorful. The taco was completely loaded and even hard to pick up but SO delicious.
This taco also came with homemade sauces that were amazing. Seriously I wiped my plate clean and ate every single bite it was so good. I gave this one an 9. Kory gave it an 8.
Taqueria El Bronco served the competing taco. This is a family restaurant with super friendly staff and excellent service.
This taco was served classic style with chopped onions and cilantro, with radish and lime. They also had some excellent homemade sauces on hand. As always, we used both.
It was definitely tasty, but not as good as Taqueria Hectorito’s. We both gave it a 7.
So boom, there you go: our Round 1 winner for the carne asada taco category was: Taqueria Hectorito.
Category Three: The Wild Card
Now, the NEXT category was a super fun one. This category is the WILD CARD, which means you know already these tacos are going to be super unique and delicious.
The first stop on the bracket was The Taco & Ice Cream Joint, one of my FAVORITE places in all of St. Louis.
This place is awesome. The food is amazing. They do $1 cash tacos on Tuesdays. They’ll do BOGO margaritas. They serve mangonadas, which you might have seen trending online. They have a ton of ice cream flavors. There’s also a complimentary salsa bar. It’s just a great spot all-around.
They were serving gigantic margaritas in pineapples when we were there. They had a full-blown DJ who was bumpin’ in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.
And the taco itself was outstanding. The Taco and Ice Cream Joint’s wild card taco is the “El Mojado” which is their version of a birria taco. It’s made with barbacoa and mozzarella and Of course comes with that consume broth to dip it in.
The taco was undeniably delicious. It was super flavorful and rich, with a lot of complexity and decadence.
The Taco & Ice Cream Joint’s competitor is La Manganita, which served us the MOST UNIQUE TACO I have literally ever had in my life.
Like this is a taco I have never even HEARD of, let alone tried.
This taco was FANTASTIC. Like seriously SO Good.
Now before I reveal this insanely unique taco, I have to take another moment to tell you about the outstanding service at La Manganita. The staff was SO friendly and warm and welcoming. I mean, the chef even invited us into the kitchen to film how he makes his competition taco and talked to us all about how he came up with the idea. That was a super cool experience for me that I will certainly never forget. If you’re a major foodie like me, I’m sure you can imagine how awesome that was.
Now onto the taco. La Manganita’s competition taco is the flor de calabaza taco.
This is the PUMPKIN FLOWER taco. I’m not kidding. The pumpkin flower taco. Yes, actual flowers. You take flowers off of pumpkin vines, make them delicious, and serve them with a bunch of other stuff in a taco form. *chef’s kiss*
I KNOW YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT the flor de calabaza will not be the most delicious taco of your life, but TRUST ME WHEN I TELL YOU: this taco will shock you.
You know how Italian cuisine has fried zucchini blossoms?? And stuff like fried zucchini blossom pizza? And it’s really, insanely delicious? It’s like that, except as a taco.
Pumpkins grow like crazy here in Missouri, and we have a TON of pumpkin farms, so honestly, this idea is just 11/10 genius to me.
The flor de calabaza is seasoned and marinated beautiful, chopped up on the flat top, and served on top of golden brown bubbly queso fresco. It’s topped with chopped onions, cilantro, radish, and creme fraiche. La Manganita also makes a homemade sauce that is out of this world. It is super fresh and herb-y, but it also has a ton of jalapeno in it.
The wild card category was by far the hardest category to judge. Both of these competing tacos were so incredibly delicious. They both stood out as two superstars of the competition, and it was too hard to pick only one winner to vote for. If there was a “tie” button, I would use it for this category. For real. They were both a 9 for me. Maybe even a 10, IDK.
Because we really couldn’t decide which taco was best, my husband voted for The Taco & Ice Cream Joint, and I voted for La Manganita.
Category Four: Tacos from Around the World
Now for the very last category of the Taco de Oro, round one. This category is called “Tacos from Around the World.”
The first stop on the list is to try the Tacos Hondureños from Sueño Latino. These are Honduran tacos, and they reminded me more of taquitos, which I thought was really interesting. We have never had Honduran tacos before, so this was a fun experience for us. The flavor was super unique, especially that orange-ish pink sauce on top.
These tacos were more of a full meal, and they cost $7. We definitely could’ve just gotten one order to split. They were loaded up with a bunch of sauces and toppings, which really brought the overall taste of the meal together. They had great textures and layers of depth that I really liked.
I’m not usually a fried food person, but these tacos weren’t greasy or heavy at all. They were light and tasty with variation of texture– creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, with fresh, crispy, tangy flavors on top.
Overall, the Tacos Hondureños was a great taco dish that we rated an 8. One order is definitely enough for two people to share if you’re doing the entire challenge in one day.
Sueño Latino’s competitor was Kalbi Taco Shack, which serves Asian food with a Mexican twist.
Kalbi competed with its sweet and spicy chicken taco. It comes on a flour or a corn tortilla, so we got one of both.
This taco was super flavorful and fun. You taste sweet first, and then a little heat sneaks in. We liked the Honduran tacos just a little bit more, so we rated Kalbi’s a 7.5.
That being said, our winning vote for the Tacos from Around the World category went to Sueño Latino.
Taco de Oro’s Round One Winners
Round One voting closed on May 14, 2021, so I can tell you that La Vallesana won in the al pastor category, Taqueria El Bronco won in the carne asada category, The Taco & Ice Cream Joint won in the wild card category, and Sueño Latino won in the tacos from around the world category. Round Two ends May 21st, and Round Three closes at the end of the month. That means if you’re in or will be in St. Louis anytime soon, you still have time to taste and vote for your favorite tacos. Follow me on Instagram if you want to see who wins the golden taco trophy and to get the scoop on more places to eat and things to do.
Taco de Oro was SUCH a fun and delicious experience. If you want to do this taco competition whenever YOU visit St. Louis, then simply print off my free Taco de Oro bracket PDF to walk you through this delectable competition. You can grab that bracket here:
Also be sure to follow do314.com on Instagram so you can keep your finger on the pulse of more awesome events around St. Louis.
Come visit St. Louis, and get you some delicious tacos. And if you do, message me on Instagram so I can join you for a taco.
Thanks for read, everybody, and happy eating!! I love you byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!