Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Hunger Street brings gourmet street taco trend to Winter Park's main drag

Taking it to the streets

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While the hype surrounding Hunger Street Tacos may have subsided, the lingering effects painted and perfumed by the streets of Mexico City (Avenida Toluca in particular) nevertheless remain. Granted, the olfactory splendor of cheaper cuts and nasty bits is absent – owners/brothers Joe and David Creech recognize this is still Winter Park, after all – but I'm not one to bleat and grouse about the waft of fancier cuts like seared brisket.

You won't smell pork skin frying, either, but you will find it hard to keep fingers from pinching off bits of chicharrón de queso ($5). This cheese dosa of sorts, served with guac and fiery salsa, makes a far better sharing plate at this cheery taqueria than "street chips" ($2.50), which amount to potato chips drizzled with hot sauce and lime. Plus the chips are prepped behind the counter by the person taking your order, which only serves to slow down the queue.

A different counter configuration hasn't really improved the efficiency of the ordering process either. If anything, the snaking line appears to move even slower than the days when BB Junction and 4 Rivers Smokehouse called the space home. And the parking? Oof. Needless to say, when/if you find a spot, there's ample time to take in the menu of tacos, tostadas and quesadillas as well as the taqueria's vivid murals.

I will say that in all my visits, the food arrives fairly quickly and is devoured fairly quickly. Double corn tortillas are sturdy enough to contain such filler-heavy numbers as the Campechano ($3.50) and El Mañanero ($4). Both comprise brisket, chorizo and a healthy dollop of avocado salsa, but the latter adds a layer of refried beans, scrambled eggs and Chihuahua cheese. If you're one to eat your taco with the inner tortilla and leave the outer tortilla for sop-up duty, then you'll thoroughly enjoy these tacos. And if you enjoy biting into two tortillas simultaneously, you'll enjoy them too. Really, there's nothing not to like.

The sautéed hibiscus and guac ($3) has a tendency to arouse quizzical facial contortions, particularly among vegans, but when my eyebrows settled, I came to enjoy the chewy texture and floral essence of the edible flower. Wilted squash blossoms and melted Chihuahua cheese stuffed inside a nicely charred quesadilla ($5.90) is another meatless winner, and the subtle hints of zucchini and yellow squash aren't bullied by the mix of sautéed onions, garlic and salsa roja either.

But more often than not, I find myself gravitating towards HST's tostadas ($4.70). "The arc of the transcendent-food universe is long," so says my friend Lauren, "but it bends toward fiery vegetarian tinga tostadas." Truth. I'd add "and chicken-chorizo tinga tostadas" to that nugget of wisdom. Both are superbly crunchy, drizzled in crema fresca and graced with slivers of avocado. And, yeah, they definitely bring the heat. Enjoy them the way I do – with a side of the esquites ($3.30), corn niblets cooked in a bone marrow broth reduction with cotija, lime and epazote. It's a perfect pairing.

From the list of desserts, both chocoflan ($5), essentially a bundt cake topped with dense custard, and Key lime pie ($4) had us convinced the cappers weren't mere afterthoughts. The toasted meringue on the Key lime pie even managed to convert a couple of Key lime pie haters in our group. And conversion is something the Creech brothers know something about. They took a liking to Mexican cuisine as children of missionaries in Guadalajara, and as far as bringing south-of-the-border tastes to Winter Park, consider their mission accomplished.

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