Mexican food – both upscale and casual – is definitely having its day. In just about a year, ciudad Orlando has gone from sporting chain Tex-Mex and hole-in-the-wall taquerías, with little middle ground, to flaunting innovative and authentic Mexican cuisine at all price points. And the buzz is undeniable. Tacos are king, of course, but plenty of Orlando’s hottest spots put a new spin on the old favorite.
Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa Two words here inspire fervor – butter chicken. The vibrant orange Indian stew is a flavor-full fat bomb, and when stuffed into a flour tortilla with basmati rice, pickled jalapeños, toasted pepitas and a cooling dollop of crema, the combination is spicy, soft, savory and sweet all at once.
1326 N. Mills Ave., 407-203-0866; also 9680 Narcoossee Road, 407-730-7376; pigfloyds.com
Hunger Street Tacos Hibiscus flowers – known as jamaica (pronounced ha-mai-kah) – are a popular ingredient in central Mexico, especially in Mexico City, where tart, fuchsia hibiscus tea and aguas frescas are peddled in every bodega. Luckily, Florida is full of the flowers too, and Hunger Street Tacos in Winter Park has embraced this dual citizen for their guacamole and hibiscus flower taco. It's a conversation starter.
2103 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 321-444-6270; hungerstreettacos.com
The Taste of Yucatan The Semoran Boulevard stand- alone features all sorts of traditional dishes from the Yucatan peninsula, but the Mayan ancestor of tacos, called salbutes, are a must-try. The handmade corn tortillas puff in the deep fryer and then are topped with onion and avocado, plus your choice of protein – cochinita pibil strongly suggested.
1375 S. Semoran Blvd., 407-704-2248; thetasteofyucatan.com
Black Rooster Taqueria Sopes are open-faced tacos with toppings perched on a crispy corn masa cake, thicker than a tortilla. The Mills 50 taquería has a rotating selection of sopes; we're partial to the house-made beef-and-pork meatball dressed with pinto beans, queso fresco, black mole, pickled cabbage, peanut and cilantro.
1323 N. Mills Ave., 407-601-0994; blackroostertaqueria.com
Tako Cheena While we patiently wait for the new location down the street to open, we'll munch on one of the innovative flavor folds Edgardo Guzman's team has dreamt up. Late-night patrons scarf the spicy-sweet Korean beef taco, filled with bulgogi, kimchi and cilantro.
932 N. Mills Ave., 407-757-0626, also 4241 N. John Young Parkway; mytakocheena.com