Reader Tacotopia 2016 - Recap + Spicy Loves Milk campaign

Reader Tacotopia 2016: The Search for the Best Taco. 30+ vendors set up booths in Golden Hill Park, with tacos aplenty, all vying for your vote as the ultimate taco! Dennis and I were invited to attend through the Spicy Loves Milk campaign. Michael Ruffner, from My Urban Eats, is one of just seven California chefs that are being featured in the campaign, which highlights California’s love of tacos and spicy foods. We made sure to stop by his booth for a taste between all the taco mayhem!

Here's the inspired creation: Blazing Pork Belly Blossom paired with milk. This taco definitely packed some heat, at least a level of medium or more! You won't see this on any ingredients list but there's something called capsaicin oil that triggers your spicy senses. Milk happens to contain casein, which will bind with it and helps wash the burn away!

A shot of the succulent pork belly being prepared on a hot grill next to the corn tortillas.

Michael Ruffner from My Urban Eats. His recipe can be found here: It uses pork belly, a citrus salsa, and a spicy sauce.

We also took some pics with the spicy loves milk background, complete with giant props! It was a fun booth to stop by!

Of course, there was plenty more taco-ing to do before the day was out! We'll start out with favorites mixed in with others that caught our interest. Note: the following are numbered by the order we tried them, not by rank.

3 Luche Libre had their popular Queso Taco. I was thrilled to find this deliciousness after reading about Mary's quesataco recipe.

5 Tacos El Gordo has long been regarded as a must try and we finally got a taste of all three options (top to bottom: adobada taco, mulita, or asada taco). Our favorite was the mulita stuffed with "to die for" cheese combined with steak and pork meat!

4 Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro had a Green Tounge Taco with a nice crunch in the shell and great verde sauce, albeit a bit salty.

6 Next was the Offaly Taco from Bracero Cocina. This beautiful mess had sweetbread, tripe, and beef tartare with a pleasing citrus essence, similar to other dishes from our Bracero birthday visit.

11 Sandbar Sports Bar & Grill was sampling their fish taco, which had big pieces of fish and plenty of fried onions on top.

13 The Taco Stand had their al pastor taco, the same wonderful item I enjoyed at the Tacos and Spirits Revolution.

14 The Blind Burro had a jicama taco with blanched shrimp and mango salsa. It was so refreshing to eat following multiple heavy tacos!

26 Famoso Mexican Street Food also had a Queso Taco with meat that was tastier than Lucha Libre... *gasp*

18 Tres Taqueria was a mystery tent! You couldn't really see inside unless you got up to the window. It was almost as if phantom hands were feeding you these al pastor tacos!   

20 El Paisa may have had the longest line! One of the secrets was that you could ask for this bone marrow item! Rich fatty yumminess!

I can never get tired of seeing this...

... because it leads to more of THIS! Thanks 29 Lupe's Taco Shop for more pastor tacos!

Hey! What's that sound? Oh it's just Gerry Torres from City Tacos and Tostadas, one of our recent media events.

32 City Tacos. Look at that glorious thin pounded steak, blue corn tortilla and other yums.

Besides tacos, there was music, games (giant beer pong and connect 4 and cornhole), and alcoholic drinks for purchase (two drinks came with VIP admission). One of the vendors, Liberty Call Distilling Co., sampled a blackberry margarita.

I still love the drinks from Diabolo Loco, which are sampled at many events such as Latin Food Fest.

One of my favorites had to be the agua fresca from California Farms. It wasn't even a hot day but this stuff was refreshing!

We got in around noon for VIP but when 1 'o clock hit, general admission rushed in and the taco lines suddenly grew tenfold! Nooooooo! Thankfully we hit about 14 taco stands in our first hour! Continuing on with more taco pics...

1 Galaxy Taco 2 Guava Beach Bar & Grill - adovada pork taco and pollo asado taco 7 O My! Taco 8 Aqui es Texcoco

9 Un Mundo with a 72 hour sous vide short rib taco 10 Pacific Beach Fish Shop 12 Del Sur had beeria (beer braised beef marinated in smokey achiote, topped with broccoli "drunken" slaw 15 Half Door Brewing Co had an ahi tuna taco with wakame salad, wasabi aioli and micro cilantro. Too spicy for me with that wasabi!

16 El Trebol Mariscos 19 Pipirins 21 Tacos Mimi 24 Panchita's Kitchen & Bakery.

23 Salud! with a pork and fish taco 25 El Rancho Factory Taco 22 Naugles with a pork combo cup 

27 Tin Roof 28 The Hills Local Pub 31 Porkyland. 33 Cocina 35 taco looks quite plain since most toppings were gone nearing the end of the event...

For 17 Tacos Perla, we both ate our octopus tacos thinking the other person took a pic already... Oops. Other than that, we got a sample of everything! Boy were we full! In the end, the taco competition was neck to neck with only ONE vote separating the winner from the next contender! For 2016, Famoso took home the title! Thanks to all the taco vendors for showing us what San Diego has to offer! We'll be hitting up a few of these places in the near future. =)

Disclaimer: we were provided free tickets for this event but the opinions are strictly our own.

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caninecologne's picture
Submitted by caninecologne (not verified) on Tue, 06/07/2016 - 7:30am

Looks like a fun event with great eats!

FYI, a mulita is not a flavor. It is basically a two corn tortillas layered with meat and cheese in between).

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Wed, 06/08/2016 - 12:10am

oops i rewrote that section a few times and still managed to get it wrong. i meant 'options' (correcting it now). and it was freaking delicious. mulita is like a quesadilla somewhat?

soo @ hungryones.ocm's picture
Submitted by soo @ hungryones.ocm (not verified) on Wed, 06/08/2016 - 9:25am

Wow! I'm impressed you ate so many tacos! I've never eaten more than 10... Which was your fav?

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Thu, 06/09/2016 - 12:29pm

it's tough to pick! i loved the mulita from tacos el gordo, the al pastor from the taco stand, the queso taco from famoso mexican, etc.

caninecologne's picture
Submitted by caninecologne (not verified) on Wed, 06/08/2016 - 7:18pm

A mulita is like a "taco sandwich" for lack of a better phrase. It's usually made with the smaller corn tortillas used for the mini tacos, according to my Mexican friends. It's not the same as a quesadilla, which is usually a flour tortilla and bigger and normally doesn't have meat in it like a mulita does.

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Thu, 06/09/2016 - 12:24pm

that description sounds so tasty. i don't remember recall seeing them on menus before (unless it's under a different name?) but i'll be on the lookout now! thanks for explaining! :)

Fran @ G'day Souffle''s picture
Submitted by Fran @ G'day So... (not verified) on Fri, 06/10/2016 - 2:41pm

I would have been in 'seventh heaven' at this event! The queso taco made of cheese, instead of a tortilla, was especially inventive. Lynn, I thought you didn't like spicy food (lol)!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Fri, 06/10/2016 - 7:42pm

queso taco is genius! i can't handle spicy food though! most were mild except the milk pairing one! dennis ate most of that!

caninecologne's picture
Submitted by caninecologne (not verified) on Fri, 06/10/2016 - 7:17pm

Mulitas are usually not on the menus at the TJ style taco joints (Tacos El Gordo, Tacos El Poblano) but can bemade by request. If you ask, they could probably make it for you :D . You won't see them at the hipster (and higher priced) taco shops though.

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Fri, 06/10/2016 - 7:39pm

tacos el gordo lists mulas on their menu. found your comment on mary's 2012 post mentioning that your friend called the mula a mulita! now you've made me even more curious about them! thanks for explaining things to me though! =)

Mary's picture
Submitted by Mary (not verified) on Tue, 06/14/2016 - 11:54am

You are a taco trooper. Mulas/Mulitas are also THE BEST. Now I'm hungry for tacos - a lot of the ones you tried looks so delicious! Anything cooked on a spit is a winner to me, haha.

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Thu, 06/16/2016 - 9:56am

i just saw that they are having a tacotopia at the fair too! another 40 vendors worth of tacos. i think i had my fill though! :)

Mary's picture
Submitted by Mary (not verified) on Thu, 06/16/2016 - 9:59am

Yeah! It's in August. I got invited to go to that one so I'm gonna check it out since I missed this one!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Thu, 06/16/2016 - 11:38am

that's perfect! did you notice that i linked to your quesataco recipe? ;)

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