Copenhagen Food Crawl – Taco Crawl
On a freezing cold Monday in January, my foodie friend and I, took it upon ourselves to search out Copenhagens best tacos. So we braved the cold, packed an appetite for corn, braised meat, and spicy salsas, and ventured into the mean streets of Nørrebro and Kødbyen (the meatpacking district). We were looking for street style tacos, none of that fancy stuff, just tortillas with meat and delicious toppings. We narrowed our search down to three very different locations, and off we went.
You wouldn’t normally associate authentic mexican tacos with Copenhagen. Honestly Scandinavia is pretty damn far from Oaxaca or Mexico City, or even L.A. for that matter, both geographically and culturally. But authentic mexican food has somehow made it here. And thank Dios for that.
La Neta – nørrebrogade 29 (2200 Kbh. N)
We started off in the lively Nørrebro neighbourhood, that’s filled to the brim with amazing eateries with almost every cuisine you could possibly think of. It’s a foodie wonderland, and Mexico is represented as well.
La Neta, which apparently means “the truth”, is a concept first started in Stockholm, Sweden but comes to Denmark courtesy of world renowned brewery Mikkeller’s head honcho Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and his team of disciples. One more hot spot in their ever growing empire that stretches far beyond Danish shores.
It’s as classic as classic mexican taquerias get, I would assume – having never been to Mexico. It did look a lot like taquerias in L.A. and places in the Mission district in San Francisco, and sort of like how I would imagine a mexican cantina would look, with white square porcelain tiles, mexican bric-a-brac and simple chairs and tables. Nothing fancy. And there certainly was nothing fancy about the tacos as well. I got the Al Pastor with marinated spitroasted pork and pieces of charred pineapple, and the Bistec with slow braised beef. They came in a double tortillas, for extra support I guess, and then only the meat. You then had to move your plate over to the salsa station to get onions, fresh cilantro, tomato and salsas ranging from semi-spicy to really spicy. It made for a simple yet delicios approach. The meat was good, and for picky people I can see why choosing your own toppings would be preferable. I knew this taco crawl was a marathon – not a sprint, so not opting for the 5 tacos for 100 DKK was the way to go, although it is a fairly decent price – and the cheapest of the three places we went.
Blue Taco – blågårdsgade 1 (2200 Kbh. N)
Just a two minutes walk from La Neta, you go down a basement – and it’s a whole new world. Sure the obligatory mexican bric-a-brac is there (you can apparently not sell tacos if your place doesn’t have a cactus somewhere), but it’s very colorful and you get transported away to Latin America as soon as you open the door. Blue Taco make their tortillas with blue corn, which are healthier than normal corn, it also sets them appart from the competition. Their menu also has the most options of the three places we went, including several vegetarian and vegan options. Not that I’m into that stuff, but they sure had some interesting options on offer. I narrowed it down to three tacos, which you get for 100 DKK, and chose a crispy shrimp taco, a coca cola braised beef taco with spicy nuts, and a vegan cactus taco with pozole (a kind of fermented corn). In stark contrast to La Neta the tacos here were fully loaded, with only the need for the mandatory lime squeeze. That also meant your hands were completely drenched in salsas, lime and meat juices, after doing your best to scarve down these handheld treats – ’cause tacos are meant to be eaten with your hands – and not with utensils! Luckilly any good taqueria has paper towels readily available at arms reach. I really liked their twist on the traditional mexican street tacos. The one with coca cola beef was my favorite of the three. Juicy beef with a slight taste of cola, pickled carrots and spicy nuts, that offered a nice crunch and a textural difference. I washed it down with another stable at all mexican tacos joints; Jarritos Soda. So sweet it’ll rinse the white off your teeth. That should be their slogan. I not really a fan – but when in Rome.. or Nørrebro.
Hija de Sanchez – slagterboderne 8 (1716 Kbh. K)
For our last stop we went into the ultra hip Kødbyen in the Vesterbro neighbourhood. This time a half hour walk (2 kilometers), from Blue Taco.
Hija was the only place of the three that I had been before. Twice actually – and loved it. They only have three different tacos on offer each day, and you can get all three for 100 DKK. Last time I was there I had Lengua (beef tongue) tacos, and a taco with fried cod skin. They were both awesome by the way. But this time their tacos del dia were geared towards a less adventurous palate. Al Pastor (the spitroasted pork thing again), Barbacoa, a slow braised beef taco, and a fried chicken taco. What I first remembered about Hija is their tortillas that are made in house – right in front of you – and are out of this world. The best I ever had. There’s no need for the double tortilla trick, they hold up really well. At Hija they also add the toppings themselves. But it’s the old story of less is more, so it was mostly just onions, salsas and cilantro. But nothing more was needed and to be completely honest – that Al Pastor taco with sharred pineapple – blew my mind. The best taco I had ever had – or maybe on par with the chicken mole taco I had at Guisados in L.A. “This is fucking art” – I mumbled to my fellow taco crawler – and he gave the nod of appreciation. One thing about Hija though, the salsas and dressings they use are extremely spicy. That was especially the case with the fried chicken taco – which was my least favorite – but not for that reason. I usually don’t mind the spice – but really found it spicy, and my partner in crime who usually only can handle mild spice, was dying. It was a joy to behold. “What did you expect from a taco crawl?” – I said laughing. He lived – but felt it was appropriate to try and dull the heat with some dessert – so he ordered the churros, which came freshly fried and rolled in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and – freaking chipotle powder. Everything is spicy at Hija apparenly – even dessert. His face turned red again in chili burning agony. What a great ending to a perfect day.
So to sum up. All three places are great – and a terrific representation of authentic mexican street tacos here in Copenhagen. But if I had to rank – there’s no doubt in my mind – Hija de Sanchez is the best. Blue Taco come second – closely followed by La Neta, but do yourself a favour – and try them all.
This was my very first post in the series: Copenhagen Food Crawl – a lot more will follow.