Even Saturday's oppressively hot temperatures couldn't put a damper on the city's enthusiasm for tacos: A sold-out crowd of 4,000 sweaty, hungry people swarmed downtown's Main Street Garden for the inaugural Taco Libre festival, forming an insanely long line that wrapped clear around the block.
Wise attendees implemented a divide and conquer strategy, with one standing in line for ice-cold Goose Island drafts, micheladas, or Topo Chico while the other sought out tacos galore from the 15 top-notch local taquerias that were on hand, including Urban Taco, El Padrino, Salsa Limon, El Tizoncito, and La Nueva Fresh & Hot, just to name a few.
Thankfully, most of the lines moved pretty quickly — and there was plenty of entertainment to enjoy in the meantime, from the flamboyant Lucha Libre wrestlers to the eclectic musical lineup that provided a lively soundtrack for the day, ranging from the hip-hop sounds of Oak Cliff native Dustin Cavazos to Latin funk jam band Ozomatli.
The best bargain of the day was arguably Revolver's tacos dorados, crispy deep-fried specimens served in their own ziploc bag with spicy sauce and crunchy, fresh cabbage slaw for a mere dollar each. Austin-based Tacodeli offered a sneak peek of what they'll soon be serving at Sylvan Thirty; especially tasty was the sirloin fundido, tender chunks of steak along with sautéed poblanos and onions smothered in melty cheese in a soft flour tortilla. Vegetarians were no doubt thankful for the plethora of meat-free options, including a unique paneer and poblano taco from Trompo. Those too hungry to wait in line empty-handed found refuge at the elotes stand, because crema and cheese-doused corn tastes good no matter how hot it is.
And even a car accident couldn't keep one dedicated taquero away: The Taco Trail's José Ralat, the local taco expert responsible for coordinating the excellent taqueria lineup, says Taco Stop owner Emilia Flores got into an accident the morning of the festival and forewent a hospital visit so she could sling tacos instead. (Now that's dedication — and perhaps a testament to the healing power of tortillas and salsa?)
The best thing about Taco Libre was the fact that every taco was just $2 — meaning even taking into account the usual festival drink prices, you could come armed with a $20 bill and leave stuffed (unlike some of those other food festivals where tiny versions of fancy plated dishes are priced at six bucks and up). Suggestions for next year — and we do hope there's another Taco Libre next year — would be a bigger venue, more folks slinging cold drinks, and perhaps an autumn date, because frankly it was too damn hot. But as far as inaugural festivals go, Taco Libre was one to remember.