Taco Stand is First in Mexico to Receive a Michelin Star

El Califa de León in Mexico City just made history earning a Michelin star

Mexico Michelin Tacos

Newly minted Michelin-starred chef Arturo Rivera Martínez hands a customer his order of tacos at the Tacos El Califa de León taco stand, in Mexico City, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Tacos El Califa de León is the first ever taco stand to receive a Michelin star from the French dining guide. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Tacos are an important part of Mexican culture and cuisine. While it’s a simple food, there is a lot of variety which means the quality of each ingredient and the flavors can make a big difference. Today, it’s one of the most popular foods for street vendors in Mexico and the U.S. but they haven’t always been recognized for their contributions to international cuisine. This week, that all changed when Taquería El Califa de León, located in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico City, became the first – and smallest – taco stand to receive a star from the prestigious Michelin guide. Michelin stars have been awarded since 1900 and recognize exemplary restaurants in a specific region, serving as a hallmark of fine dining around the world. Taquería El Califa de León was recognized alongside 157 other food spots across Oaxaca, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Quintana Roo, and Nuevo León in the first Michelin Guide Mexico. With a small four-item menu, it has served customers for more than 50 years, selling simple taco plates for about $5 each, CNN reported.

“The secret is the simplicity of our taco. It has only a tortilla, red or green sauce, and that’s it. That, and the quality of the meat,” Chef Arturo Rivera Martínez told the Associated Press.

Opened in 1968 and owned by Mario Hernández Alonso, the stand has made a name for itself in Mexico City throughout the years. It first served politicians from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) party, as their headquarters were only a few blocks away. But now they serve customers from all backgrounds, remaining true to their original ten-foot-wide space without seating or even space to stand because of sidewalk vendors. The food also offers a simple, no-frills experience at $5 per taco. It has four items on the menu with various beef taco fillings, all of which are thinly sliced, cooked to order, and seasoned with salt and lime. The corn tortillas and salsas, green and red, are made in-house. They are best known for their Gaonera taco, named after famed Mexican bullfighter Rodolfo Gaona. In celebration of the award, Michelin representatives presented Martínez with a pristine white chef’s jacket.

Alongside Taquería El Califa de León, Michelin stars were also awarded to Em, Esquina Común, Rosetta, and Sud 777, also located in Mexico City. But among the restaurants that were given one star, it remains the only taco stand to be recognized, elevating the importance of its recognition. It is the second overall street stand to be recognized after a stall in Singapore earned a star back in 2016.

“What a joy it is to honor the uniqueness of the Mexican gastronomic landscape in Mexico City,” Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides, said in a statement. “The first and very promising selection is an an illustration of how the country is showcasing its regions, with their cultures and traditions that are as distinctive as they are distinguishable.”

In this Article

Food Mexico mexico city michelin news tacos
More on this topic