“I was always around food. I learned to cook from my grandmother. I saw how happy they were all the time. It brings really good memories.”
-Gricelda Samala, cook at La Estrella Mini Market
La Estrella Mini Market, 602 E. McKinney
La Estrella Mini Market may look like a common convenience store from the outside, but inside they are cooking up delicious, authentic and homemade food. They’ve been serving up tacos and more for six years and have become known for two tacos in particular: the best-selling carne asada (steak) taco, and their customer favorite, the lengua (beef tongue) taco. Gricelda Samala, one of the faces behind the food at La Estrella, has been cooking since she was 10 years old.
“I was always around food,” Gricelda said. “I saw my grandmother and my mother cooking, all the time – it was fun to watch. I learned to cook from my grandmother. I saw how happy they were all the time, you know. It brings really good memories.”
“I think our restaurant stands out because it’s not like a restaurant,” Gricelda said. “We make our corn and flour tortillas by hand, and although it’s not like a Mexican restaurant, we pride ourselves in bringing the customers the best quality we can give them for affordable prices.”
The carne asada taco is served on made-before-your-eyes flour tortillas, which are then filled with juicy beef and traditional toppings of cilantro and onion with a side of lime wedge and bottled salsas to add a little something extra.
La Mexicana, 619 S. Locust
Another famous Denton taco stop is La Mexicana, opened by Valentin Carmona after he learned cooking from his mother and business from his father, and it’s been going strong for 20 years now.
“In Hispanic families we are tightly woven. I used to spend time with my mom, actually helping her, and that’s how we started out cooking,” Valentin explained with a smile. “[And] my dad was in business all his life.”
“The key for us to be here every day is our customers,” Valentin said. “It’s nothing new, it’s been done for years, [but] everything we do with love and with a big smile.”
Bruce Hunter is a 20-year returning customer that has a standing meeting every other Saturday morning at La Mexicana with his friends, for what they have dubbed “Holy Pozole Saturday,” referencing the Mexican hominy soup dish.
“I find the food to be very authentic,” Bruce said. “I travel to Mexico a lot and I’ve eaten Pozole everywhere I’ve gone when it’s available, and that’s the best I’ve had. [They are] the nicest people, absolutely the nicest.”
While La Mexicana isn’t only known solely for their tacos, that’s what got them noticed, and the customers still have their favorites. The best-seller is their carne asada (steak) taco, and their customer favorite, according to Bruce, is the al pastor taco.
Mi Ranchito, 1122 Ft. Worth Dr.
Family is a big reason for starting these restaurants and in keeping them going. The story is no different at Denton’s Mi Ranchito.
Clara Torres grew up and learned to cook from her mother in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Authenticity is very important to Clara, and everything on her menu is authentic to her experience in San Luis Potosí.
“We have tried to maintain the flavor of the food and the original recipes like they were from the beginning,” Clara said. “We make everything ourselves here.”
Besides their authentic flavors and dishes, Mi Ranchito is known for their delicious tacos. Their best seller and customer favorite is their tacos al carbon with either chicken or steak fajita meat.
What sets Mi Ranchito apart is how their tacos are served: plates come with three tortillas filled with meat, cilantro and onion, with sides of pico de gallo, guacamole and a chile jalapeño so you can build them to your liking. Chips, a lime-infused salsa and a small cup of their homemade ranchero beans keep your stomach company while you wait for your food.
“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”
— Tom Robbins, author of Jitterbug Perfume
Tortilleria La Sabrocita, 201 Dallas Dr.
Hugo Mijia, co-owner of Sabrocita, opened the restaurant with his father after learning business skills from working under him at the Azteca Meat Market off Interstate 35 for eight years.
Sabrocita’s homemade guacamole, queso, tortillas, and meats may not surprise you. Something that sets them apart, however, is the fact that from Friday to Sunday they are open 24 hours, especially to please the college crowds who go out late at night.
“They close the bars and then the kids come for a taco fix,” Hugo said. “We are very competitive with the prices and that’s where we get a lot of students as well. Our focus is really on them.”
Some of their most popular tacos are their beef fajita, al pastor and lengua tacos.
All of their meats are cooked in a marinade, and their tacos are served on double-layered corn tortillas. All taco plates are served with onion, cilantro, a lime slice and a small side of green salsa so spicy it’ll make your nose run, but so flavorful you’ll keep eating it anyway.
Taqueria Guanajuato, 1015 E. McKinney
The last stop on our taco tasting trail is Taqueria Guanajuato, owned by the Nuñez family. Guanajuato is a decade-old Denton eatery. One of the chefs in the kitchen, Carlos Nuñez, commented on what makes their restaurant stand out in the Denton Mexican food scene.
“I think it’s our authentic street tacos,” Carlos said. “We try and stay really original, no Tex-Mex or anything.”
Carlos’ parents are the ones who opened Taqueria Guanajuato and he said that it’s important to him that their business is family-run.
“It means a lot,” Carlos said. “We’ve been here helping my parents about 10 years already. And we’re actually looking forward to opening a new location soon, maybe by next year.”
Until then, Guanajuato still has aguas frescas and tacos to keep people coming in for more. Their best-selling taco is the carne asada (steak) and the favorite of repeat customer Jose Suarez is the al pastor, on a soft corn tortilla, filled with grilled onions.