Celebrate National Crunchy Taco Day with a taco tour

Victor's Tacos has some of the crunchiest tacos around. FILE
Victor's Tacos has some of the crunchiest tacos around. FILE

Hard shells have their day on Sunday, March 21

High on my list of simple pleasures is the humble taco. It’s an easygoing dish that begs you to relax, put down the fork and just enjoy the moment.

One bite of a well-made taco reveals an entire complex meal. It’s a food pyramid of flavors with veggies, dairy, protein — even fruit on occasion — nestled into one no-mess, no-frills edible package.

ExploreJudge rejects ex-restaurant owner Eva Christian’s release from Butler County Jail

The options are truly endless in the hands of inventive chefs and the final result can be enormously satisfying. March 21 is many things, but among them, it’s National Crunchy Taco Day — a day to celebrate a hard-shelled envelope of flavor hand delivered to your mouth as a welcome gift that can be creamy, cheesy, meaty, savory and even sweet.

It’s a day for a more rugged burly taco that says, “Take a seat soft shell, I got this.” Many Mexican spots crush the flour and soft shell corn tacos ... Taqueria Mixteca, Chiapas, Taqueria Garcia Mobil, Guerra’s crazy tacos, El Meson, Fantasmo Taco and La Michoacana, for example. They specialize in the more traditional and authentic, but sometimes you just want that big, bold crunch.

Explore5 of the best under-the-radar tacos in Dayton

We are blessed with a plethora of spots in town where you can pull up a seat and rejoice in the snappy crunch that a hard shell delivers. Here’s a quick crunchy taco tour of Dayton to consider on March 21 and beyond when you want something with a hard shell that tells you on that first bite, “I’m going to be delicious, but take care chewing, because you may get a pointy corn shard in your gum line.”

El Toro tacos. Photo from El Toro Centerville Facebook page
El Toro tacos. Photo from El Toro Centerville Facebook page

For my Dayton Taco Tour, I’d start at an El Toro (eltorobarandgrill.com). El Toro continues to rank at the top of the list with voters in the Best of Dayton polls. With a full menu to choose from and a number of locations that are nearly as plentiful as the dishes that are offered, there’s never an El Toro too far away. It goes without saying that there are more interesting things on the expansive menu than a simple crunchy taco, but some days call for something basic. If you are looking to celebrate National Crunchy Taco Day in a big way, this is a solid option.

El Rancho Grande (elranchogrande.info) would be next. With several locations, there are plenty of spots to choose from.

Next I’d head to Elsa’s (www.elsas.net) to wet my whistle with a Bad Juan, some crunchy chips and queso loco — a hot, white cheese sauce with diced peppers and ground chorizo sausage — and another taco teaser.

Agave & Rye Epic Tacos
Agave & Rye Epic Tacos

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

I recently wrote about Agave & Rye and would be remiss if I didn’t include one of their “epic tacos,” served on double-shelled tacos — one crunchy corn to provide the exterior protection and one soft flour (corn can be substituted) to hold all the goodies in. A “love cushion” of refried borracho beans, queso or guacamole can be added between the two shells for $1 each. Adding to the epic nature of the taco are the creative ingredients and combinations.

The restaurant has 13 different protein options ranging from the chicken and beef you’d expect to butter-poached lobster, honey lacquered duck, mini crab cakes and peppercorn kangaroo.

ExploreBirria tacos: You can believe the hype

The small chain based out of Covington, Ky., has opened a location on Troy’s public square at 2 N. Market St. where La Piazza Italian restaurant was formerly located.

The crunchiest tacos out there may be the deep fried shells at Victor’s Taco Shop (victorstacoshop.restaurantwebexpert.com), which would be my one go-to on the list to fulfill all of my crunchy taco goals. They are cheap and affordable and tasty. Almost all locations are drive-thru and walk-up service only with no seating. It’s no frills for sure, but it has the snap, crackle, pop that a crunchy taco calls for. With locations in Dayton, Xenia, Fairborn, Huber Heights and Springfield, this option also has some really convenient geography.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of exciting outdoor spaces, new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

In Other News