Late-Night Food for the Inebriated Soul: Tacos Don Rafa and Street Tacos
Tacos Don Rafa
3804 S Highland Dr., Millcreek
Sunday—Friday 11 a.m.—10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.—12 a.m.
(801) 471-1795 | tacosdonrafa.com
Street Tacos SLC
243 W 400 S, Salt Lake City
Monday—Thursday 10 a.m.—12 a.m., Friday 10 a.m.—3 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m.— 4 a.m.
(801) 364-0249 | streettacosut.com
I was going to write an article about taking LSD and spending a day in REI, but upon learning that VICE is now defunct, I leapt at the opportunity to get drunk and eat tacos for SLUG. This hard-hitting premise brought your loyal correspondent to two taco joints—the absolute institution that is Tacos Don Rafa on South State, and Street Tacos on 400 South, a new one for me. In the spirit of the article, I grabbed my least-employed friend, an armful of Pacificos and began to safely and legally navigate the town in search of great, late-night food.
Although it is unfair to reduce these two establishments to simply “great food to eat while drunk,” they do happen to be some of the few food options open after 9 p.m. in this sleepy, parochial town. And after all, man cannot live on Pie Hole and secondhand smoke alone.
I have been paying my respects to the Don for years and have been rewarded greatly for my loyalty with the slightest shimmer of recognition from the employees of Tacos Don Rafa when I flex my extremely limited Spanish. I regularly order the Burrito Sin Carne ($7) for its mighty heft and ability to carry me through the day, but some combination of booze and the crisp night air of the busy intersection gave me the courage to sample something new. I opted for the Tacos al Pastor ($2), and my companion ordered the Chicken en Mole Tacos.
At the end of the day, everyone should try eating street tacos—indoors—at least once.
Due to my impaired state, I couldn’t distinguish between the two on the plate, so we both tried one of each. They were fantastic. The tacos arrive heavily seasoned on a white corn tortilla, a blank canvas you can sex up to your liking at the adjoining cooler full of all the accoutrements you’d expect. I went for lime, pico, onion and a few radishes on the side—so basically todos—as well as a selection of the sauces ranging in heat from sour cream to decently spicy. Nothing is labeled, which lends the experience a quiet coolness and understanding of those who get it and those who don’t. Y’all, we only have a few good years left on this planet, and tacos taste better on a Styrofoam plate.
Street Tacos, despite the name, serves tacos indoors—off the street, in a building. A building that can only be described as “still haunted by the horrors of the ghost of the ’90’s Wendy’s that more than likely originally occupied it.” Emboldened by our earlier success, I decided to try a few tamales on top of the tacos here. They had more veggie offerings, so we ordered Tacos Nopalitos and Tacos Rajas ($3.49 per taco, each)—a creamy, cheesy poblano taco.
Although it is unfair to reduce these two establishments to simply “great food to eat while drunk,” they do happen to be some of the few food options open after 9 p.m.
The tortillas are a richer yellow corn flour and felt slightly larger than traditional street tacos. The Nopalitos were less flavorful than I was hoping, but they are a cactus, after all, and make for a solid veggie option. The creamy poblanos made a strong impression. If I could go back, and I will go back, I’ll get three more of those, and I can’t wait for whoever I drag with me to say, “Where the hell are we, and how long has this place been here?”
The Verde Tamales ($2.99 per) were fantastic, and I got one Chicken Green Chile and one Tamales de Elote. The sweet corn tamale basically tasted like cornbread, which surprisingly may have just been too much corn for this midwesterner, but the Chicken Green Chile was really solid. There was a blur of different colored sauces, and I remember liking the green one.
It was an odd place to find oneself, and I feel like the nature of being on 400 South lends itself more to the drive-thru, but at the end of the day, everyone should try eating street tacos—indoors—at least once.