El Papa De Los Pollitos
Half chickens are marinated and slow-cooked over mesquite coals by the street then passed through the window to the cook waiting inside. To construct your taco, she starts by shredding off some chicken meat and placing it on a hot comal, then drapes a couple tortillas over the top. The edges of the tortillas hit the surface and crisp up while the center stays soft and moist. It's an odd hybrid of a traditional taco and a crisp-shelled taco and it's crazy delicious, particularly with the smoky red chili sauce and bits of crispy skin mixed in.
El Papa De Los Pollitos: 4047 W Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48209; map; 313-729-0259
I haven't been able to find a single mention online of this taco truck that's parked on the corner of W. Vernor Highway and Dix Avenue, but it should be written up more. It had the best chorizo and carnitas that we tasted piled generously into flaky, charred tortillas from El Milagro. It was the last stop on a tour of 11 taquerias, but we still managed to down an entire plate of them, licking up the stray drips of bright red sauce after we were finished.
El Parian: W. Vernor Highway and Dix Avenue, Detroit, MI 48209; map
Tacos El Primo
This truck in the parking lot of a Chinese buffet has passably good chicken and steak tacos, but it's their lengua and carnitas coupled with excellent hot and tart salsa verde piled into blistered and tender tortillas from El Milagro that set them apart.
Tacos El Primo: Dix and Central, Detroit, MI 48209; map
Pollos "Los Gallos"
There's not much by way of interior decorating inside Pollos "Los Gallos" (which translates to "chickens 'the roosters'," whatever that's meant to mean), but there's a roof over your head and that's a step up from most of the other trucks. They've got other types of tacos on the menus, but really, all you want is the slow-grilled, charred, smoky chicken version piled heavily into a tender El Milagro tortilla.
Pollos "Los Gallos": 7170 Dix Ave, Detroit, MI 48209; map; 313-729-0259
Grilling Chicken Legs Outside Pollos "Los Gallos"
Chicken tacos are pretty much never good—or so I thought before my little taco tour of the Midwest where I discovered the secret to awesome chicken tacos is using spice-rubbed dark meat only and slow-cooking it over coals until the skin is crisp and the meat is fall-off-the-bone juicy. That, and plenty of salt.
La Mexicana Supermercado
You might have a hard time locating this taqueria as the only signage for La Mexicana Supermercado does not mention tacos at all and on top of that, it's half missing. It's worth seeking out though. Served out of the deli stand of a Mexican Supermarket, there are even picnic tables inside where you can park yourself to wolf down their incredibly tender meats—try the thick-sliced lengua or the spicy, moist chorizo, once again served with those awesome El Milagro tortillas.
La Mexicana Supermercado: 7934 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit, MI 48209; 313-841-3024 map
A Tortilla From El Milagro
Pliant, moist, blistered, and poofy, El Milagro tortillas are about the best I've had short of the freshly made variety. In fact, they're even better than many fresh-made tortillas I've had.
Looking for the kind of place you can take a date and get decent tacos? El Nacimiento's the place to go. Not only do they use real solid tableware, have table service and everything, but they also make a mean michelada in an icy cold frosted mug (the perfect way to wash down your 45th taco of the day). This is one of the few taquerias of the day that actually had griddled items—carne asada and al pastor cooked on the flattop that were superior to their steamed or braised offerings.
El Nacimiento: 7400 W Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48209; map; 313-554-1790