A Small Taco Stand Makes History As The First Of Its Kind To Receive A Michelin Star

Pork tacos with lime and cilantro
Pork tacos with lime and cilantro - Mironov Vladimir/Shutterstock

In the early days of the Michelin Guide, the handbook mainly doled out stars to fine dining establishments. It has since expanded to include casual restaurants but had never given a star to a hole-in-the-wall taco stand. Now, a small taqueria in Mexico is changing that. Taquería El Califa de Léon, a Mexico City-based taco stand, became the first eatery of its kind to be awarded a Michelin star.

Located in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico's capital, the 10-foot-wide taco stand — owned by Chef Arturo Rivera Martínez — has been a fixture of the city for almost 50 years. The taco stand received one Michelin star, meaning that the establishment is considered consistently up to standards. For Rivera Martínez, who has been with the taco stand for 20 years, this is all due to the uncomplicated nature of his food. "The secret is the simplicity of our taco," he told the Associated Press. "It has only a tortilla, red or green sauce, and that's it. That, and the quality of the meat."

Keeping in line with the no-frills aspect of his dishes, Rivera Martínez only serves four items. Despite the limited options, the tacos were deemed of high quality by the Michelin guide. While there were a number of things that attracted the Michelin Guide to Rivera Martínez's taquería, the Gaonera taco, made with thinly-sliced beef, salt, and lime, stood out from the rest.

Read more: Restaurant Foods That Always Taste Better Than What You Make At Home

Michelin Guide Recognized Several Other Mexican Restaurants

Assortment of tacos
Assortment of tacos - Grandriver/Getty Images

Along with Taquería El Califa de Léon, a number of other Mexican restaurants were on the receiving end of the prestigious honor. According to the Michelin Guide, the stars were doled out based on each restaurant's quality ingredients, masterful cooking techniques, personality of the chef, consistency in the menu, and harmony of flavors.

The stars were given as a part of Michelin Guide's Mexico selection. A total of 157 restaurants were featured in the guide, with Taquería El Califa de Léon being among 16 restaurants to receive one star. This is the first time the French-based organization has created a guide for Mexican dishes, with the country joining other Latin American locations such as Peru, Argentina, and Brazil.

Every year, inspectors visit various locations on the hunt for eateries that meet the Michelin Guide's standards. For the 2024 edition, Michelin inspectors visited other cities outside the capital, like Oaxaca, Baja California Sur, Quintana Roo, and Nuevo Léon. The restaurants spanned price range and fare, with everything from high-end seafood restaurants to farm-to-table eateries garnering recognition.

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