By Krin Mims
Growing up, I was very fortunate to travel quite a bit with my dad. His job allowed us to experience new cultures and their cuisine quite often. I learned quickly to eat with the locals and stay away from the tourist traps. The small and sometimes “sketchy” hole-in-the-wall in Mexico usually has a lot of business and the most authentic food on the block. When a friend called us to ask if we’d been to Taco Express located on 41 going out of town, I was surprised I’d never heard of it. He admitted that the outside didn’t command much attention but knew that we loved authentic cultural experiences. We decided to give it a try one Sunday evening and friends … we hit the jackpot!
As described, the exterior didn’t exactly grab my attention from the road. What was once a small motel is situated beside the restaurant and probably doesn’t help its cause. However, once we pulled in, we realized it was well-maintained and has real potential. We were pleasantly surprised to find the interior extremely clean and carefully organized. A small dining room with roughly 10 tables was located on the left. To our right was a sales counter and directly to the back, a small bar was situated with a kitchen continuing beyond. We were immediately and warmly greeted by owner, Miguel Gutiérrez. He directed us to a table, gave us menus and a brief synopsis of the restaurant and his passion to bring true, authentic Mexican cuisine to our community. Starting out with a small store and selling tacos from a food truck, he soon realized that his food was making a big statement and expanded to the restaurant about a year ago. During the warm months, he still sells tacos from his truck, but he’s created an authentic experience inside the restaurant that can’t be had outside.
A brief scan of the menu showed us an “authentic side” with his signature tacos, gorditas, tortas and more. The other side of the menu is a more “Tex-Mex” approach giving his customers a chance to branch out and learn about this food but still enjoy dishes they have become familiar with from Mexican restaurants here in America. It didn’t take more than seeing $1.50 tacos to get my husband on board. We were able to try the guacamole, chips and salsa, and Super Gringa right off the bat. The Super Gringa is an entire pound of pork and pineapple (also called al pastor) wrapped in a 12-inch flour tortilla and smothered in cheese dip. I’d definitely recommend ordering it and incorporating some of his fantastic homemade salsas, including habanero and tomatillo. The guacamole was fantastic with plenty of large, fresh chunks of avocado and pico de gallo. We tried nearly every taco on the menu and determined that the chorizo, al pastor and carnitas were our favorite. They are served on two homemade corn tortillas with your choice of toppings. Miguel brought out each course with a smile and light conversation telling us about our food and giving us suggestions. To top off my night of Mexican delight, we noticed that they serve tres leches cake. This is my absolute favorite cake and something I always try to find when traveling to Mexico and Central America. We were not disappointed. The cake was saturated by the culmination of the three milks and a welcome surprise with the addition of peaches.
Our craving for authentic Mexican cuisine was finally satisfied. It seemed that everything we tried at Taco Express was rustic and full of great flavor. It was truly a pleasure to meet Miguel and experience his food. The interior of the restaurant was neatly organized, bathrooms were recently cleaned, and the simple decor tied into the Mexican theme. I’d love to say we’ll return soon, but we’ve already ordered tacos and gorditas to go. This has quickly become a staple for our home, and I hope you’ll take on the challenge to try something new and visit this slightly hidden gem.
Be sure to try the Tres leches cake — It was moist, delicate and sweet without being overwhelming. It was everything I’ve always remembered it to be. It will be extremely difficult for me to stay away from this cake at Taco Express.
Try it at home: Salsa
Salsa comes in so many varieties, and it is very simple to make with minor prep involved. I’m personally a big fan of pico de gallo. You’ll need tomato, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, lime juice and garlic salt to create a basic pico. But don’t stop there! Add corn, mango, black beans, and change up your peppers too. This is great for dipping with chips or adding to your tacos. Add an avocado and a little olive oil, and you’ve got guacamole.
Location: 1115 N. Main St., Hopkinsville