The Joy of Tacos Strikes in Cuzco, Tacomanía

Tacos fascinate people in many parts of the world, but especially here in South America. They are icons of Mexico which for more than a century has sent Mariachi and many other kids of music, television, and movies to this big land south of it. Its food has been much slower in coming, although, a Latin American cooking channel, includes Mexican shows in its rotation.

Of course, they also attract people in the world from which tourists come, places where Mexican food, if not Mexican culture, has spread. In Europe, the US and Canada, the image of Mexican food is one forged on the US Mexican border and tends to be far more Americanized than Mexican in origin, despite massive tourism to Mexico.

Inside Tacomanía and its Fantasy Cantina (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Inside Tacomanía and its Fantasy Cantina (Walter Coraza Morveli)

In Cuzco, Mexican food has not been very good. It is still very difficult to get corn tortillas here and the food has been through many adaptations and accommodations before it reaches the plate, such that it is a reference to some version of Mexican food, but is not pleasing to a palate used to either the cuisine of the Aztec Republic or its neighbor to the north, despite how different and problematic that is (pace Gustavo Arellano).

This changed with the opening of a place called Tacomania on Tandapata, just above the fountain of San Blas. It offers well-prepared food that has caught the attention of travelers. Though it will give you chimichangas, burritos, and enchiladas, the tacos are, by far, the best offering of the place.

The are served three to a plate with sides of your choice. The servings are ample and filling. You can choose your meats (carne aside (beef), carnitas (pork), and chicken) or beans as well s whether you want spiciness added to the meat. Unlike in most places here the hot is quite hot, though delicious.

Cheese Stringing Down from a Chip at Tacomania (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Cheese Stringing Down from a Chip at Tacomania (Walter Coraza Morveli)

On top of the meats they fill the taco with grated cheese and lots of lettuce, more like US tacos in crispy shells which these are not.

I have tried all three meats and must say that the carnitas are the best and the closest to Mexican tacos.  It is a succulent and tender braised pork that is filled with flavor. The beef did not remind me of a carne asada, a grilled beef. It was sautéed and flavorful nonetheless. The chicken was acceptable. I have not tried the bean tacos.

Mexican corn tortillas are inevitably challenge people who want to make Mexican food in Cuzco. They are not available, despite the presence of good corn and a traditional process of slaking the corn to make mote or tamales. Flour tortillas made from wheat are available and while they are common for tacos in the far Mexican north and in the United States they lack the quality and taste of the standard Mexican tortilla me from corn.

Chimichanga Tacomanía Style (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Chimichanga Tacomanía Style (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Tacomanía makes its own tortillas. When I asked I was told they are not corn tortillas but they bear a reasonable similarity, although when fried to make chips or nachos you really notice the difference. 

Tacomanía is not Mexico, it is a fantasy but a very good one. You see attention to detail and quality in the preparation and realization. From the contemporary ranchera song playing when I was there, La Puerta Negra, to the sauces and decor, Tacomanía pleases. 

As someone who grew up smack dab against Mexico in West Texas I must confess to being a Mexican food purist.  I love being in Mexico and eating tacos everywhere I go, as well as samples of all the other fine dishes that compose its cuisine. At breakfast nothing is better than a big stack of fresh made corn tortillas, hot and soft, to go with your huevos motuleños. Tacomanía was so good, that while I realized it was not true Mexican it satisfied and made me forget my critical self. 

It is just good. The place is small and only opens at 6 pm. As a result, it fills and you may find yourself waiting for a table. Nevertheless, if you have a hankerin’ for Mexican, Tex-Mex, Fresh Mex, or the cantina experience of fantasy, and need respite from the omnipresent Peruvian or international cuisine, Tacomanía (Tandapata 917) is a great place to go. Be careful, though, of the heat you request, unless you like your spicy very spicy.

This the Tacomania Brand
This the Tacomania Brand

David Knowlton

An anthropologist with decades of experiencing researching a variety of topics in the Andes, I fell in love with Cuzco in 1976 on a trip there from nearby Bolivia. My love has only grown in the years since then. Besides my work in the Andes, I am a foodie who appreciates local cuisines and the broad interaction between Iberian and indigenous cuisines in the Americas.

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