A Mexican Taco Stand Goes From Local Favorite to Michelin Darling

Over a week ago, Taquería El Califa de León was simply one of Mexico City’s nearly 11,000 registered taco shops, though there are undoubtedly many more that aren’t. Sure, it had been around nearly 60 years and was popular, especially among politicians who worked nearby. But it was mostly a locally known taco stand.

Then, on May 14, life changed completely for the cash-only taquería that has barely enough room to stand, sells four kinds of tacos — three beef, one pork — and whose grill radiates intense heat. That day, the Michelin Guide, the world’s most widely recognized arbiter of fine dining, released its first Mexican edition.

Of the 18 establishments in Mexico awarded at least one Michelin star, many of them fancy restaurants, El Califa de León was the only street-food stand. (Outdoor food stands in other parts of the world have been awarded Michelin stars.)

Business has surged since. Wait times have gone from 10 minutes to as long as three hours.

Customers on line in the street to eat at the taquería. A wait that used to be 10 minutes has stretched to as long as three hours.

A nearby shop started renting out stools to customers in line. More workers were hired to help meet the soaring demand. Tourists from all over the world are showing up, many snapping photos as the food is prepared. Sales, according to the taco stand’s owner, Mario Hernández Alonso, have doubled.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Arturo Rivera Martínez, who has manned El Califa de León’s grill for 20 years.

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