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How this taco stand in Mexico with only 4 menu items got a Michelin star

Michelin's newly published guide to cuisine in Mexico dished out single-star ratings to 16 restaurants.
Mexico Michelin Star Taco Stand
Posted at 11:24 AM, May 20, 2024

It might just be the smallest restaurant to ever receive a highly coveted Michelin star, but the food leaves a big impression.

El Califa de León recently became the first taco stand in Mexico to receive a star rating from the prestigious dining guide. The cash-only, 100-square-foot taquería is located in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico City.

According to Michelin, the restaurant has been open for over half a century and serves four variations of meat on simple, handmade corn tortillas.

It’s known for its Gaonera taco, a thinly sliced beef filet seasoned only with salt and a squeeze of lime and cooked to order on a searing steel grill.

Other meat options include chuleta (pork chop), bistec (beef steak) and costilla (rib meat). Green and red homemade salsas are also available, but Michelin said the condiments are “hardly even necessary” with “meat and tortillas of this caliber.”

According to The Associated Press, chef Arturo Rivera Martínez has been behind the grill for 20 years. He’s assisted by one other cook who whips up the tortillas.

Martínez told The Associated Press the secrets to the exquisite yet frill-free tacos are the quality of the meat and the temperature of the grill, which is kept at a blazing 680 degrees Fahrenheit.

It might not seem like that groundbreaking of a secret, but the restaurant’s owner, Mario Hernández Alonso, would not even tell The Associated Press where he buys his meat.

Michelin’s newly published guide to cuisine in Mexico dished out single-star ratings to 16 restaurants, dubbing the destinations as “high-quality cooking, worth a stop” per its rating scale. Two establishments received two stars, meaning “excellent cooking, worth a detour.”

No restaurant in Mexico received the highest, three-star rating. The country with the most three-star Michelin awards is France, which should come as no surprise since the dining guides are based there.

The United States has the third-most overall restaurants recognized by Michelin, behind France and Italy.