I spent a large chunk of my childhood in a Chicago neighborhood full of taquerías. Soft maíz tortillas stuffed with onions, cilantro and succulent carne asada were a staple of my diet. And then, of course, there were the jingling carts of elotes – corn on the cob smothered in chili powder, citrus juice, butter and mayonnaise – and the jingling carts of paletas: frozen slabs of coconut, mango and lime.
As an adult, I still crave these tastes and textures on a weekly basis, so when I moved to Stockholm four years ago, I was little bit worried. I had heard that Mexican cuisine wasn’t all that big in the Swedish capital (which, from a geographical point of view, is very understandable), so I was prepared for its dearth and the ensuing shock to my palate. I found out, however, that there was this thing called fredagsmys and – weirdly, unexpectedly – tacos were a big part of it. But to my horror I discovered that fredagsmys tacos were a nightmarish and Swedified version of the goods you get at Taco Bell. Now, they aren’t glutted with sill (thank God), but their hard shells are full of ground beef drenched in a bland Tex Mex seasoning and sugary salsa from a jar, as well as strange toppings like cucumbers, raw red peppers and västerbotten cheese and –
Lord have mercy do I sound like an arrogance-crazed foodie.
So Swedes and non-Swedes alike: ignore the ramblings above. Keep eating Taco Bell (which I not-so-secretly love and swear is a glorious way to treat a hangover) and fredagsmys tacos. If, however, you’re in Stockholm and in the mood for tacos as close to authentic as they get across the Atlantic, then here is a list of the five best joints to try:
La Neta has locations in Norrmalm and Söder and their tacos are goooood. In fact, they are the closest thing to the real thing (both in price and taste) that I’ve had in Stockholm. La Neta’s decor is sparse, yet colorful, and its atmosphere is relaxed, making it pleasant for both lunch and dinner. The menu isn’t overdone and there are some very good vegetarian options in the event that you aren’t a meat lover. My recommendation? Tacos pastor (pork and pineapple) with corn chips, frijoles and a mountain of to-die-for guacamole.
Not too long ago, there was a place near Kungsträdgården called F12 and it was one of Stockholm’s premiere restaurants with a Michelin star. In a surprise move, however, chefs and owners Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet decided to change it up completely, and after a nine month hiatus, F12 reopened as Público, which is more than a restaurant – it is also a nightclub. The cuisine is Mexican-Peruvian fusion and the idea is to spend your entire evening there: first eating and then dancing. Needless to say, there is a lot going on in Público’s vibrant, amalgamating space – and some of it might not be up your alley, including the price – but one thing is certain: the tacos are on point. My recommendation? A simple order of Cerdito Bonito: maíz tortillas, chorizo, beans and mojo rojo.
Located at Hornstulls Strand 4, Calexico’s is a Mexican bar & restaurant that is a part of the Debaser group. Like La Neta, it isn’t fancy, but the food is hearty, and they even serve up a Sunday brunch, although that fare is a little more American/Swedish breakfast traditional. Since tacos are our main concern, however, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of varieties to choose from at Calexico’s, including what they dub “gringa” tacos, which are made from wheat tortillas instead of maíz. My recommendation? Tacos Brazo De Plata: tuna, avocado, salsa verde and lime mayonnaise.
Coba is exactly what you would expect from an Östermalm restaurant: uncomfortably chic with a bar full of people trying very hard to look like they belong in a Ralph Lauren catalogue. Don’t let this deter you, though; Coba’s tacos are yummy, yummy and well-complemented by the good selection of tequilas and cervezas on hand. My recommendation? Prawn tacos with fried plantains and some sweet and creamy flan for dessert.
A summer pop-up restaurant in Humlegården, Humlan is teaming up with Stockholm’s Taco Truck to serve customers tacos and margaritas on warm days and nights before all the Stureplan nightclubbing begins. I have yet to try this new concept myself, but the taco focus is allegedly seafood, and I can’t really see how an evening with fruit-filled margaritas and shrimp and lobster tacos under Humlegården’s thick and billowy foliage can go wrong – can you?
Photos courtesy of La Neta