Inside the tortilla

Onions and pico and limes, oh my! 

To say an authentic Mexican taco would be complete without any of these ingredients would be a mistake. These brilliant, juicy delicacies are marinated and packed with flavor from the warm, corn tortilla to the assorted meats resting inside. Dating back to the 18th century, the word “taco” originated from Mexican silver miners who wrapped gunpowder in paper; similar to a “taquito.” Today, this staple Mexican meal item has branched out anywhere from shrimp tacos to chorizo, to barbacoa and carnitas.

Trini’s Mexican Restaurant can vouch for this. Locally owned for over 45 years, this Omaha Old Market gem takes a twist on modern tacos and specializes in its “puffy” fish tacos, consisting of spring mix, lemon juice, and olive oil. Frying its flour shells for a crispy texture, these specialty tacos consist of grilled fish and homemade chipotle sauce. Infused with specialty seasonings, these zesty tacos are topped with avocados to give customers an elevated experience. 

Serving the most popular menu item for 20 years, Owner Rich Anderson knew the restaurant could take its cuisine to the next level. For those who aren’t fans of fish, Trini’s takes its prestige puffy tacos and alters the filling to best accommodate its customers. Always looking to one up its tacos, Anderson said he appreciates people’s responses to new menu items so the restaurant can continue to improve and satisfy customer needs. “If we can grill fish, why can’t we grill chicken and steak and make more boujee tacos?” he said. 

When thinking of Mexican cuisine, Anderson said it’s important to visualize a juicy, flavorful taco. With few Mexican restaurants specializing in puffy tacos, especially for how long Trini’s has, Anderson said he feels his restaurant has blazed the way for fish tacos. With a focus on consistency to ensure the same taco is delivered to each customer, Trini’s takes pride in the level of care and attention to detail its staff takes. With a history tracing back to 1977, Trini’s carries its Mexican cuisine credibility through each dish served, one puffy taco at a time.

Opening its first location in late 2020 and second in March 2021, another Omaha establishment leading the Mexican cuisine category is none other than Javi’s Tacos. Founded and owned by Javier Trujillo Villa, the expert entrepreneur takes a more pick-and-choose approach to his services. Starting with a handmade tortilla, customers first choose what protein they’d like then continue down a line to hand pick toppings to garnish their tacos. The Chipotle-style concept came one week before the first location opened when neither a recipe nor menu existed. “I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how we were going to execute it,” Trujillo Villa said. “I figured, let’s just let customers pick their tacos! It became a hit, and it’s our own unique way of doing things.”

Aside from basic street tacos, the restaurant staple “Javi’s Taco” consists of a handmade corn tortilla coupled with unlimited toppings. With a focus on cooking fresh, quality tortillas, delivering a taco with all-inclusive flavor ties back with Trujillo Villa’s Hispanic culture. From the amount of oil that is laid on the grill to how quickly a tortilla is flipped, Trujillo Villa said there is an art to how one cooks a tortilla. Fresh, handmade tortillas are traditional in Mexico, which is why Javi’s takes pride in all its flavors from the basis of the tortilla through the freshly cooked vegetables accompanied. 

With a vision comes a goal, and Trujillo Villa’s passion for building his brand has garnered the many supporters he has today. Preparing to open his third location, Trujillo Villa said his restaurant is doing something right by taking care of the community. The humble restaurateur said his parents taught him to fight for everything he wants, and thus, Javi’s was born. “If you do something, you do it from the heart,” he said. “It’s all about how well I do my job and how far I can take this brand. That’s what I’m focused on.” 

Whether it’s love at first sight or bite, La Poblanita can attest to this famous saying. Nestled in downtown Omaha, the restaurant prioritizes customers and how they experience the satisfaction, taste, and quality cooked in its food. With each piece of meat hand cut daily, 22-year-old Owner Indalecio Penaloza said he believes everything from the quality of the restaurant’s seasoning to the number of tortillas used for each taco make all the difference. “The first bite you take is with your eyes,” he said. “When you bite into a taco, you want the full satisfaction of wanting to reach for more.”

Why travel to Mexico for authentic cuisine when you can find a piece of it at La Poblanita? This was Penaloza’s goal when opening his restaurant: to share his culture and allow people to taste the quality and difference in Mexican food. La Poblanita strives to offer a sense of a small taqueria while providing alternative options and building on Mexico’s most traditional dish: tacos. The restaurant’s “Fuego Taco” serves as its most popular menu item – held by not one, but two tortillas – and packed with birria, cheese, onions, cilantro, and accompanied by consommé. 

Furthering his knowledge and teaching others his techniques, Penaloza said he hopes to inspire people to chase after their dreams and continue to go above and beyond. With a passion to represent his culture in the Omaha community and afar, the young entrepreneur said he is genuinely happy to do what he does every day. “Why not proudly represent our culture the way it should? That’s why we carry so much love and care into our foods,” he said. “That’s what makes our tacos different.” 

Versatile yet simple, the culture behind this iconic dish continues to serve as a staple in the Mexican cuisine category. Whether on the go, out for a weekend dinner, or it’s Taco Tuesday, it’s safe to say that any time is taco time. When taking a bite into the deliciousness of these folded pieces of perfection, people should think back to the history behind what they are eating and how it got to where it is today. From Mexican silver miners to restaurants and food trucks today, cheers to celebrating the history behind the beautiful brilliance of tacos.

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