Orlando has a plethora of fantastic Mexican restaurants, from the upscale to the cheap and casual, from Americanized to authentic. One that is consistently in the pantheon of best Mexican food is Hunger Street Tacos (http://hungerstreettacos.com/) on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park, moments from I-4. Brothers Joseph and David Creech, the chef-owner-operators, serve a unique menu of authentic street foods you would definitely encounter in Mexico City, and most of their dishes are totally singular here in Orlando. You won’t find them on most local menus, and even if you did, you won’t find their equals. I love the Creech Brothers’ story on the Hunger Street website that describes their formative years spent in Mexico and how they studied the local street foods and authentically recreated them here, starting with a catering business and culminating in their restaurant, in the original location of the now-legendary 4 Rivers Smokehouse.
Unfortunately, Hunger Street Tacos is too far from my job to dash off there for lunch, and since I work late and they are closed on Sundays, I don’t make it there nearly often enough. It had been far too long since my last visit, but thankfully my wife and I recently made it back there on a Saturday at 11 AM, while they still served some special brunch menu items, but before it got too hot and before they got too crowded.
As usual, we arrived hungry and over-ordered, so we could try a bunch of different dishes and end up with delicious leftovers for later:
Sauteed mushroom quesadilla ($4.75) for my wife, and vegetarian tinga quesadilla ($4.75) for me, on crispy grilled flour tortillas. I love the vegetarian tinga, with sauteed onion, garlic, cabbage, and chipotle peppers that made it the spiciest dish I tried (but not too spicy, for those who fear the heat). Both quesadillas include Chihuahua cheese (which, I must clarify, comes from the Chihuahua state in Mexico, not from actual chihuahuas).
Campechano taco with pulled brisket and crumbled chorizo ($3.75) and fried avocado taco ($3.75). This brisket is crispy from being cooked in a hot griddle after being slow-cooked, and the fried avocado is the perfect consistency — light and crispy outside, warm and soft on the inside.
Hibiscus and guacamole taco ($3.00). Yes, they are actual hibiscus flowers, and they are so delicious. They remind me a little of one of my favorite vegetable dishes, braised red cabbage, with their look and texture underneath that delicious fresh guacamole and tomatoes, but it’s hard to fully describe their unique flavor.
Rib taco ($4.75), a current special that will eventually be added to the regular menu. It is a bone-in pork rib, and the meat is so tender, you can simply squeeze the rib inside the tortilla to pull out the bone.
I was so excited to try the al pastor taco ($3.75, I believe), but it wasn’t ready when we arrived at 11 AM on a Saturday! Luckily, they had it ready before we left, so I had to go back inside to order one. It was totally worth the wait — one of the best al pastor dishes I’ve ever had, and that is one of my favorite dishes to order anywhere. The marinated pork is sliced fresh off a vertical trompo (think of how gyro meat or shawarma is often sliced off a rotating spit), and I don’t think anyone else in the city does it this way. The taco came simply garnished with onions, cilantro, a nice piece of fresh pineapple, and squeezing a lime wedge over it made it pure perfection.
This is Hunger Street’s chicharron de queso ($8.00), a house specialty that you cannot order to go, since it wouldn’t be the same when it isn’t hot, fresh, and perfectly crispy. Yes, this is gouda cheese, melted, stretched, and fried until it has almost a potato chip consistency. It comes with guacamole and spicy red salsa, and my advice (really Chef David Creech’s advice) is to use the crispy cheese to scoop up some of both, so you get all the flavors and textures in one bite. This would be a fantastic dish for low-carb and keto dieters who want something crispy and salty and are in chip withdrawal. Been there, done that!The chicharron de queso was so huge, we couldn’t finish it at the restaurant, so we ended up bringing a lot of it home. Wisely, I didn’t put it in the refrigerator, where it might have turned soggy. I left it on our kitchen counter on an uncharacteristically cool April day, so it was still mostly crispy later that evening.
And finally, this is one of their Saturday brunch dishes, churro French toast ($7.90), created from English muffin bread from Orlando’s own Olde Hearth Bread Company. Light and eggy and dusted with cinnamon and sugar, this is what convinced my wife to have an early lunch here, and she absolutely loved it. It was beautiful to behold, and its taste lived up to its looks!
I can’t say enough good things about Hunger Street Tacos or the warm and welcoming Super Creech Bros. While geography and timing keep me from going as often as I would like, it is one of those Orlando restaurants that is constantly experimenting, improving, and impressing. It never disappoints. That al pastor is my new gold standard, and if you’re a vegetarian or have vegetarian friends, I can’t recommend it highly enough, with dishes like the hibiscus taco, chicharron de queso, vegetarian tinga quesadilla, mushroom quesadilla (more for you!), or the squash blossom quesadilla, which we didn’t even order this time.