Set Up The Perfect Taco Bar

Tacos are the unsung heroes of a good party. They are completely versatile, can satisfy any palate, and can be amended to most dietary restrictions. But making and preparing a ton of tacos in advance really isn't a feasible task, especially since guests will likely desire more than one (think like, five) tacos during the course of a party. To help tackle the taco dilemma, we talked to La Cenita's executive chef Akhtar Nawab about curating the perfect taco bar for your next party.

The Daily Meal: Why is a taco bar great for parties?

Akhtar Nawab: Mexican food is always so festive and fun. Tacos are a great interactive food that gets people talking and laughing.

TDM: What is the easiest way to pull together a taco bar?

AN: Make sure you have all of your toppings in separate bowls so that it is easy and accessible for each guest to create their own taco to their liking. This way they can pick and choose their own ingredients.

TDM: What are the best vessels for a taco bar?

AN: Cazuelas, earthen dishes, and lots of bright, fun colors.

TDM: What are some unique things you can put into a taco bar spread?

AN: I like habanero pickled onions, cilantro from the greenmarket (much spicier and fresher than what you can find at the grocery store), fresh spicy salsas, rajas (poblano peppers and onions cooked together), pickled jalapeños, fresh sliced avocado, and a heavy supply of beer.

TDM: Name some uncommon, but delicious, taco toppings.

AN: I love the Smoked Peanut Mole we serve here at La Cenita. Other toppings that are delicious are salsa borracha with mezcal and orange juice, charred pineapple, and radishes marinated with grapefruit and habanero.

TDM: What are your décor ideas?

 AN: Colorful tablecloths, skeletons, wacky masked wrestlers seem compulsory, a massive Mexican guitar with four strings that sounds like a bass, and maybe a sombrero or two. I think those colorful, tiny donkey muñeca dolls are cute, and one of those scary tequila bottles that look like a skull [Kah Tequila].

TDM: What is the best way to serve the taco meats?

AN: I like the more stewed options that can be kept over a low flame, like lamb barbacoa and tinga de pollo. The longer they cook the better they get! 

An al pastor would be fun with a heating element like a shawarma or gyro.

TDM: What do people not know about tacos?

AN: They can be healthful and full of flavor without adding the usual fatty toppings.

TDM: What are some common mistakes people make with tacos?

AN: A common mistake is when people try to make them ahead of time and then they lose all their integrity. The salsas need to be very strong.

TDM: What does your ultimate taco include?

AN: Morel mushrooms, huitlacoche, posole, crema, and salsa borracha is one of my favorites.  Also, adding rajas [poblanos and onions] doesn't hurt.