This past weekend, My Athens and Terrapin Beer Co. co-hosted their 2nd annual Taco Takedown. This epic partnership brought the Athens community together on a warm, October evening, filled with music, beer tasting, and the aromatic smells of tortillas and queso.
Ten of Athens favorite food vendors competed their top taco recipes. And yes, we tried every one. Foodies over 21 also received six 6oz glasses of beer to try with their ticket as a pass for sampling some of Terrapin's 16+ unique flavors on tap. But, needless to say, this was not a night to forget.
If you missed it, I am sincerely sorry to here it, however, you can revel in the highlights via @my_athens on social media and on their website. My Athens is always hosting BA community events like these, so be sure to save the date for next year's Taco Takedown and other upcoming events listed on their events page.
Upon entering Terrapin Brewey's cozy, wooden tasting room, it's hard to draw eyes from the cool swag (leather koozies, anyone?) and quirky paraphernalia with their famous turtle mascot. The walls are filled with mad taco art from this year's and last's contests, as you're greeted with the crisp aroma of malt and hops.
The event featured a DJ on Terrapin's lawn, while this year's competitors lined the perimeter with their tents and supplies in order to make fresh tacos on site. Folks sat with happy mouthfuls on benches, under a shaded area, or spread out on blankets brought from home. Everyone from students, residents, kids, and even some furry taco-lovers was gathered for good food and fun. I could not think of a more perfect way to top off the weekend.
Of course, we didn't dare miss out on the fun photo-op at the end for a chance to rep Spoon UGA's love for our Classic City and its glorious food.
The Ultimate Taco Challenge
My fellow Spoon UGA executive and I were way too eager to embark on this Taco Challenge. You can't expect they would just hand over gourmet tacos (and Insomnia Cookies) for free. The reasonable price of a ticket for all of it (that's 10 tacos, 6 glasses, and 1 cookie if you're counting) would've been a steal.
The Challenge involved a series of tasks in order to earn a soft or hard shell prize from each vendor. At some places, one must exchange a "cheers!" or a high-five with a stranger. Others involved publicly dancing the Macarena or telling the chef what a fantastic job he was doing.
None of these tasks were particularly "challenging," but it was a great way to break out of your own shell and share in the community experience (rather than use it as an excuse to shove tacos in your face).
Meet the Stars of the Taco Takedown
Once you finished the challenge, each person had the chance to vote for their favorite taco creation by placing a Terrapin bottle cap in designated jars.
It was honestly one of the hardest decisions I had to make. Each vendor came up with unimaginable recipes that you would never think to put into a taco (or taste so good).
Pumpkin Spice Patch gets Spoon UGA's vote for most creative. That's right PSL fans, they've invented Pumpkin Spice Carnitas taco just for you. Pumpkin Spice Patch made their debut at the Takedown, as an upcoming Athens restaurant. Their preview menu features almost anything and everything one can imagine, all while incorporating every basic college girl's favorite flavor.
Catch 22 also broke conventional boundaries with their Pulled Pork Mac N Cheese Double Decker taco with BBQ sauce (a true mouthful). They completely blow spaghetti tacos out of the water, giving you a hard and a soft shell, glued together with refried beans.
My personal favorite is a tie between Taqueria Tsunami's Sweet Thai Chili (shown in our Instagram post) and Baberitos' Jerk Fish tacos. Given the chance, I love taking friends from outside Athens to Taqueria Tsunami, because the Latin-Asian fusion is unexpected and hard to find elsewhere. And I've always gotten burrito bowls from Barberitos on my lunch break, but after trying their fish tacos, I might have a new favorite.
Spoon UGA's vote for Spiciest Taco goes out to The Pine's Smoked Curry Chicken. I love how the spices were found in a curry, rather than a salsa or hot sauce.
South Kitchen+Bar satisfied the more sophisticated palate with their Grilled Tri Tip tacos with avocado sour cream, queso fresco, and pickled pepper relish. Tlaloc El Mexicano and The Savory Spoon also made an appearance with more traditional taco combos that we all know and love.
Ultimately, it was Taqueria Del Sol that won Athens' hearts and stomachs with their Poblano Pimento Cheese with Green Chorizo, beautifully accented with a sweet potato chip.
Taqueria Del Sol is known for their keen balance of tastes, incorporating flavors and textures that would otherwise butt heads, without it being too overwhelming.
That's definitely what they did with this taco. Savory chorizo and slightly-spicy poblano paired perfectly with soft pimento and the soft shell, while the crispy sweet potato chip added an unexpected contrast.
The winner was granted the Golden Cholulua Bottle for People's Choice in tacos, which boasts a mini taco piñata at the top.
As an ode to Athens treasured food and art culture, My Athens hosted a taco art contest open to anyone for a chance to showcase their art at the event, alongside last year's artwork. The winner received his or her own Golden Cholulua Bottle trophy. Starving artists submitted their entries over Instagram with #athenstacotakedown.
After receiving multiple, mouthwatering entries, the arts editor for the My Athens blog chose Nicolette Kubea and her clever design, which perfectly summed up the event. It shows a detailed, groovy taco sporting a sexy mustache, shades and a loud sombrero, while also playing folk music in a field of grain.
I highly encourage you to check out all of this year's entries under the hashtag as well as the slideshow gallery on the My Athens blog. Also browse through some snapshots of the event under the same hashtag and this photo gallery. Warning: do not watch hungry.