In St. Louis, there's no better place to get authentic tacos than on Cherokee Street, the main drag of a neighborhood known for its multi-ethnic diversity and particularly high population of Mexican immigrants. Recently, a growing number of trendy bars, stores and hangouts have been popping up on the street in between the traditional Mexican bakeries and antique stores. 

In an article for Southern Living, a store owner in the area says that “Cherokee Street is to St. Louis what St. Louis is to the rest of the country. It’s often overlooked, but anyone who takes the time to explore it will find how special and vibrant it is."

In an attempt to see the vibrancy of the neighborhood for ourselves, we decided to try three different tacos at three different Mexican restaurants on the same block. Ariela tried the chicken tacos, and Chandler tried the steak and pork tacos (read: she did not eat all six tacos in one sitting, but can neither confirm nor deny that she ate the leftovers as a midnight snack). Here are our thoughts on our taco food crawl:

Spot #1: Neveria La Vallesana ($9.50)

La Vallesana has a cozy, homey atmosphere that we loved. It's the kind of place where you'd want to take large groups and families, and who can pass up on patio seating? The service was slow, but the time we spent waiting was not a waste: we had ample opportunity to stuff our faces with warm chips and salsa.

Our waiter also immediately offered us margaritas, which we unfortunately had to decline since we had some post-taco studying to do. We were, however, very flattered that he thought we looked old enough to be 21.

pizza, tea, coffee, beer
Ariela Basson

We decided to order the Taco Supreme, which allowed us to get three different tacos for around $9—that's a win in our book. Since La Vallesana likes to keep its dishes classic yet slightly Americanized, the tacos were topped with lettuce, shredded cheese, tomatoes and sour cream. Not totally aesthetically appealing, but definitely appealing to our taste buds.

corn, cheese, chili, guacamole, lime, nachos, salsa, tacos
Ariela Basson

Ariela's chicken taco

The chicken in this taco was both grilled and seasoned to perfection, and everything was fresh. The tortilla was perfectly moist (yes, I just used that word in a positive way) and also complemented the chicken nicely. Overall, this taco was a little bland for my liking, but I think in this case, the lack of exciting toppings worked since it really forced my taste buds to focus on the star of the show: the meat.

Chandler's steak taco and carnitas taco

I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by the cheese and sour cream on top of this steak taco, but it actually became a welcome addition. The steak was tasty, and the lettuce and tomato added a nice freshness to the meat and cheese. The sour cream functioned as a sort of sauce throughout the whole thing, and the tortilla was a soft yet sturdy shell.

The carnitas were less flavorful and did not stand out quite like the steak. Even though the steak and carnitas looked almost the same, you could definitely taste the distinct flavor of pork in this one, although it wasn't as enjoyable. The cheese and sour cream did not complement the flavors of the carnitas as well as they complemented the steak either. Not my favorite, but I was still excited to move on to the next round.

Spot #2: Taqueria El Bronco ($7)

Since we are busy ladies with work to do (and also because the atmosphere inside this restaurant was kind of depressing), we decided to cut the time spent waiting at Taqueria El Bronco and got our tacos to-go. They were ready within minutes.

Full disclosure, we might have been a little biased against these since they sat in a box for awhile as we waited forever at La Vallesana to get our check. The tacos did not taste as fresh as they could have been, but we tried to factor in the time they spent in the box as we reviewed them.

bread, tacos
Ariela Basson

When we opened up our box and stared at the tinfoil wrapped lump, we wondered for a second if they accidentally gave us only one big taco. But thank goodness, there were three—they were just smaller-than-average tacos squished together. Heads up: If you decide to go to El Bronco, you might not be full after just a couple of these tiny guys.

parsley, tomato, pork, chicken, chili, lettuce, salsa, vegetable, bread, meat, beef, tacos
Chandler Seed

Ariela's chicken taco

This was my least favorite chicken of the three taco joints we visited. There was just something missing. It was shredded, red and flavorless, and I was disappointed after the fresh grilled chicken from La Vallesana. While I appreciated that they topped the taco off with cilantro (read: my favorite herb, and I know it's a polarizing choice), it tasted rather spice-less. In order to compensate for the lack of flavor, I drizzled some spicy green salsa on top.

The tortilla, however, was the best of all three restaurants. It was slightly sweet and soft, but not soggy. I honestly could have just eaten the tortillas plain with a little bit of salsa and been happy. 

Chandler's steak taco and carnitas taco

I’m a minimalist, and I like my carne asada tacos how they’re authentically served street-side—with cilantro and onions and nothing else. I was excited to dig into this purist-taco-lover’s dream, but unfortunately, I was kind of disappointed in the end. This taco was decent, but the steak was a little chewier than my liking. The taco itself didn't boast a ton of flavor, but I added some tomatillo hot sauce to kick things up a notch. 

The carnitas were served in the same style, with onions and cilantro, but they left me even more disappointed than the steak ones. They were flavorless and dry, and the sad corn tortillas (read: sorry, Ariela) didn’t help at all. If I'm being totally honest, they were kind of hard to choke down. 

Spot #3: Chaparritos ($7.50)

chili, coriander, chicken, beef, salsa, lime, cilantro, tacos
Ariela Basson

Okay, spoiler: Chaparrito's was hands-down our favorite of the three taco joints we visited. Let's just say it was lit and delicious—what more could you ask for?

Chaparrito's is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but in the most charming way. They seated us and served us quickly. When the tacos arrived, everything about them was just how we like it: straight-forward and authentic. The restaurant also had Latin Music videos blasting on TV screens, so you know we were jamming out to Despacito.

Ariela's chicken taco

The chicken in this taco was by far my favorite. It was perfectly grilled, just like the La Vallesana chicken, but they kicked it up a notch with a blast of flavor from extra seasoning and spices. I added a few drops of lime juice to my tacos, which complemented the seasoning on the chicken, too. The tortilla was almost as good as the one at Taqueria El Bronco.

Chandler's steak taco and carnitas taco

The steak tacos were delicious, especially with a good squeeze of the fresh lime the restaurant provided. Overall, the tacos were pretty simple, like the steak tacos at El Bronco, but held so much more flavor and succulence. You could easily tell that the meat was very high quality.

I was totally immersed in the bold flavors of the carnitas taco at first bite. They were rich and meaty and had a perfectly soft, pull-apart texture. The flavors lingered in my mouth long after I had finished. These were easily the best carnitas tacos of the three.

Cherokee street is a must-visit for taco enthusiasts (like us). It has so much to offer, yet so few Wash U students take advantage of its large selection of authentic eateries. So, hit us up if you need taco-tasting buddies— because our taco crawl extravaganza need not be a one-time thing.