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Mexico’s El Califa de León Is the First Michelin-Starred Taco Stand

Mexico’s El Califa de León Is the First Michelin-Starred Taco Stand

Around the world, most Michelin-starred restaurants are of the fine-dining variety—white tablecloths, exacting service, etc. But the French tire company recently bestowed one of its coveted stars on a slightly more down-to-earth spot.

El Califa de León is the very first Michelin-starred taqueria in the world, receiving one star when the guide announced its inaugural Mexico rankings last week. And now the taco stand is experiencing the effects of the honor, with hours-long lines for its tacos, the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday.

“There hasn’t been a moment of peace since the star!” Isabel Carolina González, who’s worked at El Califa de León for more than 20 years, told the Times.

The taqueria was opened back in 1956, and it’s long been a popular spot in the working-class neighborhood of San Rafael in Mexico City. The four tacos—costilla, bistek, chuleta, and the Michelin-lauded gaonera—are served on hand-made corn tortillas, without any of the numerous toppings you’d find in the United States. One taco will set you back just $3.50 to $5. To drink, there are a few sodas, but no wine, beer, or liquor. And with zero seating, diners eat standing up at counters, with their tacos served on plastic plates.

This isn’t the first time Michelin has awarded a star to a street-food restaurant. Notably, the cheapest Michelin-starred meal was once found at a hawker stall in Singapore. (That spot lost its star in 2021.) And a shophouse in Bangkok was similarly honored with a star, but the chef behind the eatery became so annoyed with all the people showing up to eat her food, she said wished she could give back the accolade.

While El Califa de León is dealing with similar hordes of diners, they’re mostly Mexico City locals, according to the L.A. Times. That’s likely to change, as more and more people learn about the Michelin star and plan their travels around visiting the taqueria. And the owner told the newspaper that he may eventually open up another location.

But for now, El Califa de León seems to be enjoying its newfound international fame, as a win for both the restaurant and the country as a whole.

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“This is an award for Mexico,” the chef Arturo Rivera Martínez told the Times. “There are many fine restaurants in Mexico. But for a taqueria to win this star—that is something special.”

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