It pays to root for the little guy. Last year Sonora Taqueria – Michelle Salazar de la Rocha and Sam Napier's unrelentingly delicious taco-shaped labour of love – found itself embroiled in an unpleasant war of words – well, one word in particular. Another London eatery rather boldly claimed to have trademarked the word ‘taqueria’ and demanded Sonora Taqueria drop it from their name. It was all very silly – a bit like someone trying to claim exclusive use of the word ‘cafe’ – and of course Sonora Taqueria prevailed. Since that linguistic blip, they’ve gone from strength to glorious strength. Not content with being Netil Market’s most in-demand food stall until it permanently pulled down the shutters in 2022, they’ve now opened their first proper restaurant. Moving from London Fields to Stoke Newington, here it provides a welcome independent addition in the face of decades of creeping gentrification (protect the nearby Egg Stores and Roti Stop at all costs) and High Street-ification of N16.
Theirs is a small, unfancy set-up in the shell of an old Indian takeaway in the shadow of Pret A Manger. There’s a handy alleyway right by it, assisting in the process of queueing which you will likely have to do to. When we arrive for Friday lunch service (they’re currently only open until 4pm), we find a line outside of Barbenheimer proportions. A few months out of the game certainly hasn’t made a dent on their popularity – if anything, it’s made them even more of a steaming hot ticket.
My hands might be a mess, but my heart is full.
When we finally get inside, the place is packed with deeply stylish 20-to-30 somethings sporting confrontational hair – one is meticulously and loudly arranging a Hackney Wick club night on the phone. It feels less like a taco joint in Mexico, and more like one in LA’s Echo Park, thrumming with people taking a three hour lunch break away from their screenplay.
Three menus hang above the counter, one for breakfast burritos, and one each for grill and guisado (braised) tacos. Most are pork and beef-based, though there’s a cactus leaf nopales offering for vegetarians and faux chorizo for vegans. A sensible diner would order three tacos, but you’d be within your rights to order four, even five. Prices are an extremely reasonable £3.50 to £5, and though they look petite, Sonora’s paper-thin tortillas come packed to the floury brim.
It was a stifling summer day, so rather than eat in – the prime ledge by the entrance was taken and a windowless dining space downstairs seems foolish when the sun is shining so flamboyantly – I took my tacos to Abney Park and eat on a graveyard bench like a massive goth.
Slow cooked beef in a gruff barbacoa taco fell apart in a deeply satisfying fashion, topped with a sauce that’s fiery without maliciously blowing your head off. The warm heat instead leaves a tingly tongue, which is soothed by an adobada taco; grilled and marinated pork tossed with nuggets of fragrant pineapple and a zippy habanero salsa. With an added squeeze of lime juice, they become extra sloppy and fall apart in a pleasingly chaotic way. A cabeza taco is the heartiest of the lot; full of burly ox tongue and cheek draped with pink pickled onion ribbons, which felt not entirely unlike eating an entire steak dinner that fits in the palm of your hand. Simpler was a bean and cheese quesadilla, which, for a mere 50p extra, can be served with a cheese crust on the taco. My hands might be a mess, but my heart is full. Viva the little guy.
The vibe An unpretentious, extremely hyped Mexican joint (that used to be an unpretentious, extremely hyped food stall) on Stokey’s main drag.
The food Meaty, marvellous tacos.
The drink Score a fruity and iced agua fresca – on our visit it was a sweet, slightly tangy and fermented glass of pineapple tepache.
Time Out tip Do whatever you can to skip the line by getting there really early, or really late (it opens at 12pm and closes at 4pm).