We’ve all had our fair share of unsatisfying tacos in life. An oily one here, with fish that’s not fresh. A dry one there, with paltry fillings. It’s with this sense of caution that we approach the neon-lit sign of CDMX Taqueria, a brand new taco joint that’s still in the process of cementing its reputation. But so far, word on the street has been promising.
Melbourne’s current offering of Tex-Mex fare, while undeniably a pleasure in its own dirty way, weighs heavily on the palate as rival chains try to outcompete each other on maximum flavour and calorie for dollar. And so in the last decade, the cry for true Mexican fare in Melbourne has echoed far and wide, with CDMX being the newest taqueria to respond. The same husband-and-wife team behind Seddon’s Superchido, Beatrice Nacor and Daniel Pineda have brought their artisanal taco recipes straight from the heart of Mexico City, or as the Mexicans call it: Ciudad de México (CDMX – hence the name). What started as a wildly successful pop-up in Melbourne Central now boasts a spacious sister taqueria in Brunswick East.
The latter is where I’m bringing my investigative appetite on a Saturday afternoon. The new shopfront boasts a floor-to-ceiling window affording an open view of Lygon Street’s more happening end. Inside, striking blue and white tiles stretch across the walls to the bar, well-stocked with a bohemian selection of mezcal and tequila. It’s a clean and modern space, with stools by the bar for lounging with a drink, plus room for about 65 diners to grab a table. Most notable is the bold statement proudly stamped on the wall: “Los mejores tacos estan en CDMX”, which translates to “The best tacos are in CDMX''. Well, we’re about to find out.
Like any good street taqueria, the menu’s short and snappy, honing in on only the true classics. My partner and I are excited to try the birria tacos, the soupy, crunchy on-trend snack that’s taken the world by storm in recent years. But first, a few pre-drinks are in order. In celebration of the early spring sunshine, we select a summery Michelada and a Mezcal Mule.
A fun and interactive bevvy, the Michelada starts off as a glass of tomato, lime, shoyu and habanero with a lime and chilli salt rim. You pick a beer (I opt for a Pacifico lager), pour a slosh into the tomato juice and then drop in a wedge of lime after a generous squeeze. It’s fiery, zesty and as refreshing as a holiday to Cabo, an epic firecracker of a drink. Why have I never tried this before? Your standard Bloody Mary will forever now be boring. The frosty Mezcal Mule is also a dream, zappy with ginger beer, passionfruit, cucumber and a candied ginger cube to garnish.
A waiter with a light Spanish accent notices our interest in the mezcal, and gives us an extensive overview on the distinctions between different varieties and how the soil and location leads to each type’s signature character. To finish off this unexpected complimentary introduction, we’re offered a pair of mezcal shots with cricket salt-dusted orange wedges – completely free of charge! It’s a sweet surprise, and a rather boozy way to line our bellies given that we’ve skipped breakfast. But the following meal turns out to be the most epic taco experience we’ve ever had.
Let’s start with the CDMX take on birria tacos, arguably Melbourne’s greatest right now. The seared corn tortilla cradles a stew of braised beef brisket, fresh coriander, onion, melty pillows of queso blanco, house salsa and grilled corn. Dipped into the birria consommé served on the side, these bad boys unleash a river of succulence and freshness in the mouth. All we can say is “wow” in between bites. The beef is so tender, and the birria broth itself is sodium-rich, but not too salty in a cheap sort of way. It’s proper taqueria fare. Unlike the overly rich and thick birria stew that you tend to find elsewhere, this consommé is pleasingly thin, allowing the taco to speak for itself while upping the juiciness factor. We drink the rest of it from the bowl because it’s too good not to.
We also try the Al Pastor tacos, which if you can believe it, are even more magnificent. These more supple corn tortillas carry treasures of marinated pork, fresh coriander, onion, pineapple and house salsa. Smoky with the spit-roasted pork that melts in your mouth, and yet sweet from the bright pops of fruit, the taco’s flavour ratio is perfect. Another Michelada in hand, we could graze on these all day.
It’s all about the tacos at CDMX, and it shows. There are several more you can try, such as the crisp potato, beef and pork sausage tacos or the rotating ox tongue special, alongside other little snacks like grilled corn and tostadas. But we’re happy to leave it on a high note. The plates come with just three tacos each, and despite their lightness, they’re surprisingly fulfilling. The kitchen’s exceptional balance across all five taste profiles leaves your palate feeling satisfied, and at under $8 a taco, the value’s incredible for what you get.
The CDMX team have brought a truly special dining experience to Lygon Street, with genuinely mood-lifting eats and drinks, sunny service and authentic Mexican street flavours difficult to find elsewhere in the city. Our verdict’s in: these are the best damn tacos in Melbourne, and we know exactly where we’re going for lunch next weekend.