I thought I was going to be slick this year in my effort to sign up for the Philly 10K. I’ve done it twice before (please clap — no seriously, please, it’s the future of my profession), and I’m over paying an arm and a leg to exercise for one hour. So I figured this year, I would wait until just a few days before the fourth annual run through South Philly and Center City to snag a bib from someone who’s bailing just before the race.
Except the other day I was informed that the “transfer period” to get a bib from someone else ended a couple weeks ago. So I decided, screw that, I’ll complete my own Philly 10K and spend my time doing something far better than the perpetually-overrated activity that is running: Eating tacos.
I mapped out the official course and found a whole bunch of taco joints that were either directly on the route, or just a block or two off of it. Wednesday morning, I put on my stretchiest pants and my loosest tank top and started my own version of the Philly 10K — one in which I vowed to walk the entire 6.2 miles and stop to eat a taco at every single Mexican spot I came across along the way.
What followed was a five-hour epic trek through South Philadelphia and Center City that included 14 tacos, a few stops for water and one obligatory margarita. I encourage you to do your own version and tweet me pics, but please bring friends because eating more than a dozen tacos alone was sad!
Here’s a map of what I did: Red is the Philly 10K route, and the blue markers are where the tacos are:
I start my taco tour at Eighth and South where the actual Philly 10K begins (for reference, it ends at Fifth and South right outside Philadelphia landmark Condom Kingdom). From there, I walk south on Sixth Street, which is the first and one of the longest legs of the race. After briefly cutting over to Fifth — I did sort of plan this out ahead of time — I stop at my first taco joint. It’s 11:25 a.m. Go time.
Mexicana Foto El Trompo Loco
942 S. Fifth St.
My evil plan to order one taco at each location is immediately foiled when I’m informed you have to order three at a time, a trend that existed throughout my entire taco tour. Duh. I order three steak tacos and ask for them to go because I don’t have all day. They are $9.
These tacos are delicious. The steak is finely chopped so it’s easy to eat, the meat is super juicy and, despite that, the tortilla holds up nicely. While a tad salty, the tacos have excellent flavor and come with two types of salsa. They are so good and I am so hungry that I eat two because I have no self-control.
Miles walked: 0.6
Tacos consumed: 2
1163 S. Seventh St.
The actual course goes down Sixth, but I move a block over and head down Seventh toward my next taco spot, feeling like a new person after consuming two delicious tacos. I ask for a menu and order the first tacos I see listed: Carnitas, which in this case are described as deep-fried pork. Hello, beautiful. They are 7 bucks.
These tortillas are similar in consistency to the last location and have good flavor — not too corny, if you know what I mean. The carnitas have great flavor too, but at one point I get a mouthful of fat. I’m not complaining, but I only eat one taco this time. I need to pace.
Miles walked: 1
Tacos consumed: 3
South Philly Pizza
1629 S. Seventh St.
I keep walking south on Seventh toward Snyder, which is the next leg of the Philly 10K. The next location is the one I’m most excited for, and I’ve heard it has some of the best tacos in the city. And is there anything more Philly than the best tacos being at a place called “South Philly Pizza”?
By the time I walk the five blocks there, it’s past noon. I confidently saunter up to the front door ready for what I anticipate will be the best tacos of the day and… they… are… closed. My heart feels like it does when you can feel tears welling up behind your eyes. Crushed.
Miles walked: 1.4
Tacos consumed: 3
Taqueria La Mexicanita
1148 Snyder Ave.
Downtrodden, I make my way to Snyder Avenue for the rest of my tour, which I planned much less carefully than the first leg. I figure I’ll run into taco spots along the way for the rest of the course, which I do. Thank you, good people of Philadelphia. I walk west and see the word “Taqueria” in the distance. I run to it. And it’s also closed. Maybe I should have done this later in the day.
Miles walked: 2.2
Tacos consumed: 3
Cantina Los Caballitos
1651 E. Passyunk Ave.
I cut up the rest of the course to East Passyunk Avenue feeling like my little experiment is miserably failing. I’ve only eaten three tacos at this point, but I know East Passyunk should be fruitful. I am not wrong.
I come across the Cantina, by far the bougiest place I’ve stopped thus far. I pop a squat at the bar where a hipster man asks me what I want. Chorizo tacos sounds good, and I order them to go. Hipster bartender offers me cheese, pico and guac, but I deny his advances because I cannot add more food into my life at this point. They cost $10 and take 15 minutes to arrive, by far the longest I’ve waited so far.
The chorizo is crispy and has the perfect amount of spice, but there is nowhere near enough of it. These tacos are all tortilla, and the tortilla itself is nothing compared to the two I’d had earlier. I eat one and give the other two away. I’m doing alright.
Miles walked: 2.6
Tacos consumed: 4
Los Taquitos De Puebla
1201 S. Ninth St.
I continue walking up East Passyunk and pass by a place called El Sarape, which is apparently famous for a “cheesesteak taco,” which sounds absolutely foul and is not something I’m going to indulge in. The place is closed, thank God. So I cut up past Pat’s and Geno’s on Ninth and see Los Taquitos. According to the door, the place is open ‘til midnight. Drunk tacos. Oh, yes.
I start reading the menu and the nice boy operating the cash register asks me what I want. I haven’t decided yet, but I’m the type of person who panics when asked what I’m ordering and then orders the first thing I see, even if it’s totally stupid or gross. This is a character flaw that I am working on.
The first thing I see is “crispy tacos.” The meat options are chorizo, chicken and ground beef. I select chicken because I just had chorizo and I am not stooping to the level of ordering ground beef because I do still have a small amount of dignity. Three tacos cost $10 (plus $1 for a bottle of water), and they’re exactly what I should have expected when I ordered crispy tacos: Hard shells. Here we go.
The tacos are horrible. The worst. They have refried beans, which I’m fine with, but the “hard” taco shells aren’t even hard and have the consistency of a shoe lace. They are topped with iceberg lettuce, and one would honestly need to be wasted to enjoy this garbage taco. I’m able to stomach exactly one of these abominations and throw the rest away because it’s not even worth subjecting someone else to this. Ew.
I almost reach Washington Avenue when I spot another taco place even though I literally just finished my gross one. Here we go. Breathe.
Miles walked: 3.1
Tacos consumed: 5
1122 S. Eighth St.
This spot is a BYOB, but I’m greeted by an extremely talkative bartender-type person who tells me I’ll love the brisket tacos, and then goes on to complain about customers who come in and only order tacos. Bro doesn’t know what I’ve been through. But he convinces me the brisket is the way to go because the fat isn’t taken off during the cooking process, something that very much appeals to my interests. Three tacos are $10. As I wait, he sells me on bringing back all my friends with a bunch of booze.
Talkative bartender man was right. The meat is absolutely delicious, probably the best I’ve eaten yet. It’s fatty, juicy and flavorful. The tortillas aren’t my favorite, but the meat is the real hero here. The tacos are served with a giant roasted poblano pepper and two sauces. I eat one taco and then I eat the meat out of another.
Miles walked: 3.2
Tacos consumed: 6.5
Taqueria La Veracruzana
908 Washington Ave.
I start cutting west on Washington Avenue, and I’m beginning to feel a little bit full. I come across another taqueria at Ninth and Washington, and I’m honestly a little sad that I came across so many in such a small span of time. This is going to get painful here very soon.
I walk in, order three tacos al pastor to go and they cost me $7. The women running this place are super speedy, and I’m in and out within five minutes. I can’t really tell if there is anything special about these tacos because I’m at the point where tastes are starting to sort of blend together. My first bite is a mouthful of raw onion, but after that, the pineapple touch is pleasant. I finish one and give away the other two.
Miles walked: 3.4
Tacos consumed: 7.5
1225 Fitzwater St.
I’m starting to get fatigued. I walk into the 7-Eleven at 11th and Washington in search of water. I’m parched, and feel like I haven’t consumed a beverage since ‘Nam. I chug a bottle of water and continue walking west on Washington under the beating sun. I see my reflection in a storefront and self-loathing starts to set in. I cut up 12th Street and am starting to regret being so overzealous at the beginning of this endeavor. I realize the fancier Mexican places are coming up soon, and I imagine myself throwing up at El Vez. What will they do?
I’m thinking Stephen Starr’s Mexican spot in Washington Square West will be next, but then I walk west on Fitzwater toward 13th and accidentally stumble across another Mexican place. I feel literally disappointed to see more tacos, but this is my life now. I choose the tilapia tacos — $7 for two — because I haven’t had fish tacos yet and I also hate myself.
As I wait for my tacos, I begin thinking: I will never again do another one of these diary entries for this website in which I slowly send myself toward cardiac arrest (Editor’s note: This was all Anna’s idea).
The woman at Quetzally hands me my tacos and a bag of FREE CHIPS which immediately changes my mood because I love free chips. The tacos are way better than I expected. The tilapia is fried and the tacos are topped with a lime crema of some sort that is delicious. They’re so good, and I know I would’ve enjoyed them more if my taste buds weren’t already overloaded. I eat a full taco and a bunch of the fish out of another. I’m counting it as one-and-a-half.
Miles walked: 4
Tacos consumed: 9
121 S. 13th St.
I trudge up 13th Street. Things are feeling bad at this point. I walk by Dirty Frank’s and think about going inside and asking them to kill me. Dirty Frank’s seems like a good bar to die at, and then I know what they would say about me: She died doing what she loved.
A man rides by on an Indego bike and I make an out-loud guttural noise because I just remembered that I biked to South Street like an IDIOT and if I make it home without hurling, it will be an act of God. It is 2:17 p.m.
I walk into El Vez looking like the garbage person that I am and sit at the bar. I think about ordering my tacos to go like I did at almost every other place, but I instinctively order a margarita. Oops. Guess I’m stuck here. It’s delicious, and I deserve this. Then I order the chicken tinga tacos, which cost $12 and come out on a Very Fancy Plate.
They aren’t traditional tacos by any stretch of the imagination and the tortillas are nothing special. But the chicken is finely chopped and has a good spice level while the tacos are topped with salsa and avocado, which I thoroughly enjoy. I realize they’re small and I can’t eat one taco because then the bartender will get offended, so I eat two.
Miles walked: 4.6
Tacos consumed: 11
106 S. 13th St.
I walk north not even another full block and see Lolita. Ugh. I sit outside for a moment, order the cholula fried chicken tacos that cost $12 and though they are delicious and crispy, I eat exactly one. I’m not sure what it really tastes like because I can’t feel anymore. I apologize to my very kind server for my rudeness and explain that I’m just very full. I forget to take a picture of these tacos because my brain isn’t working anymore. I am so ill.
Miles walked: 4.7
Tacos consumed: 12
I can’t imagine I have that many more tacos to eat. I’m coming up on the homestretch, and realize I just have to walk east a block on Chestnut Street, then walk south on 12th to South Street and then I’m basically done because I can’t think of any taco spots on South Street. Thank goodness.
Then all hell breaks loose.
1200 Walnut St.
I see it. A block away. Chipotle. “Do I have to?” I wonder. “You promised you would eat every taco you went by, Anna,” I tell myself. That version of me wins. I begrudgingly walk in and order two barbacoa tacos.
As the woman is making them, I think about throwing up on the glass and what would happen if that occurred. I feel like I’m so close to being done. The woman asks me what kind of rice I want on my tacos —what is WRONG with this chain? — and I immediately feel even worse. I get only rice, black beans, barbacoa and pico on my tacos because I can’t stomach adding anything else.
I sit down at the front of the restaurant, eat one taco and decide to move on. Obviously the taco is not very good and the tortilla sucks.
Miles walked: 5
Tacos consumed: 13
South Philly Pizza redux
1629 S. Seventh St.
There are no more taco places on 12th Street, I discover as I walk south. This is a triumphant feeling. I get back to my bike on South Street and feel accomplished (completely forgetting the tiny Christian Street leg at the end of the route, oops), but a bit depressed. I don’t want my last taco of the day to be from Chipotle, and I feel like I’m missing out on great tacos because I didn’t actually make it into South Philly Pizza.
So I do the unthinkable and hop on my bike and ride south on Eighth Street to go back. I pass by Iztaccihaskdfjaklsdf and remember my old life. Then, I get to South Philly Pizza. And it’s open.
I place my final order of the day: three tacos al pastor for $7. I get them to go and eat one before I leave. They’re delicious, and right up there with some of the best I’ve eaten all day. I realize it’s 4:15 p.m., and I am finally finished.
Miles walked: 6-ish
Tacos consumed: 14
The bike ride home is not easy. I think hard about my actions, and realize I have a dinner reservation in three weeks that I wonder if I’ll make it to. Then, as I’m just over a mile from home, I pass one of my favorites: Taco Riendo.
And I’m not going to say I didn’t think about it.