When you're heading into Mexicali, the capitol city of Baja California from the west, along Mexico Federal Highway 2, you can't miss Tacos Banny, as the restaurant is located at the busy intersection of Calzada Coronel Esteban Cantu and Carretera Santa Isabel, on the western outskirts of Mexicali. It's one of those places that you just have to stop at, as they serve the best tacos de tripas that I've ever tasted, and I've eaten quite a few tripe tacos in my lifetime.
Photo: Tacos Banny is easy to find, as they have a tall sign that proudly states the name of the restaurant, and it's located on HWY 2. Tripas are smokin' on the smoker! Muy sabroso! It's mid Sunday afternoon, March 11, 2007, and I'm in the mood for delicious tacos de tripas!
Photo: The kitchen is in front of the dining room, and the "Texas hibachi" is located near the street. Note the charcoal smoke from the tripas that are cooking in the smoker. Mmmmmm good!
Tacos Banny is a rather large operation, located along the busy highway, with a compact outdoor kitchen in front of the establishment, and an indoor workstation where salsa and vegetables are prepared, and a large covered dining room, that features quite a few picnic tables and benches where diners can relax, and enjoy their meals. Inside, there's also a cashier's station, and a big cooler where soft drinks are stored. I couldn't help but to notice that they have a "Texas hibachi" located outside, near the kitchen, belching out lots of smoke. I asked the guy who was cooking tacos in the kitchen what they were grilling, and he told me "tripas." Oh boy, is there anything better than barbecued/smoked tripas?
Photo: The guy in the blue shirt was quite hungry, as I watched him eat at least six tacos during my visit. He just kept coming back for more. Tacos Banny is interesting, as they have a condiment station in front, and a more "civilized" condiment station to the rear. Wherever you choose your condiments, they are plentiful, and are included with the price of your tacos.
Photo: The chef and a customer smile for my digital camera. Tripas are cooked at the smoker in front of the restaurant, and chicken, tortillas along with carne asada are cooked on the griddle at this secondary cooking station. Beans are also prepared in the kitchen, made in-house.
As in most smaller restaurants in Mexico, Tacos Banny is a family owned and operated business, and everybody who works at the place is related, either by blood or marriage. I noticed two older ladies that cleaned tables, handled the money, loaded the refrigerator with soft drinks, greeted customers, and waited tables, and a young girl who was busily chopping vegetables. When you visit these small Mexican restaurants, you'll always notice that the young girls get the job of chopping vegetables and making the salsa... The one guy that was there was busy in the kitchen, cooking food and keeping an eye of the tripas that were smoking on the large barbecue outside.
Like most smaller restaurants in Mexico, Tacos Banny doesn't have a menu, and what they serve varies from day to day, and depends upon what ingredients they have in stock. On my visit of Sunday, March 11, 2007, Tacos Banny was serving tacos de carne asada and tacos de tripas, so I ordered one of each from the guy cooking in the kitchen. After ordering my tacos, I walked over to one of the refrigerators located on the back wall of the dining room, and helped myself to a Pepsi, and sat down at a table. Within seconds, the friendly waitress brought over a tray with bowls of condiments, including guacamole, salsa verde, shredded cabbage, onion rings, chipotle salsa, lemon wedges, radishes and in-house made salsa cruda. During the course of our chit-chat, she mentioned that their tortillas are made in-house, and from fresh, locally-obtained ingredients.
Photo: Tripas, cooking on the grill, which is a "Texas hibachi," as it's made from a 55-gallon drum. I noted that they were using charcoal, with wood to add flavor, and I asked the cook what variety of wood they were using. Mesquite, which is perfect for tripas and it is plentiful in the Mexicali area.
Photo: This friendly lady has just brought a tray of condiments to me, and my lunch order of two tacos de tripas and a Pepsi. It was interesting that my order arrived in the covered "dining room," as opposed to the cooking and condiment station outside. I guess they figured, as a "gringo," that I would prefer the more refined surroundings. I should have asked...
Photo: The talented chef stirs the tripas, and allows more wonderful smelling smoke fill the Mexicali air... There is nothing finer than the smell of tripas being grilled over mesquite.
It seemed like I'd only taken a sip of my Pepsi before my meal arrived. Tacos Banny serves their tacos on freshly-made, cd-sized corn tortillas, which make the perfect wrapping for the delicious meat. I ordered a taco de carne asada, and a taco de tripa, and I piled on as many condiments as my tortilla could hold.
The carne asada was delicious, moist and juicy. The taco de tripa was cooked just the way I like it, smoked in the "Texas hibachi" until cooked, but still juicy and chewy. By the way, tripa isn't tripe, as we know it in the U.S., but tripas are actually the small intestines from hogs, goats or cattle. In this case, I asked the cook where the tripas came from, and he shrugged his shoulders and replied, "No se, ¿Quizá cabra? (Maybe it's goat...) which was good enough for me. While all of this was going on, the young girl, who was previously chopping vegetables, rushed up to her man, just as I was about ready to take his photo. It turns out that they are husband and wife, and she wanted me to snap a photo of them together. Naturally, I obliged.
Photo: "Mexicali Gothic," as chef's wife decided to come over and pose for my digital camera, as I snapped a photo of her husband cooking tripas on the "Texas hibachi."
Photo: My tacos and the condiment tray that I was presented. My tacos are "undressed" and fresh off the griddle and the smoker.
Photo: Two tacos, tripas on top, and carne asada on the bottom, before adding any condiments. As shown in previous photos, the tripas was cooked perfectly, and had a great, smoky taste. There is nothing that I enjoy more than a couple of perfectly cooked tacos de tripas.
The price for two delicious tacos and a cold bottle of Pepsi was a mere MEX $28.00, which is less than $3.00 in U.S. dollars. You can't beat Tacos Banny for friendly people, delicious tacos, and an outstanding value. Restaurants like Tacos Banny are one of the main reasons why I love to visit Mexico! Tacos Banny is highly recommended by the author.
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