Utah Bites

Bodacious Birria, Killer Cactus and More at Santo Taco

One of my favorite recent food shows is a Netflix series called “Taco Chronicles.” The series does indeed chronicle tacos of every type, from al pastor tacos in Mexico City and the carnitas of Michoacán with their Aztec origins, to stewed guisado tacos and even the crunchy Americanized tacos of Taco Bell.


Here in SLC, a good place to get acquainted with a range of street-style tacos is at Santo Taco, owned and operated by Claudia and Alfonso Brito. Since opening in 2019, Santo Taco has now expanded to four locations, including the newest in downtown SLC on the corner of 400 South and State Street. I recently visited the Rose Park and downtown locations to sample a variety of tacos at Santo and sure didn’t come away disappointed. The quick, friendly service and delicious food at economical prices keeps me and many others coming back again and again. 

Chile Verde, Carnitas & Carne Asada Tacos

Meat-filled tacos at Santo Taco include birria (more about that later), chorizo, carne asada, carnitas, al pastor, and pollo, and most tacos run $2.50-$3.00 each. There is even a meat lovers taco called El Chingon ($3.75) that features three different meats: chicken, pork and beef served fajitas-style on a flour tortilla. All of the tacos at Santo Taco can be enjoyed on corn or flour tortillas. 

Birria Quesadilla

In addition to tacos, Santo Taco also serves quesadillas, burritos and mulitas, as well as fries and nachos with a wide variety of toppings. 

There are some tacos at Santo Taco that come adorned with specific toppings, such as the pescado (fish) taco. But most come naked, allowing customers to customize their tacos, burritos and such from the salsa bar which, in addition to homemade salsas, has accouterments such as guacamole, pickled red onion, radishes, limes, cilantro, jalapeños, and more.

All of the Santo Taco locations are walk-up and order, fast service establishments; there is no table service. If you’re looking for a more refined Mexican culinary experience, I highly recommend the owners’ sister restaurant in downtown SLC – Monarca. 

Cactus & Calabacitas Tacos

Unlike many or most taco joints, Santo Taco makes a strong effort to feed vegetarian guests as well as meat eaters. In addition to vegetarian nachos – cheese-smothered corn chips with veggie fajitas, pico de gallo, sour cream and jalapeños – there are also vegetarian tacos and burritos like calabacitas – a vegetable taco/burrito with zucchini, corn, queso fresco and sour cream – and a nopal taco with seasoned grilled cactus strips, onions, and tomato with queso fresco on a corn tortilla. 

Pescado Taco

For fish and seafood lovers, there are a couple of choices. The Gobernador taco is grilled shrimp on corn or flour tortillas, garnished with shredded cabbage and tomatoes, while the pescado tacos and burritos are battered and fried white-flesh fish – probably tilapia – with a zippy remoulade-style sauce, avocado, tomato, and shredded lettuce.

Al Pastor & Chile Verde Tacos

Santo Taco makes very good tacos al pastor, which are common in Puebla and Mexico City – spit-grilled pork brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants – featuring a seasoned cooking paste or marinade called adobada, and served with pineapple. I also really like the chile verde tacos with tender, moist, delicious chunks of pork chile verde. 

Birria Taco

Of all the delicious delights at Santo Taco, my very favorite is the birria. Here in the U.S. birria is usually made with beef. In Mexico it’s often stewed meat: goat, mutton, lamb, chicken, or beef. The meat is marinated then stewed and shredded and stuffed into tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and the like, and typically served with a cup of meat broth for dipping alongside. The cheesy, stupendous birria beef taco at Santo Taco – with that killer consomme on the side – is simply spectacular. It’s messy, but absolutely awesome. I could eat a half-dozen of those bodacious birria tacos. Now, if only one could get an ice cold Mexican brew with the birria … 

There is no shortage of good spots in and around Salt Lake City to get terrific tacos. But for my dining dollar – for flavor and value – Santo Taco is pretty hard to top. 

Photos by Ted Scheffler

Culinary quote of the week: “My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with.” Oprah Winfrey

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