Do you know how many types of tacos there are? After all, there are really only chicken or beef options at most places. And, you only have soft or hard shells to choose from, right?
Wrong! Not at Backyard Taco! Unlike the average taco joint, we have four different kinds of tacos on our menu, each customizable with your choice of shell. Better yet, you can select from many toppings and options to create a ton of different combination tacos depending on your taste or mood.
Having trouble deciding what you want to try? Bring your friends and family and choose them all to share!
Choice of Corn or Flour Tortilla
You can select corn or flour tortillas for your Backyard Tacos, and each has a different history— and a different flavor profile, of course. Learn more about our tortillas.
Authentic Corn Tortillas
Legend has it that a Mayan peasant invented the corn tortilla as a present to appease his very hungry king over 12,000 years ago. Since then, the corn tortilla has become a staple item in many different cuisines, including Mexican cuisine. Over the centuries, the corn tortilla has had many uses, but it has mostly stayed true to its original ingredients and style. Some say that women used tortillas to carry food out to their husbands and sons working in the fields. It worked like modern-day plastic wrap does to keep foods secure and protected.
Later, when the Spanish came to the Americas, they found that the native people ate corn off the cob and had a process of grounding the corn into a cornmeal for other uses. One of the uses was to make corn tortillas—they weren’t called that yet, though. The native people used the cornmeal to make masa, which is a type of dough. They then used that dough, flattened it, shaped it into a circle, and cooked it to form a type of bread. The Spanish called these “little cakes” or “tortillas.”
The natives used a process called nixtamalization to make their “little cakes.” The corn kernels are soaked in water and lime (not the fruit, the mineral) to remove the shells. Then, when the shells were gone, the remainder was dried out and ground up. The cornmeal was then used to make dough. After the dough was made, it was divided into small portions, patted down, and formed. It was then cooked on a hot grill to perfection. Corn tortillas were used as bread, eaten alone, or filled with meats and vegetables, just like our corn tortillas today.
Today’s corn tortillas are used in authentic Mexican meals because they were the original type of tortilla and have been around for thousands of years. Corn tortillas are a yellow color and taste like toasted corn. They are firmer and chewier than flour tortillas. They are also made to be smaller than flour tortillas because they are less sturdy and risk falling apart when larger. However, they are more versatile than flour tortillas because they can be toasted and used in a variety of ways, such as for hard tacos, taquitos, or chips. They can also be grilled for street tacos.
The legend behind flour tortillas is a little less clear. One possible beginning of flour tortillas started with Jewish immigrants to the Americas. Tortillas at that time were made with fat, which these immigrants could not eat because it is not a kosher ingredient. Another story is that the Spanish introduced the natives to growing wheat and grinding it into flour, which led to the use of the grain to make bread products and tortillas.
Grinding wheat was a simpler process than corn, making it easier and faster to create tortillas. These tortillas were also flattened, formed into a circle, and cooked on a hot grill, but they were fluffier than corn tortillas. Regardless of how flour tortillas came to be, we love to wrap up delicious ingredients in them to enjoy.
Over time, the process of making tortillas has been modernized to meet demands. The rise of Mexican restaurants in the United States has raised the demand for tortillas, which are also used to make tortilla chips and shells. Modern machines can make up to 60,000 tortillas in an hour! This is fantastic because there are approximately 120 million tortillas sold every year.
Flour tortillas are a bit less flavorful and softer than corn tortillas. They are a white color, and usually feature brown spots from being grilled. They are thicker and sturdier than corn tortillas so they can be made larger and can hold more fillings. Flour tortillas are good for making burritos or entrees that are stuffed, rolled, or folded, like quesadillas.
Choosing Your Tortilla
Many people choose flour tortillas because their fluffy texture and mild taste really lets the filling be the star. However, corn tortillas are healthier than flour tortillas. Corn tortillas have less carbs, more fiber, and a higher vitamin content. Also, since corn is gluten-free, those who must avoid gluten can enjoy corn tortillas. Whole wheat tortillas are also becoming popular and are a healthier option to try at home.
There are many meat options to choose from when creating your tacos. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose just one!
Carne Asada (Steak)
There is nothing better than a perfectly cooked steak. Carne asada is a delicious, traditional Mexican meat. It is made from thinly sliced strips of skirt or flank steak that has been marinated for up to four hours in juices and spices before it is grilled. It’s marinated again after it is grilled.
Beef became popular during the 1500s with the introduction of cattle, cattle drives, and ranches. Beef was readily available to the ranchers and became a main staple in their diets. The beef from the cattle was cooked over open fires and eaten alone, mixed with other foods, or stuffed into a tortilla.
When cattle became domesticated, they provided a steady source of meat, but also dairy products, like butter, cheese, and milk. The addition of these new animals, food sources, and food products added to the ingredients that could be used to make new, different, and delicious dishes. Mexican cuisine has expanded tremendously since this time.
As you can see, the modern carne asada has not changed much in hundreds of years. Carne asada is still a popular meat choice in the United States. It can be served alone or with rice and beans. It can also be added to other foods to make delicious dishes such as burritos and tacos. Carne asada is a great meat to add into stews as well.
Chicken is popular throughout Mexico and the United States and makes up over half of the meat consumed today in both places. Chicken is also considered a staple in Mexican cuisine and culture. Chickens were introduced by Spanish settlers around the same time that cattle and other animals that could be domesticated were introduced.
The introduction of domesticated animals helped to create a more available food source. Like cattle, chickens provided another food option besides just meat—chicken eggs also became an important food source. Chickens are also beneficial because they are generally easy to raise, too. Backyard Taco has some of the best tasting seasoned chicken if that is your choice for taco meat.
Birria (Marinated Shredded Beef)
Another delicious meat option is birria, or marinated shredded beef. Birria is becoming more popular thanks to social media, but it has long been a tradition in Mexican culture. If you love birria, you’re in luck—Backyard Taco serves tender, juicy, delicious, mouthwatering birria.
Birria was originally made with goat meat. The making of birria originated around the 16th century, when new spices and animals were introduced to Spanish and Mexican foods. Goats were also introduced at this time and became a great nuisance. They devastated the land by eating everything and helped to cause a terrible famine. Because of this famine, the people turned to the goats for their meat as a source of food, and this was the beginning of birria.
Goat meat has a distinct gamey taste, so a variety of spices were needed to cover up the gamey taste. The meat was then cooked for an exceptionally long time to allow for more flavor and tenderness. Birria is perfect for putting in stew or stuffing in tacos. Today, birria is made with beef, lamb, or chicken, and there are also vegetarian options.
Al Pastor (Pork)
Feeling adventurous? Pork al pastor is often overlooked because it has not yet reached viral social media status and is not as well-known as beef or chicken. However, it’s a fantastic addition to any taco. Al pastor translates to “shepherd style,” and is a traditional Mexican meat that is cooked using a Lebanese vertical spit-roasted cooking method. It is slow cooked and thinly sliced while cooking on the spinning spit-roast.
Al pastor has its beginnings within Lebanese culture. In the late 1800s, many Lebanese immigrated to Mexico. Traditional Lebanese served al pastor on flatbread, and it was usually made out of lamb instead of pork. The second generation of Lebanese Mexicans adapted their traditional cooking techniques and combined them with Mexican influences. This led to al pastor meat being made from slow-cooked, tender, boneless pork shoulder and a marinade of guajillo chili, cumin, garlic, clove, bay leaf, and vinegar. In Mexico, the meat is usually taken from the leg, but in the United States, the pork shoulder is the preferred alternative.
Toppings, Toppings, and More Toppings
At Backyard Taco, we love our toppings! Our menu shows our recommendations for each type of taco meat, but feel free to change it up or add more. Here, again, are the BYT suggestions for your favorite taco types:
- Carne Asada & Pollo — For our carne asada and pollo tacos we recommend topping with diced cabbage, diced red onion, and red tomato sauce.
- Birria & Al Pastor — Our birria and al pastor tacos are best topped with diced red onions and cilantro.
- Additional Toppings — We also have whole pinto beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo to add into the mix if you wish. Any of these ingredients would be fabulous on our burritos, Bueno Bowls, or any of our other menu items.
Find Your Signature Taco
If you haven’t tried our tacos, you’re definitely missing out! Backyard Taco has been voted Top Taco in Town since 2015. That’s because we use the most delicious marinades packed full of spices and herbs to make our meats mouthwatering. Then, we top them with the freshest ingredients. We make everything fresh when you order it — no frozen or premade tacos here.
While you’re at Backyard Taco, don’t forget to save room for dessert. Try our scrumptious authentic flan or paletas. They are great for sharing with friends and family—or you can just keep one all for yourself. Which is your favorite go-to taco type? Give us a shout and let us know on social!
Dr. Tyler loves tacos! He is one of the owners of Backyard Taco, and can sometimes be found moonlighting there at night or on the weekends.
Dr. Tyler Robison is an alum of Mesa’s Mountain View High School. He graduted from Brigham Young University before being accepted to the “Top Ten-nationally ranked” University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Oral Biology. He graduated with honors in the top ten percent of his class. Dr. Robison continued at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco, where he received a second master’s degree in dental science and his orthodontic certification.
Dr. Tyler enjoys serving in his community. He is a provider for the Smile Back Foundation, which offers scholarships for free dental treatment to underprivileged East Valley students. He is also a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve and served during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008.
Dr. Tyler Robison’s favorite pastimes include spending time with his family on the lake, at the beach, or on the slopes. He is an avid and crazy snowboarder! He has three incredible sons and one sweet daughter: Caden, Jace, Crew, and Bliss.