Certain things in life are “get in and get out” operations. Like picking up coffee. Or getting your flu shot. Or seeing a kids’ movie by yourself in theaters, as a fully grown adult, because you’re hanging onto your childhood by its last fraying thread.
Grabbing tacos often falls into this category, with the added benefit that it’s about 50 times more fun than getting a flu shot. And in Seattle, Tu Cantinas is one of the best places to do it.
Two things about the tacos here make them stand out. The first is the tortillas. They’re grilled to order, from fresh balls of masa dough, right in front of you. This simple step makes a huge difference, because the result is that your taco could not possibly taste any fresher. The second is the cochinita de pibil, or slow-cooked pork. It’s piping hot and extremely flavorful, and the best of the three regularly available taco fillings. Focus on those, and if a rare batch of barbacoa appears, jump on that, because it’s delicious. You’ll also get some personal squeeze bottles of addicting homemade avocado sauce and spicy red or green salsa. Food-wise, that’s really it - and to drink, there’s just tequila, margaritas, and beer.
The space is small: just one long bar with a couple of tables and a few seats by the window. Colorful flag banners hang from the ceiling and give the room a festive feel, but it’s typically fairly empty, and with only one bartender working, you may find yourself forced to make awkward small talk if you come alone.
Tu Cantinas isn’t the spot for a long, drinks and snacks fueled group hang - it’s a quick, in-and-out operation serving some of the best tacos in the city. Psych yourself up for your flu shot by promising yourself a stop here afterward - just make sure you leave enough time to get a great seat for that new Pixar movie.
You absolutely need to get at least one pork taco here. The meat is slow-cooked in a flavorful marinade, and goes perfectly with Tu Cantinas’ avocado sauce.
Smoky, a little spicy, and extremely tender. They rarely have this on the menu, but if it’s there, get it. It’s even better than the pork.
We have a love/hate relationship with this chicken. Sometimes it’s tender and delicious, but sometimes it’s tough and has too much cinnamon. The pork is more consistently good.
If you’re vegetarian, just have a margarita and call it a day. The black bean tacos here don’t taste like much, and they desperately need more cotija and pico de gallo on top.