Summer eats on the streets of Salt Lake City

By Sarah Custen, Red Pulse Writer

Salt Lake City never fails to amaze with different and interesting experiences. One great way to try something new is to visit a hot dog or taco cart for cheap, quick, tasty food. With spring setting in and summer just around the corner, there’s no better time to expand your horizons (without constricting your wallet) at one of these food stands in our fair city.

Tacos Rafa
200 S. 500 West
9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tacos Rafa, formerly known as Tacos Shack at Market Square, is about half a block southwest of the Gateway. It offers standard taco cart fare: carne asada (roasted beef), pollo (chicken), barbacoa (barbecued pork), chicharrón (pork skin) and adobada (spiced pork). Pricing is $1.50 for two small tacos, $3 for a quesadilla and $4 for a burrito.

The employee on hand, Lucía, said they see a fair amount of first-timers. Although the taco cart experience may be new to them, Lucía said she knows they enjoy it “because they’ve come back to buy (tacos) again. In the time I’ve been here, two weeks, I’ve seen a lot of return customers,” she said.

We tried their most popular meat, carne asada, as well as the carne adobada, which has chunks of grilled pineapple in it and is described on their sign as “spicy8212;not hot.” Like all taco carts, the toppings (guacamole, cilantro, pico de gallo, etc.) are free and stored in a cooler off to the side.

Lucía said that Tacos Rafa is unique because everything is cooked the same day.

“We don’t have refrigerated food,” she said. “Everything is fresh.”

Tacos Don Rafa and Tacos El Toro
800 S. and State Street
9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Perhaps the best-known taco carts, Tacos Don Rafa and Tacos El Toro are parked in front of Sears on 800 S. and State Street. Their menus are identical to Tacos Rafa’s, with additional meats like cabeza (beef head) and lengua (beef tongue). Pricing is also the same.

Angeles, of Don Rafa, said that their most popular meats are the asada and the barbacoa.

“Lots of people come here because they say our tacos have the richest flavor,” she said.

For the barbacoa, this means a lot of grease, but the pollo is tender and savory.

Around the corner, at El Toro, we tried cabeza, which is meat from a cow’s cheek. It had the texture of a brisket but was much more bland. Service at both carts was brisk.

Tacos El Americano
South Temple and West Temple
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday

Tacos El Americano is located in front of Abravanel Hall, just off the Temple Square TRAX stop. In accordance with its name, this cart seemed the most catered toward Americans. In addition to standard toppings, Javier offered us pinto beans, cheese, grilled onions and peppers to top off our tacos de pastor (lamb meat). Pricing was $3 for two tacos, more for burritos.

Javier said they get a decent amount of business people on lunch breaks and that their burritos are the most popular.

“I like working here,” he said. “It works for me.”

Hot Dogs SL City
200 S. and Main Street

Most of the people I spoke to were hesitant to be interviewed, but the owner of Hot Dogs SL City flat-out refused. I remember visiting this stand a couple of years ago and ordering a veggie dog. He told me it would be a minute, because he had to change the water8212;a consideration I much appreciated. This time around, however, I saw no advertisement for veggie dogs. Plus they were out of hot dogs. If you want to try your luck here, hot dogs cost $1.25 each, or $2 for a polish dog.

Le BonBon Café Mobile
400 S. 200 East
10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and some Saturdays

Le BonBon Café is owned and operated by Yvonne, who also runs a restaurant with the same name in the nearby City County Building.

She uses Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters8212;Chicago-style, all-beef hot dogs. For $2.50, you can a get a quarter-pound hot dog or a polish dog, which is similar but spiced more like a sausage. For 50 cents more, you can make it a chili cheese dog. Toppings are free and include grilled onions, sauerkraut, jalapeños, relish, shredded cheese, and of course, ketchup and mustard.

Although she has a few employees to help, Yvonne is out there herself most days and any Saturday when there’s an event (such as last weekend’s marathon).

“It’s just a nice environment for me,” she said. “I love to be outdoors. I think that’s the best part.” She also likes to meet new people. Maybe this summer one of them will be you.

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Courtesy Kevin Barrett The Tacos Don Rafa stand is one of the best known stands in Salt Lake City. Located in front of Sears on 800 S. and State Street, the stand serves a similar menu as the Tacos Rafa stand.