Garnachas, street food, are available everywhere in Mexico at sidewalk stands, puestos. Some popular options are tacos, quesadillas (quecas) y tortas (sandwiches).
Taco sign, Mexico City
A small stand may not have a posted or printed menu at all. Just look around to see what’s on the grill and/or what others are eating. ¿De tacos, qué hay? What kinds of tacos do you have?
At many taquerías, you simply approach the grill and order directly with the taquero. It is not necessary to wait for him to make eye contact. Just start speaking when it looks like he might be paying attention. Wait too long and someone else will stroll up and beat you to it.
- ¿Me das dos de bistec con queso? I’ll have two steak and cheese (tacos). The plural bisteces refers to sábanas, sheets of bistec.
- ¿Me preparas dos de pastor? Two pork tacos. They’re cooked on a trompito, a rotating spindle. The word pastor is frequently preceeded by al: Dos de al pastor, two tacos, pastor-style.
- Con tortilla de maíz. With a corn torilla. The other option is de harina, flour.
Trompito, tacos al pastor, Mexico City
Don’t be alarmed if the taquero doesn’t acknowledge your order. Chances are that he heard it. However, if you see that others who arrived later are getting served first, approach and order again. Me debes dos de bistek. I’m reminding you that I ordered two that you haven’t made yet.
Soft drinks, refrescos, are an ubiquitous option. Coca is a popular option. If you’re offered an agua, that’s probably an agua de sabor, also known as agua fresca. These are sugary drinks that come in standard flavors: de Jamaica, hibiscus; and de horchata, a rice-based concoction.
Families often prefer to eat at home, so ordering to go is a popular option. Say: Para llevar, meaning: to go, take out, take away, carry out. You may then be asked: ¿Qué salsa le ponemos? Respond by mentioning any condiments you want bagged up and included with your order: salsa verde, salsa roja, limones (limes) and on.
Some places also deliver. That’s called entrega a domicilio.
Para comer aquí
Para comer aquí: for here, eating in. Note that the word comer is part of the formula; don’t leave it out as is English. Your to-go order may be served on reuseable plastic plates covered with a disposable plastic sleeve. At a puesto, you’ll eat standing up or while sitting on a small plastic stool, un banco. (Recall that banca = bench).
Steak and cheese taco with green (tomatillo) sauce, Mexico City
Para ir comiendo
Guidebook don’t tell you about para ir comiendo or para llevar comiendo, a useful option is useful when time is short. It means to go, but I’m going to eat it on the way. Your order will be served on a disposable charola, tray, but will not be wrapped up.
In the context of cooking, preparar usually refers to making food. However, once your taco is cooked, preparar refers to the act of adding condiments: Yo lo voy a preparar. I’ll put the salsa verde on the taco myself rather than having you put it in a to-go baggie. However, cebolla, cilantro and piña are usually added by the taquero or an assistant, since they dig their hands in.
Dos y dos
If you ordered for both you and a friend, you can clarify how you want the order divided. Dos y dos will get you the four tacos you ordered served on two plates, each with two tacos.
Que sean tres
If you originally ordered two but change your mind and now want three, say: que sean tres. If you finish your taco(s) and want more, you can simply ask for otro, one more, or dos más, iguales, two more of what I ordered before.
At most street stands, you pay up after the meal, not before. This makes sense, since some diners order a second round. To pay, just tell whoever is taking the money how many you had.