The First Mexican Taco Stand To Get A Michelin Star

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In the food industry, a Michelin star is awarded to the best restaurants in a city, giving them prestige and attracting more customers. 

Restaurants with a Michelin Star are known for their exceptional cooking, which is based on five main criteria: ingredient quality, flavor harmony, cooking techniques, the chef’s personality shown through the cuisine, and consistency across the entire menu over time.

The stars range from one to three, with each star having a specific meaning: 

One star means “very good in its category” with a quality menu and consistently high-standard cuisine. 

Two stars indicate excellent cuisine that is worth a special visit while traveling. 

Three stars represent exceptional cuisine worth a special journey, where the restaurant becomes the destination, serving perfect and distinctive dishes.

Now, a small taco stand in Mexico City has been awarded a Michelin star for the first time in history.

Amazing, right?

According to Michelin, El Califa de León was given one star for its high-quality cooking. The taquería (a Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos) measures only 10 feet by 10 feet.

People wait to buy tacos at Taqueria El Califa de León
Image credit: Silvana FLORES / AFP)

Michelin Guide inspectors confirmed that they have been serving customers in Mexico City’s San Rafael neighborhood for 70 years.

Chef Arturo Rivera Martínez has been cooking over intense heat at his Mexican taco stand for 20 years. 

Chef Arturo Rivera Martínez
Image credit: Silvana Flores/AFP/

El Califa de León offers only four items on the menu: Gaonera (thinly sliced beef filet), bistec (beef steak), chuleta (pork chop), and Costilla (beef rib).

Image credit: REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

Michelin representatives offered him a heavy, full-sleeved, clean white chef’s jacket, but he didn’t put it on, as the intense heat is essential for cooking the meat in the small establishment.

Martínez told the Michelin inspectors that the secret to their tacos is their simplicity.

“The secret is the simplicity of our taco. It has only a tortilla, red or green sauce, and that’s it. That, and the quality of the meat,” said Rivera Martínez. 

The prices are pretty high compared to what you might expect in Mexico. A single, quite big taco costs almost $5. But many customers believe it’s the best in the city, even if it’s not the cheapest.

Image credit: The MICHELIN Guide

Rivera Martínez prepares fresh, thinly sliced beef multiple times a day. He cooks it on a very hot grill, adding a bit of salt and lime, and then cooks a soft, freshly made tortilla. He won’t reveal the exact cooking time because it’s a secret. 

After cooking, he puts the beef and tortilla on a plate and calls out the customer’s name. Customers can add their sauces, whether fiery red or bright green. 

There is no seating or standing room at certain times of the day because street vendors selling socks, batteries, and cell phone accessories have taken over the sidewalk in front of the business.

Image credit: Fernando Llano/AP

El Califa de León is the only taco stand among the 16 Mexican restaurants that received one star, and two other places got two stars. Most other fancy restaurants serve expensive seafood in beautiful shells on custom-made plates.

Besides a street food stand in Bangkok, Thailand, El Califa de León is considered the smallest eatery ever to receive a Michelin star. 

The Michelin Guide Mexico gave two restaurants two Stars, 16 got one star, 6 received green stars, and 42 were awarded Bib Gourmands.

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