You've Probably Never Heard of One of America's Most Unusual Taco Chains
Unless, of course, you're from Buffalo, New York, where Mighty Taco has been part of local culture for generations.
La Divina is the name of a Mexican market on Delaware Avenue, way up in North Buffalo; if you are a local and you're looking for something good to eat, you know that inside that market, they are slinging some of the most authentic tacos anyone could ever hope to find this far north of the border. So far north of the border, actually, that we're actually just south of another border; in this case, only two miles or so, as the crow flies, from Canada.
They've got it all here—the little corn tortillas, barbacoa, shreds of carnitas, thin strips of cecina. There are those deep dive fillers, too—tripa (tripe) and lengua (tongue), that very good, creamy salsa verde, chilly, cinnamon-tinged horchata by the cupful. No matter the local weather, famously less than favorable, anyone in Buffalo can take a quick trip into the sunshine. Buffalo appears to love this place, and if you find yourself in this part of the world, and decide to stop by for a snack, you will probably love it too.
Exactly one mile to the south, on the same busy avenue, there is another place much beloved in these parts. Once again, this is a place for tacos. Mighty Taco, the restaurant is called; it has been a part of Buffalo life since the early 1970's, when four local entrepreneurs opened up shop around the corner on Hertel Avenue, a well-known commercial strip.
Today, Mighty Taco boasts over 20 locations, nearly all of them right in the Buffalo/Niagara region. Here you will find the usual suspects—tacos, burritos, quesadillas, empanadas... There are nacho platters. At least that's what you're promised on the menu. What you actually get, once your order up? Well, that might be slightly different than what you are expecting.
Buffalo is justifiably proud of its food—they've recently been in the news for the creation of the first-ever Buffalo Wing Trail; the pleasures of the regional take on a roast beef sandwich are by now well known. They've got frozen custard, as befits a town sometimes referred to as the easternmost city in the Midwest; they do their own style of pizza; there's even a treasured local hot dog chain, Ted's, that's been at it for nearly a century. And then there is Mighty Taco.
Nearly as important to local food lore, you won't hear this one being promoted beyond regional borders all that much, if ever, except maybe by your pals who went to SUNY Buffalo, once upon a time. The company's well-documented sense of humor makes up a significant part of the Mighty Taco charm; they are famous with generations of TV viewers on both sides of the border for their quirky commercials, many of which are on the website. It's very much still a local business, too, after all this time—one of the original partners bought the other three out, and remains in charge to this day.
Decades after first opening its doors, Mighty Taco mostly remains Buffalo's happy little secret. It is the city's go-to, when the inevitable craving strikes, possibly after the consumption of a few drinks, a popular local activity. Fans will typically know what they want when they get here, typically—most often a taco, or a burrito, stuffed with ground beef or chicken, served with shredded cheese, lettuce and tomato. There's a fajita option, too. Maybe they'll do nachos, doused in cheese sauce. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, it is—some of the dishes here are perfectly status quo; the ground beef is usually well seasoned, and very tasty; the flour tortillas are to a good standard. From here on out, things tend to get a little unusual.
For example: Do you like Buffalo wings? Well, one of their signature items at Mighty Taco is the Buffito, which is actually trademarked; just in case you were thinking of stealing the name. You can probably guess where this is going—Buffalo-style chicken, served with crisp shredded lettuce and blue cheese dressing, wrapped up in a flour tortilla. Generous amounts of the sauce and the blue cheese turn it into a messy, but surprisingly tasty lunch.
Then there is the Mighty Bowlito, which is a whole other thing—a burrito in a bowl, you're thinking. Sounds healthy, right? If you say so—over a mound of Spanish rice (remember that stuff?) goes ground beef (you can switch it up, there are plenty of other options), your choice of either shredded cheddar-jack blend cheese, or a ladle-full of nacho cheese sauce, which is recommended, if you can stand it.
While completely free of things that don't potentially stop your heart, the Bowlito is actually quite difficult to stop eating, once you've committed to the process; here, as with everything you order at Mighty Taco, it seems, they'll ask to add the hot sauce for you. The sauce comes in mild, medium and hot, and they aren't messing around when they say hot—for a fast food chain this far away from hot sauce's natural habitat, it's pretty toasty stuff.
And that's not all—there are plenty more eyebrow-raising delights, from the very good, well-grilled quesadillas, which you can opt to have stuffed with pickled Jalapenos and the hot sauce, if you're looking to burn your mouth off. There are also the aforementioned empanadas, which are actually long, skinny taquitos served up for dessert, filled with apple pie filling, and sometimes cherries. If you're thinking, this isn't Mexican food, that's allowed, and nobody's in on the joke more than Mighty itself, which charmingly refers to their brand of fast food as Buf-Mex, which is actually a great name for it, because you probably won't find anything quite like Mighty Taco, anyplace else.