shiprock popup at 12 steps down

What is a Navajo Taco? It’s a taco variety with Southwestern Native American origins. The toppings are similar to what you’d put on an American taco, yet the “shell” is completely different. These tacos are served on fry bread, a flat, plate sized piece of fried dough.

A little over a week ago, the team of Marcos Espinoza (Fidel Gastro, Side Project Jerky), Hawk Krall (Illustrator, Serious Eats), and Chef Lucio Palazzo (La Calaca Feliz) held a popup in South Philly at 12 Steps Down known as the Shiprock Popup. Joining these three in the kitchen was none other than Espinoza’s mother, one of the founders of Navajo Hogan, Espinoza’s family owned Navajo Taco restaurant in Salt Lake City.

The evening’s menu consisted of a mutton stew, four different kinds of tacos, and a dessert fry bread. The taco options were Traditional Chili con Carne, Chicken Ropa Vieja, Pork Spare Rib, and Vegetarian Black Bean. All of them were topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, scallion, sour cream, and salsa verde.

Being pretty hungry, my dining partner and I ordered three tacos, the Traditional, Chicken Ropa Vieja, and Vegetarian Black Bean. A couple minutes and few bites later, I was totally immersed in Navajo Taco heaven. All three varieties that we ordered were great, but my favorite was the Traditional. It had that perfect American taco flavor profile of beef, beans, spice, and other toppings. That fry bread certainly put it over the top. Imagine the texture of a Taco Bell Chalupa “shell.” Now think of a chalupa “shell” but fresh, homemade, flat, and airy. The fry bread was absolutely insane. It has a tastiness and airiness that no premade Taco Bell chalupa shell could ever come close to. Combined with taco toppings? Pure deliciousness.

To close out our dinner, we split one of the sweet fry breads. This was the same airy fry bread, but topped with homemade honey butter and cinnamon sugar. Move over funnel cake, this sweet fry bread was the best fried dough dessert I’ve ever had.

This post may sound overly enthusiastic but seriously, they were THAT good. I haven’t stopped thinking about them. Marcos, Hawk, and Lucio, if you’re reading this, PLEASE have another popup soon!

You can also purchase some of the awesome prints that Hawk specially made for the popup here!

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