MONCTON – It’s all hands on deck for 29 restaurants in the Moncton area this week.
May 1-7 is Moncton Taco Week – the week that I skip out on buying groceries and try out interesting tacos for my meals instead. This time, the festival’s executive director Jared Betts joined me for a couple of meals and we talked about the weeks’ events and his preparations.
Like last year, the festival is organized in partnership with United Way. A dollar from each plate sold will go towards helping the organization’s community work. The festival raised more than $7,000 last year for United Way last year, and restaurants sold around $100,000 worth of tacos, Betts said.
Last year, some restaurants ran out of tacos early. This year, Sports Rock Dieppe manager Jamie Jenereaux, whose restaurant is joining the festival for the first time, made sure to stock up.
“I’m over 400 tacos already [sold]…tacos are going wild,” he said on Friday afternoon. “I actually had to call my [food supplier] – we usually make the order by 2 PM – I had to call her at seven o’clock last night to get extra on for today.”
Jenereaux says he wants to see more festivals like this happen.
“We have burger week this year and last year. We have Taco week. We need more of this because number one, it brings restaurants together…it’s just good for everyone. It gets people out.”
And that’s what Betts aimed for when he first started it last year with the help of Mexi’s owner Matt Youden.
“We’ve got so many different restaurants here, all sorts of different styles of food, and I just thought of bringing them together as a team to bombard the world with tacos,” he said, laughing.
“For next year, hopefully, there will be corporate sponsors that can help out. I want to have a bigger music component, so maybe a music show at the waterfront at the end.”
This year, there are more side-events incorporated into the festival. For example, tattoo artists were busy with clients at the Cinco de Mayo party at this year’s home base restaurant, Piatto Pizzeria + Enoteca. Pink Flamingos Cabaret/Lounge is hosting the closing party on May 7.
So here are all the five tacos I’ve tried so far:
Inspiration Cafe’s ‘The Jared Taco’
A Taco Week first-timer, the cafe named its fried haddock soft-shell taco after Betts, who had painted a mural there. Served with Mexican rice, beans, pico de gallo, topped with mango salsa and some African hot sauce, this was a delicious dish. The cafe sold out of its tacos on Friday but said on its Instagram that it will be re-stocked for Monday and Tuesday.
Guacamole’s Shrimp Ceviche Taco
I had been craving ceviche, so for dinner, I walked over to Guacamole to try the dairy-free feature, which can also be made gluten-free. Served with chips and tomato salsa, the soft-shell taco has shrimps, lime and lemon juice, cilantro, red onions, red peppers, jalapenos, mango and lettuce, and topped with avocado crema.
Dolma Cafe & Sushi Bar’s ‘Vegan Double-Decker Dream Taco’
I was so excited to try this one because I love when jackfruit is used in savoury dishes. Dolma’s double-decker soft and hard shells tacos didn’t disappoint. “[It] resembles pulled pork in texture and look. And the taste is pretty close to it, as well,” Dolma marketing manager Jon Stephenson said.
Piatto’s Pronto Pollo Taco
Watermelons can taste great in a savoury dish, so I was intrigued by Piatto’s offering. These pizza-shelled-tacos with blackened chicken and watermelon salsa, citrus feta and basil crema did not disappoint. And they’re huge. I’d suggest sharing the plate.
Sports Rock Dieppe’s Chicken Wing Taco
Last but not least, chicken wings in a soft-shell taco, with rice on the side – what’s not to like?
If you’re going around Greater Moncton to try tacos, make sure you’re hungry. And if you have a higher than normal spice tolerance like me, be like Beyonce: have some hot sauce in your bag. And don’t forget to stamp your Taco Week passports. You may win a ‘staycation’ as USVA Spa Nordik and St. James Gate’s boutique hotel!