6. Amaya's Cocina
1502 E. Commerce St., (210) 265-5449, facebook.com/amayastacos
Growth on the city's East Side is bubbling up like a simmer in a meaty carne guisada, which coincidentally you can find inside Amaya's Cocina. Opened by brothers Ruben and David Arciniega, Amaya's is part taqueria, part café and full-time playground for the younger Arciniega and fellow chef Joel "Tatu" Herrera to create inventive twists on classic fare.
A visit during breakfast means enjoying fresh-cracked eggs enveloped inside hand-rolled tortillas. But where Arciniega and co. really let loose is by setting ground rules as to how they're providing colorful, healthful dishes on their menu.
Current favorites include the tilapia fish tacos with tangy red cabbage slaw and a creamy poblano sauce, and a vegan-friendly sopa de elote that's as velvety as it is hearty. The menu is tight, made to order and includes standard fare such as the aforementioned carne guisada found in the East Commerce plate. Instead of an oily, over-seasoned dish, the carne guisada scores points for being lean and hearty, as Arciniega lets the meat's natural flavors shine. Vegetarians fret not — you can nosh on the "Hackberry Tacofication" of roasted root veggies atop corn tortillas and finished off with a dose of house-made chunky pea salsa.
These aren't your grandma's tacos, and they don't have to be when the guys are cranking out weekly dinners on Sunday and Monday evenings. There's the faux-fideo made with zucchini instead of vermicelli and cooked in a light tomato sauce that pairs with a tender London broil. The menu's about to get a quick revamp, so head in for your last chance at some of these items or take in whatever's cooking at Amaya's. It's bound to be good.