It May Be the Smallest Eatery Ever to Get a Michelin Star

Arturo Rivera Martínez runs a taco stand in Mexico City
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 19, 2024 12:25 PM CDT
It May Be the Smallest Eatery Ever to Get a Michelin Star
Newly minted Michelin-starred chef Arturo Rivera Martinez prepares an order of tacos at the Tacos El Califa de Leon taco stand, in Mexico City, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Tacos El Califa de Leon is the first ever taco stand to receive a Michelin star from the French dining guide.   (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Newly minted Michelin-starred chef Arturo Rivera Martínez stood over an insanely hot grill at the first Mexican taco stand ever to get a coveted star from the French dining guide, and did exactly the same thing he's been doing for 20 years: searing meat. Though Michelin representatives came by this week to present him with one of the company's heavy, full-sleeved, pristine white chef's jackets, he didn't put it on: In this tiny, 10-foot by 10-foot business, the heat makes the meat. And the heat is intense.

At Mexico City's Tacos El Califa de León, in the scruffy-bohemian San Rafael neighborhood, there are only four things on the menu, all tacos, and all of which came from some area around a cow's rib, loin, or fore shank. "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," says Rivera Martínez. He's also probably the only Michelin-starred chef who, when asked what beverage should accompany his food, answers, "I like a Coke."

It's actually more complicated than that. El Califa de León is the only taco stand among the 16 Mexican restaurants given one star, as well as two eateries that got two stars. Almost all the rest are posh eateries (hint: a lot of expensive seafood served in pretty shells on bespoke plates). In fact, other than perhaps one street food stand in Bangkok, El Califa de León is probably the smallest restaurant ever to get a Michelin star: Half of the 100 square-foot space is taken up by a solid steel plate grill that's hotter than the salsa. The other half is packed with standing customers clutching plastic plates and ladling salsa, and the assistant who rolls out the rounds of tortilla dough constantly. Read the full story.

(More Michelin star stories.)

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