In college, I had the opportunity to spend a few excellent months living in Mexico. While I had always loved Mexican food in the States, the food in Mexico was more magical – more flavorful and healthy due to fresh ingredients and spices. One of my favorite pastimes was trying out the various (and often shady) street corner taco stands. About halfway through my time there, my friend Liz and I found the perfect taco, which was sold out of the back of a National Lampoon’s Family Vacation-style wood paneled station wagon. From 10 p.m. until the early hours of the morning, the vendor would set up a grill under a blue tarp connected to his wagon and cook the most amazing tacos. Marinated pork, grilled onions and pineapple, cilantro and, sometimes, melted cheese, were piled high on homemade tortillas. They were perhaps the most delicious tacos de pastor (marinated pork tacos) on the planet.
Although it’s been ten years since my time in Mexico, I’m always on a quest for the perfect authentic Mexican taco – particularly, tacos de pastor. When I moved to South Bend from the Chicago-area, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of really good authentic Mexican food in the area. While discussing this predicament with a friend from Elkhart, she mentioned a place called Ricky’s Taqueria (57995 County Road 9).
I was a bit skeptical, but after reading some great reviews on Yelp, Bob and I took a drive to Elkhart to try Ricky’s. While nothing will ever be as good as the Woodie Tacos from Mexico, these were by far the best tacos I’ve had in the region (and believe me, I’ve tried out a lot of taco places in the area). Ricky’s was totally delicious.
Ricky’s is a teeny tiny hole in the wall type of place. There are maybe four tables and there’s a counter with a few seats. In the summer they have picnic tables outside, adding to the seating. This is a taqueria – don’t expect anything fancy. The menu consists mostly of soups, tacos, burritos, tamales, tortas, chips/salsa/guac, etc.
If you go – which you definitely should – here are a few recommendations:
- Tacos de Pastor – Remember, authentic Mexican tacos are served with cilantro and onion, not lettuce/tomato/cheese. Don’t be a gringo.
- Torta – A sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro, avocado and Mexican sour cream, and your choice of meat. Obviously, I’d vote for the pastor.
- Burrito – They’re delish.
- Elotes Preparados – Corn on the cob or in a dish covered in mayo, parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper.
- Guacamole – To go with your chips and salsa.
Really, I’ve never had anything bad at Ricky’s, so you’ll probably be safe ordering just about anything.