Yes, 2020 has been the equivalent of playing apocalyptic Whack-a-Mole. But take heart — every cloud has a crunchy taco lining. Case in point: 2020 has also brought Nashville the most Mexican pop-ups it’s ever seen. Right in time for eating our feelings and indulging in a bit of culinary escapism through golden husks of elote and some of the finest tortillas to grace the 615.
All of which is to say, the Mexican food renaissance is alive and well in Music City, and the timing couldn’t be better. Here, Eater is shining the spotlight on some of the pop-ups working hard to keep the city’s appetite satiated with authentic Mexican fare made by hand and full of heart. Before checking out one of the spots below, be sure to take a look at their social media accounts for times and locations because they can shift pretty regularly. Pop-ups gonna pop up.
*Restaurants are listed geographically north to south, not ranked.
*Some restaurants on this map feature dine-in service. However, this should not be taken as an endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit A Safe Nashville. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.
1. Maiz de la Vida
Maiz de la Vida (which translates to “corn of life”) was born of Julio Hernandez’s nostalgia for the fresh corn tortillas of his youth in Tlaxcala, Mexico. After four years of taco research, he set about creating a masa that would honor those tortillas, sourcing heirloom corn from Oaxaca and observing a 3,000-year-old tradition for making masa called nixtamalization. Today, Hernandez’s tortillas — along with grilled cheese tamales and elote — can be enjoyed from his food truck in the form of beef cheek tacos and mole negro enchiladas stuffed with chili chicken.
2. Mijo Gordito
From Nicky’s Coal Fired to Redheaded Stranger, Mijo Gordito has been making the rounds all around town with rustic, homestyle cooking ripped straight from abuela’s kitchen. Pozole verde studded with pork belly, tamales stuffed with puerco verde (slow-cooked pork with salsa verde), and chicken made with mole poblano get loads of attention and care: the pork butt is brined for eight hours, the chicken is seasoned with over 39 spices and herbs, and the pozole marries tomatillos, poblanos, jalapeños, cilantro, and onion for hours on end. Orders can be placed via Instagram DM but pick-up locations vary. Keep an eye on their IG for more information.
Chef Edgar Victoria is bringing some strong Mexico City-inspired street food game to MusicCity under the name Alebrije. Born and raised in Mexico, Chef Victoria has been a Nashville resident for most of his life. Now, he’s bringing some of his childhood flavors back into the community in the form of handmade tacos al canasta (basket tacos), esquites (Mexican street corn salad), salsas, and sweetbreads. Check out Alebrije’s social media — Chef Victoria’s been known to pop up at local favorites (like The Southern Steak & Oyster and Bar Sovereign) for a night of memorable bites. The Alebrije pop-up can also be found every Tuesday at the East Nashville Farmer’s market.
4. El Leon Dorado
El Leon Dorado is the brainchild of chef Josh Cook (formerly of Husk), who’s been popping up around town for a while serving hard-to-find in Nashville items like memelas and birria nachos. But when Taco Bell announced they were retiring select items from their menu —RIP Mexican Pizza — he raced into action to recreate some of those beloved dishes for a one-night event at Bar Sovereign. Now he’s bringing it back with a “Tribute to Taco Bell: Part 2” on November 8, with details to come. Until then, watch El Leon Dorado’s Instagram account for pre-order options of their menu items or reach out to them for private dinner party packages and options, which often include an array of Mexican desserts from Ana Aguilar’s Tantito Pastelito.