How to Make a Winning Taco at Condado

Beth Stallings
The one rule you should never skip: "Always get the double decker," says owner Joe Kahn, referring to a trio of tortilla offerings that mesh hard and soft shells. That way you get texture and crunch. "Make your first one light," he adds, "and once you figure out what you like, go from there."

Laidback Short North taqueria Condado brings a West Coast approach to tacos. Here, diners build their own, choosing from a menu that closely resembles an exhaustive sushi list. While this interactive ordering can be fun, it also means greater pressure to build the perfect flavor combination. To get you started, we share three failsafe creations from a few who know Condado tacos best.

Tortilla: Kahn starts with a little crunch from the Ju-Ju (a soft flour tortilla wrapped around a hard corn shell with queso and house-made chorizo as the glue).

Protein: Thai Chili Tofu. "I love our tofu," Kahn says. "We give it a good fry so it's crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside and has a little heat from the Thai chili sauce." He splurges the extra buck for sticky cilantro-lime white rice to give the taco added bulk.

Toppings: Among veggie choices, Kahn keeps it simple with cilantro and onions.

Cheese: Next comes Middlefield Smoked Cheddar.

Salsa: Pick one that complements, or choose to scale back, Kahn says. He goes for corn salsa with tomatoes and peppers.

Sauce: Kahn goes off-menu with a kitchen favorite: the house Dirty Sauce. "I like a lot of heat, and it's one of our hotter sauces," he says.

Tortilla: Begin with the Goody-Goody-a soft flour tortilla with a schmear of guac and sour cream and half a hard corn tortilla for crunch.

Protein: Tender braised beef brisket that's been rubbed with cocoa powder, ground coffee, ginger and chipotle peppers for a smoky mole-style flavor.

Toppings: Jicama slaw all day. It's got the crunch of a potato, but is refreshing like an apple. It adds lightness. If you want some extra bite, throw in pickled red onions.

Cheese: Bring out the smokiness of the brisket with Middlefield Smoked Cheddar.

Salsa: On this round, I choose to edit myself and skip it.

Sauce: The just-a-little-warm Chipotle Crema adds a little extra fat and heat.

Tortilla: Like Kahn, Nostadt checks the Ju-Ju box.

Protein: Grilled chicken that's braised and shredded first. "I am a chicken freak," he says. "We braise ours in lime and adobe spices. The flavor's really nice."

Toppings: Lettuce "for a fresh, crispy crunch," cilantro and onions for a little bite and freshly chopped tomatoes, he says.

Cheese: He picks queso fresco because it's "super light and nice on the palate."

Salsa: Nostadt makes like Kahn again, choosing mild corn salsa with tomatoes and peppers.

Sauce: Cilantro/Lime Aioli. "It goes really nice with the corn and the chicken," he says. If he wants heat, he'll also add the house Dirty Sauce.