Tacos El Califa de León, Mexico City taco stand, awarded Michelin star

Customers who came from the south of Mexico City by motorcycle return without having tried the tacos after seeing the line of people waiting for their order during a visit to El Califa de Leon on May 16, 2024 in Mexico City, Mexico. The traditional E

Tacos El Califa de León owner Arturo Rivera Martínez may be the only Michelin-rated chef to say that the best beverage to accompany his food is a "Coke."

Rivera Martínez, who’s been cooking up tacos in Mexico City for 20 years, was awarded a coveted Michelin star from the French dining guide on Wednesday. But he declined to wear the pristine white chef’s jacket that comes with the recognition: It’s too hot in his 10-foot by 10-foot stand that only serves four items. 

"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," Rivera Martínez said, according to the Associated Press. 

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It’s actually more complicated than that, but the heat is one of the few secrets Rivera Martínez would share. The steel grill is heated to 680 degrees, which makes the tiny restaurant overwhelmingly hot. 

Asked how it felt to get a Michelin star, he said in classic Mexico City slang, "está chido ... está padre," or "it’s neat, it’s cool."


Detail of a Gaonera taco during a visit to 'El Califa de Leon' on May 16, 2024 in Mexico City, Mexico. The traditional 'El Califa de Leon' became the first Mexican 'Taqueria' (Taco stand) to be awarded by the worldwide known 'Michelin Guide' in the f

Aside from a street food stand in Bangkok, Thailand, it’s believed El Califa de León is the smallest eatery to ever be awarded a Michelin star. The tacos only come with two ingredients: meat and sauce –  fiery red or equally atomic green. Customers add the sauces themselves. 

What is a Michelin star? 

The global Michelin tire company launched its now famed Michelin Guide in Europe in 1900 to encourage new car owners to take drives to local attractions, according to the Institute of Culinary Education. 

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U.S. restaurants didn’t become eligible for Michelin stars until 2005. 

"Not easy to obtain, the stars are awarded to restaurants that Michelin considers the very best in a given city, and recipients gain immense prestige and exposure along with the honor," the Institute of Culinary Education explained. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.