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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

TACO WARS 2: Come Join the Fiesta!

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The gloves are off for best taco and best salsa as Taco Wars 2 kicks off Cinco de Mayo celebration

So, what’s in a taco?

Well, if you’re looking for your run-of-the-mill, ground-beef-in-ashell with a sprinkle of lettuce and tomato taco, you won’t taste anything special.

But if you’re looking for an authentic Mexican taco, you will taste a lot that is special.

“We have to have the right seasoning,” said Martha Anchondo, owner of Taqueria La Reyna Del Sur on Industrial Drive in Bossier City. “Meat, you can buy anywhere, but you have to have the right seasoning … tender meat with onion and cilantro. Onion and cilantro make the difference from a regular taco.”

Anchondo will put her “right seasoning” against 11 local taquerias in “Taco Wars 2.” The competition/festival will take place Friday, May 3 (Cinco de Mayo weekend), outdoors (weather permitting) at LSU-Shreveport from 5-9 p.m. Admission is free, with opportunities to buy tacos, tequila, margaritas, sangria and soft drinks.

“We aim to be the official kickoff to Cinco de Mayo celebrations in all of the Ark-La-Tex,” said Gregory Kallenberg, the driving force behind Taco Wars 2. “We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure this is authentic to that culture. I know people in Shreveport and Bossier love the Mexican community, and we want to help them celebrate what is an incredibly important part of our culture.”

As the name implies, there was a Taco Wars 1, which drew a large crowd – especially for a first-year event.

“Basically, Taco Wars is the most amazing taco and salsa festival on the planet,” Kallenberg said. “And we proved last year that it is definitely one of the most popular in the area when it comes to food and culture. What we’ve done is expand our footprint, and now that we’ve seen people want to be there, we are galvanizing our place in Shreveport as one of the best food and cultural festivals not only in Shreveport but in the region.

However, last year’s event was a soggy taco – literally. A last-minute downpour forced a move indoors, which obligated a lot of people to leave.

“We heard the complaints,” Kallenberg said. “Believe me, we heard them at the festival, after the festival, and we saw them on our Facebook page. We never ran out of food, but we did run out of space. That was our big fault. We weren’t prepared for the crowds. On that day, it was pouring in Shreveport and to have that many people stand in the rain because of tacos and free chips and salsa – that was a little mindblowing to us.”

This time, Kallenberg promises Taco Wars 2 will have room for everyone – rain or shine.

“Last year, Taco Wars blew our mind,” Kallenberg said. “We were expecting about 1,000 people, and we had three times that many people get into the festival, and we still had to send people home. This year, we are prepared for a bigger, bolder and spicier Taco Wars.”

That preparation includes a new line system, so you will know which taqueria’s taco you are waiting to taste. The taquerias have been told to come with plenty of food. And, you can pre-purchase your tickets needed to buy tacos. Just go on Facebook and search “Taco Wars.”

“This year, we are taking every precaution that we can to make sure the taquerias are ready for the crowds, that we are ready for the crowds, and that the festival is ready to be our biggest and best ever,” Kallenberg said.

In these parts, eating chips and salsa is a favorite pastime. At Taco Wars 2, you will be able to do just that – for free! You will receive a token, then proceed to sample several different salsas. The taqueria which ends up with the most tokens – representing the best salsa – will win the $500 first-place prize.

The “Golden Taco” winner – and $1,000 prize – will be determined by a panel of local and regional food experts, and celebrity judges.

“When I heard about the competition, I said I wanted to be there because I have authentic tacos,” Anchondo said. “I know we have, if not the best tacos in town, one of the best tacos in town. I definitely can compete with the big restaurants because our flavor is really good!”

Anchondo has only owned her taqueria for a few months. She knows being one of 12 taquerias in this year’s Taco Wars 2 competition will expose her food to perhaps thousands of potential customers.

“A lot of people will be there that day,” Anchondo said. “We can share with the other cultures our flavors and our traditions. You can make friends and connections for more business. That way, Shreveport and Bossier can grow.”

Tacos and free chips and salsa. What more could you want on Cinco de Mayo weekend?

Well, how about Casa de Tequila? That is the name of a tasting-tent which will be “devoted to the fruit of the agave.” Herradura will be the featured tequila, and Kallenberg says that is a big deal for Taco Wars 2 – and Shreveport.

“A national brand has now appreciated a festival so much in Shreveport, La., that they are bringing in special tequilas to be tasted by the community.”

For $15, you will be served a “flight” – three different kinds of Herradura Tequila. “It (Herradura) is reserved for national festivals in much bigger cities,” Kallenberg said. “Our community does such a great job showing up for things that Herradura believes in us enough that they are putting a lot into Taco Wars, which is awesome!” You will also have the opportunity to buy margaritas, sangria, Modelo (Mexican) beers and soft drinks (Coke).

“We’re delivering on the promise from last year when we said we would help build the most amazing food and cultural festival on the planet,” Kallenberg said.

The food and drinks will be good by themselves. But wouldn’t some really good Mexican-themed music top off the evening? Enter La Tropa Vallenata, a salsa band from Monterrey, Mexico.

“These guys are stars in the salsa world,” Kallenberg said.

And if you feel like a movie before or after eating and drinking and listening, you won’t have to leave LSU-S. At 5:30 in the University Center, you can take the kids to see “Coco.” At 7:30, for adults, you can see “ The Three Amigos.” Each movie is free of charge.

Taco Wars 2 is part of Kallenberg’s “Prize” portfolio which includes Film, Food and Music. Each event allows you to have a say in selecting the winners. Judging from the Prize’s popularity, that’s an opportunity people enjoy.

“I think what we’ve been able to do is activate our community to participate in helping be a judge, and helping be a part of the game of the Prize,” Kallenberg said. “There is an excitement and an exuberance in our community that is palpable — it is tangible. You look at what the Prize has accomplished. We’re very proud of the community and the way they love to come to these things and love to be a part of these events and be a part of helping choose our winners.”

For more information on Taco Wars 2, you may visit www.facebook.com and search “Taco Wars.”

Competing taquerias are:

• Habaneros

• Uneeda Taco

• Parish Taceaux

• Tacqueria La Michoacana

• Johnny Frijoles

• El Bazar Mexicano 2

• Trejo’s Mexican Restaurant

• Miguelito Burrito

• El Cabo Verde

• Tacos Sorry Huasteco

• Taqueria La Reyna Del Sur


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