I have, in the course of my life, been exposed to more authentic Mexican tacos and burritos. In L.A., where I went to grad school, and in New York, where my sister did, taco trucks are as bountiful as our lunchwagons. Like our lunchwagons, taco trucks are the cheapest, most authentic forms of the indigenous food available. There is nothing like walking down the street at 1 AM, wearing leather jacket and gloves, with your breath visible in front of your face, and ordering a steaming tortilla, covered with savory carnitas and fresh salsa from the side of a truck. It's warm and delicious, and as authentic an experience as you can hope for.
If you're not up for eating something from the back of a truck at 1 AM, there are small hole in the wall places you can go to, but they are somehow equally as seedy. When visiting my pal, Jim, in San Francisco, he took me to a little place in the Mission District, on Mission and 19th, called Taqueria Cancun. The Mission District is a bastion of the Hispanic community in San Francisco, but is also home to some of San Francisco's more "colorful" elements. When visiting Taqueria Cancun, you must be prepared to walk past some unsound, unkept, vagrants who will swear and offer lewd comments to your mother. Seriously. (Mom and I just ignored him.) But that just adds to the authentic experience right? Once inside, it feels like a colorful, safe haven, with the spicy aromas of the foods steaming up the glass partitions. Of course it isn't truly authentic, unless you've got calves' brains (sesos) and cow tongue (lengua) as beef options, and some exotic Mexican fruit drinks (agua fresca) to accompany them. If you're adventurous enough to actually wander through the Mission District, Taqueria Cancun is the real deal when it comes to Mission style burritos.
Back home in Hawaii, you'd be a little hard pressed to find a real taqueria that offers the authentic beef tongue or brains. Since we don't have nearly the Hispanic population that California does, we might as well kick it island style instead. For that, you can head over to the Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center on the island of Maui (or right over to Kailua Village in Kailua), for some Maui Tacos. The great thing about Maui Tacos, is that they know that they can't deliver the truly authentic Mexican tacos and burritos, so they don't even bother to try. Instead they blend Mexican cuisine with some island flavors to give it our own unique spin. For example, instead of truly authentic mouth watering carnitas, they offer mango bbq pork and they marinade many of their meats in pineapple juice. The result is a much fruitier, sweeter, more tropical version of Mexican food, that really has a local flavor.
I don't know that I'll ever get to walk down the street in Mexico city, and encounter a bubbling cauldron filled with assorted animal parts to be savored over a warm just handmade tortilla under a sprinkling of freshly chopped and mixed salsa. Then again, at home, I'm comfortable knowing I'm not going to be spending the rest of the night riding the procelain express either.