The Mad Taco (Montpelier, VT)

After we returned from Hawaii, our next weekend was spent up in Montreal. While the main purpose of our trip was to go to the annual Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon (more on this later), it also gave us another trip through Vermont, this time over lunch. I’ve had one place on my hit list for a while: The Mad Taco. I originally discovered The Mad Taco at the 2011 Vermont Brewers Festival: they were one of the food vendors at the event, and two things stood out about them: (1) they served tacos which did not suck (this is not trivial in Vermont!), and (2) they had some seriously good (and hot!) hot sauce. Since then, I’d been making a note to stop by and try their location in Waitsfield, VT, but it never seems to work out. But a while ago they opened up a second location in Montpelier (in what used to be the retail location of SamosaMan before they imploded in scandal), and our late morning arrival finally gave us an opportunity to try them out.

The Mad Taco has a wonderfully straightforward menu: when it comes down to it, the menu is basically taking your choice of one of five standard fillings (Carnitas, Colorado, Pastor, Pollo, or Yams) and having it served up as a burrito, quesadilla, or taco, with a few variations of extra toppings for the tacos (like house made kimchi). All the meats are simmered in sauce ahead of time, served up as a rich, tender mix of meat and sauce. We both settled on tacos, with my order of kimchi pork, and Carol’s order of the carnitas tacos.

Let’s handle Carol’s first: These were tacos built upon a very generous bed of simmered carnitas, nicely shredded, and very rich in pork flavor. Add in some classic onion cilantro mix, and these were a great expression of one of the best simple taco concepts. About the only disappointment? One of the things I like about carnitas is little crunchy bits of roasted pork, and the simmered method used here for all of their meats is good, but lacking char. Oh well, they’ve got a good thing going, so I won’t really complain.

My tacos were the pork kimchi tacos. Every since Kogi opened their famous food truck in LA, the Korean-Mexican fusion taco has been the hot item (indeed, I’ve even reviewed Chi-Lantro in Austin here on Offbeat Eats), but I’ll have to say, the combination works, and Mad Taco’s version is quite good as well: nice, rich pork topped with a very crunchy and spicy kimchi, for a good overall taco. I’d get this again.

But speaking of “spicy”, the place that The Mad Taco truly shines is their hot sauce. Most taco joints, if you are lucky, have a few bottles of hot sauce that may even include one of the better brands like Tapatio’s or Cholula. Not The Mad Taco, however, who instead has a complete bar of house-made hot sauces available (thirteen on our visit), with a gamut running from mild to incredibly hot (ghost chilis), colors ranging from green to red to orange, and flavors including cilantro, pineapple, and roasted peppers. Between the two of us, we sampled about half of the flavors, and these were all a combination of flavorful and spicy. Enough to give a taco a great kick, but not killing it in spiciness.

Overall, The Mad Taco was great: the tacos I had on-site were even better than the ones I had at the beer festival. The meats are good, the hot sauces great, and the flavors wonderful. It’s another great addition to Montpelier’s already good food scene.

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