Street tacos have become a trend in recent years, even when the tacos are served in a distinctly non-street environment with a higher-than-street price. While it’s no longer uncommon to see tiny tacos at a fast food chain or a trendy restaurant, it’s refreshing when a place stays closer to the informal origins of the street taco concept. Speedy Street Tacos is as casual as can be imagined, but its simple menu of chicken and beef tacos, along with burritos and quesadillas, is satisfying. Even better, it’s one of the few non-chain taquerias open 24/7.
Speedy is essentially a taco shack in a light industrial area. The bare bones location is on 40th Street, two blocks east of the 38th Street / Washington light rail station. There’s a small building with a kitchen, a drive-thru lane, an outdoor grilling area, and shaded tables under a canopy. There is no indoor seating, no customer bathroom, and no bike rack, although the last two items can be found across the street on the campus of Gateway Community College. Amid this no frills atmosphere, there is, unexpectedly, a wall-mounted television displaying sports or news.
The taco shack keeps its menu as small as its space. Taco fillings come in just two choices: pollo asado and carne asada. Both are dressed by default with a little cheese and some guacamole. Everything else is up to the customer to add at the small salsa bar, which is located at the pickup window — not just near the pickup window, but right in front of it, making for a crowded scene in which customers hear their numbers, receive their food, and then customize their orders, potentially with other customers reaching past them to pick up their own orders.
The condiment station includes a mild green salsa and a fiery red one, as well as sliced limes, pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, and generous pieces of pink pickled onions. Most customers spend a little time here enhancing their food despite the awkward setup. After a stop to accessorize the tacos, the next step is to find a seat on the small patio, which can be a challenge at peak hours. Don’t be shy about sharing a table with strangers because doing so is often the only way to secure a seat. Customers often trade tips about which salsa is better.
The same two meats that are used to fill tacos can also be rolled inside a flour tortilla to create a burrito. Quesadillas, both in an individual small size and a larger supreme format, can also be made with either filling, or just with cheese if preferred. The quesadillas are nicely browned and crisped on the griddle with a thoroughly melted layer of dairy within. Any menu item — tacos, burritos, or quesadillas — can be upgraded to a combo that includes refried beans and rice. The beans are serviceable, but the moist rice flecked with minced cilantro is particularly good.
The restaurant serves an appealing flan for dessert, but it’s not always available. For something sweet at any time, a liquid choice may be a better bet. Bottled Mexican Coke, sodas, iced tea, water, and sports drinks are found in a refrigerated case, and big cups of horchata, tamarindo, and jamaica are dispensed at the counter. No alcohol is served, however. Even as the idea of street tacos continues to be stretched and appropriated beyond its origins, Speedy Street Tacos lives up to its name by serving tacos speedily in a location right along 40th Street.
25 N. 40th St., Phoenix AZ 85034
38th Street / Washington Station