“EVERYBODY LOVES TACOS,” says Quinn Stephenson, owner of Santa Fe’s legendary Coyote Cafe and its more casual rooftop sister restaurant, Coyote Cantina. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like tacos. I can’t even imagine.”

Stephenson should know. He’s worked at the Coyote restaurants for more than half his life, first as a bartender and then as a general manager. He became the sole owner in 2017. Opened by celebrated chef Mark Miller in 1987, Coyote Cafe helped pioneer modern Southwest cuisine by using fresh, locally grown ingredients in creative dishes that draw from our culinary heritage. Among Miller’s 11 books is Tacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes. In it, the New England native, born in the late 1940s, recalls spending childhood summers in Mexico and the street eats he encountered there. “This food was alive, colorful, aromatic, tasty, crunch, juicy, flavorful,” he writes, “as if I had crossed a new frontier of food experience.”

Tacos seemed novel at that time, but they were hardly new. “The word taco comes from the Nahuatl word ac, meaning ‘flat,’ ” Miller says, “which is what the Aztecs called this food form before the Spanish arrived.” The first nationally published recipe for a taco showed up in San Miguel County native Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert’s 1949 cookbook, The Good Life: New Mexico Traditions and Food. 

A selection of tacos from Tino’s Tacos at 505 Central Food Hall in Albuquerque. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.

Given Miller’s youthful foodie revelations in Mexico, it’s no surprise that Coyote Cantina’s tacos are something special: three entree-size flour tortillas overflowing with your choice of steak, fish, pork, or a vegetarian mix of corn, squash, red peppers, and black beans. There are no sides of pintos or rice. “Everyone just wants tacos,” Stephenson says.

He is so bullish on the taco that he’s working on Oro Tacos and Tequila, a new restaurant with a balcony overlooking the Santa Fe Plaza. Although the opening is at least a year away, he expects Oro to have a tequila library of more than 500 bottles and a menu of gourmet tacos on house-made tortillas. “I’m really excited,” he says.

Honestly, I can’t wait either. But in the meantime, this month’s “Tacos of Enchantment” feature story should be more than enough to sate your appetite for this summer delight. Take a tour of taco trucks along Santa Fe’s Airport Road, and read all about the rise of breakfast tacos in Albuquerque, the ubiquity of burnt cheese in the OG Las Vegas, the origins of the frybread taco, and 20 statewide spots to try now. Dig in!

Read more: They're in our culinary DNA, but we're also wide open to innovation. Take a big bite out of our scene with the secrets of burnt-cheese and frybread goodness, the dominance of Fusion Tacos and the debut of Mañana Taco, and the spots you need to try now.