The Four Corners gastronomical staple is making its debut in the Pennsylvania metropolis more often known for its beloved Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches.
Can the Navajo taco compete?
Philadelphians will find out during a one-night extravaganza Dec. 21 when three Philly chefs come together and put together a menu that will include the fry bread, lettuce, tomato, bean and meat mess that we all have come to love, as well as a few extras to pair with the main dish.
"Hopefully, Philadelphians will catch on," said Mexican food chef Lucio Palazzo, who joined the effort alongside "hot dog artist" Hawk Krall and beef jerky entrepreneur extraordinaire Marcos Espinoza.
"We all bring something different to the table," Palazzo said.
The cuisine will be served in a bar that none of the chefs own, but instead will be borrowing. The event is part of a trend known as the "pop-up," a temporary restaurant that uses a non-traditional venue as a restaurant for a few days at the most.
"Basically, it's just a party that we are catering," Espinoza (a.k.a. Fidel Gastro) said. "It's also a way for you to test your idea without investing a bunch of money."
The temporary Navajo bistro will be called "Shiprock," named after the dusty rez town itself.
"We were thinking about names. We talked about Tuba City, Painted Desert, and Four Corners," said Espinoza. "But I liked Shiprock because of the rock itself."
Espinoza, a Salt
He learned how to cook Navajo tacos in his parents' restaurant "Navajo Hogan," a still-in-service hot spot that serves the classic Navajo fast food back in Salt Lake City. It's been in business since 1989, eight years before Espinoza decided to leave for the east.
"My parents are not of Native American descent ... but we used to try and keep things authentic by hiring Navajo," Espinoza said.
Though Navajo are few and far between in Philly, a city with a half-percent American Indian population, Espinoza said that he is going to attempt to keep the food as true to traditional recipes as possible.
Though, he expects to add a little flair too. Instead of ground beef and sliced mutton, Espinoza may use shredded chicken or pork. Instead of honey and sugar on frybread, he may use honey butter.
"You can't not like it," said Espinoza, who said the one thing he misses about the West is the Navajo Tacos.
"I tried to leave it all behind, but it's kinda the one thing I really miss," he said.