The Hippo


Apr 25, 2019








Courtesy photo.

 8th annual Hippo de Mayo Taco Challenge

When: Thursday, May 3, 4 to 9 p.m.
Where: Participating restaurants in downtown Manchester, and at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, 1 Line Drive, Manchester
Cost: $2 per taco
More tacos, plus the Hippo de Mayo “After Party”
In a feature new to this year’s taco tour, a few participants from New Hampshire communities outside of Manchester will be joining in for the first time, courtesy of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Restaurants like New England’s Tap House Grille in Hooksett, Live Juice in Concord and Gabi’s Smoke Shack in Londonderry will be among a few others that will have tables set up near the main entrance of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (1 Line Drive, Manchester) to sell tacos during the same 4 to 9 p.m. time frame.
“I had actually attended the first two Taco Tour events and absolutely fell in love with it,” said Stephanie Fournier, director of hospitality and special events for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. “We had wanted to participate and the stars kind of aligned this year that we didn’t have a home game on the same night.”
The Fisher Cats will be offering their own taco as well, a ground Italian sausage taco with Sam Adams ’76 beer cheese and chopped scallions the food and beverage team is preparing for the event. The team will be competing to benefit for their charity, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats Foundation.
From 9 to 11 p.m., taco tourists can return to the stadium’s recently renovated Sam Adams Brewhouse & Pavilion overlooking left field for the Hippo de Mayo “After Party,” during which there will be live music and samples of Altos tequila and Absolut Lime vodka.
 This year’s participants
900 Degrees (50 Dow St.) TBA
A&E Coffee & Tea (1000 Elm St.) Fire & Ice Chai Taco: house chai mixed with real New Hampshire maple syrup, a milk of your choice and a dash of cayenne pepper
Backyard Brewery & Kitchen (1211 S. Mammoth Road; will be in front of Gentle Dental, 801 Elm St.) Notorious Pig Taco 
Baked Downtown Cafe & Bakery (1015 Elm St.) Baked Apple Pie Taco: cinnamon sugar taco with apple pie filling, with white chocolate and streusel
Bark City (259 Hanover St.) El Barko Taco: a soft, taco-shaped grain-free treat made with coconut, carob, yogurt and cinnamon.
Ben & Jerry’s (940 Elm St.) Totally Taco: waffle taco shell stuffed with Totally Baked Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce and optional sprinkles or crushed potato chips
The Birch on Elm (931 Elm St.) Pulled Pork Taco: Pulled pork shoulder in a flour tortilla with roasted corn and tomatillo salsa, and charred tomato crema.
Boards & Brews (941 Elm St.) Settlers of Carnitas: traditional pork taco with vegetables and an optional Scoville expansion hot sauce
Bonfire Restaurant & Country Bar (950 Elm St.) Bonfire Bacon Taco: Bacon, lettuce and tomato on a taco shell.
Cafe la Reine (915 Elm St.) Cafe Breakfast Taco: corn tortilla taco with eggs, bacon, salsa, queso and cilantro
Campo Enoteca (969 Elm St.) Eggplant Polpetti Taco: eggplant polpetti with artichoke
Central Ale House (23 Central St.) Pollo Al Fuego Taco 
Club Manchvegas Bar & Grill (50 Old Granite St.) Breakfast Taco: floured tortilla dipped in egg, cinnamon and vanilla, grilled and stuffed with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and blended cheeses, and drizzled with fresh maple syrup
Consuelo’s Taqueria (36 Amherst St.) Zitacuaro: Grilled chicken on guava sauce with roasted potatoes, caramelized onions and a hint of habanero
Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St.) Coconut Curry Chicken Taco: served on a flour tortilla with pineapple salsa, napa cabbage and toasted coconut
Doogie’s Bar & Grill (37 Manchester St.) Taco Taco: hamburger and corned beef with salsa, melted cheddar, jalapenos and ranch dressing
Edible Arrangements (1000 Elm St.) Frutaco: taco filled with fruit salsa
El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria (10 Lake Ave.) Taco Poblano: beef, grilled onions and a green sauce on a taco shell
The Farm Bar & Grille (1181 Elm St.) Pulled Pork Taco: pulled pork on a flour tortilla with coleslaw and barbecue sauce
Firefly American Bistro & Bar (22 Concord St.) Bacon Me Crazy Taco: seasoned chicken, bacon, cheddar and chipotle-lime cream with a build-your-own table setup
Food Trucks for CASA (will be at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester) Apple Crisp Taco: Belgian Acres Farm apple crisp served with cinnamon sugar “churro” chips.
The Foundry (50 Commercial St.) Pork Belly Taco: pork belly, red cabbage, pickled onion slaw and avocado yuzu
Fratello’s Italian Grille (155 Dow St.) Italian Braised Short Rib Slider Taco: Cotija cheese, caramelized onions, avocado mayonnaise, charred tomatoes and crispy pommes frites
Gabi’s Smoke Shack (217 Rockingham Road, Londonderry; will be at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester) Pulled Pork Taco: flour tortilla with pulled pork and coleslaw
Granite State Candy Shoppe (832 Elm St.) Banapple Crisp: cinnamon apple and banana ice cream, with granola and honey
The Gyro Spot (1073 Elm St.) Opa Barbacoa Taco: savory barbacoa beef in warm tortilla, topped with zesty tzatziki and Greek pico de pallo
Hilton Garden Inn (101 S. Commercial St.) Fried Green Carnitas Taco: pork in salsa verde, black beans, roasted corn, cheddar jack cheese and avocado ranch slaw on a crispy flour shell
Hooked Seafood Restaurant/Ignite Bar & Grille (110/100 Hanover St.) Costa Rican Fish Taco: a soft-shell taco with fried haddock, fresh greens, pico de gallo and creole tartar sauce
LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst; will be at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) Sweet Cannoli Taco: sugared taco shell with sweetened ricotta and mini chocolate chips
Lala’s Hungarian Restaurant (836 Elm St.) Transylvanian Taco: crepes filled with apricot, cherry, blueberry or Nutella
Live Juice (5 S. Main St., Concord; will be at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) Mango Chicken Tango Taco: made with barbecue chicken and mango salsa
Lorena’s Cantina (860 Elm St.) Street Tacos: Shredded chicken tacos with cilantro and onions on street-style corn tortillas.
Madear’s (175 Hanover St.) Cajun Taco: fried pork butt with red bean hummus, spring salad of spicy cucumber and radish in a flour tortilla
Manchester Fire Department (100 Merrimack St.) Smoke Showing: a corn tortilla filled with pork, cabbage, cheese, cilantro and spices
Margaritas Mexican Restaurant (1037 Elm St.) Fish Tacos: tortilla-encrusted fish, roasted corn salsa, shredded red cabbage and chipotle aioli on a white corn tortilla
Matbah Mediterranean Cuisine (866 Elm St.) Taco Fala: vegetable falafel taco
Midtown Cafe (814 Elm St.) Chicken Kabob Taco
Mint Bistro (1105 Elm St.) Bahn Mi Tacos: slow-cooked pork shoulder, pickled vegetable, jalapeno, cilantro and sesame-ch ili mayonnaise
Moe’s Italian Sandwiches (796 Elm St.) Smoky Barbecue Pulled Pork: slow-roasted pork with red onions and spices, barbecue sauce lettuce, tomatoes and cheese
New England’s Tap House Grille (1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett; will be at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) Mojo Pork Taco: pork on flour tortilla, marinated in orange and lime juice with cumin, garlic, onion and cilantro, with queso fresco, lime wedge and cilantro
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (will be at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) Bodacious Brewhouse Brat Taco: ground Italian sausage, Sam Adams ’76 beer cheese and chopped scallions
New Hampshire Job Corps (will be at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) TBA
Noodle Bar (36 Lowell St.) Crispy Chicken Taco: crispy pulled chicken, Korean barbecue sauce and soy slaw
Penuche’s Music Hall (1087 Elm St.) TBA
Pho Golden Bowl (12 Lake Ave.) Chicken Taco 
Piccola Italia Ristorante (815 Elm St.) Chicken Parm Caesar Taco
The Pint Publik House (1111 Elm St.) Jerk barbecue pork taco
Portland Pie Co. (786 Elm St.) Chicken Waffle Taco: chicken tenders, bacon and maple syrup in a hard shell, topped with whipped cream
Red Arrow Diner (61 Lowell St.) TBA
Republic Cafe (1069 Elm St.) Dosa Potato Taco: made with Middle Eastern slaw and Tahini
Restoration Cafe (235 Hanover St.) Breakfast Taco: a corn tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, chorizo, potatoes and queso fresco
Stark Brewing Co. (500 N. Commercial St.) Fish Taco: haddock, wasabi and coleslaw
Strange Brew Tavern (88 Market St.) TBA
Taj India (967 Elm St.) Chicken Tika Taco: chicken taco with tomatoes and masala sauce
The Thirsty Moose Taphouse (795 Elm St.) The Winnah: House smoked pulled pork, citrus chipotle barbecue sauce, tart apple slaw and smoked apple aioli.
Thousand Crane (1000 Elm St.) Teriyaki Taco: teriyaki chicken and red lettuce
USA Chicken & Biscuits (990 Elm St.) Chicken Taco: chicken, lettuce, tomato and a homemade white sauce
XO on Elm (827 Elm St.) The Queen: marinated chicken with avocado mousse and shredded cheese and a Venezuelan cilantro garlic sauce

Taco takeover
Hippo de Mayo Taco Challenge returns


 By Matt Ingersoll
Get your fix of some of the most unique taco creations you will ever encounter for $2 apiece during the eighth annual Hippo de Mayo Taco Challenge, which returns to downtown Manchester on Thursday, May 3, from 4 to 9 p.m. Nearly 50 restaurants along Elm Street — which will be closed for this event for the first time, from Bridge to Merrimack streets, from 3 to 9 p.m. — and in the city’s millyard area will be selling tacos they’ve created specifically for the occasion in what has garnered a reputation as the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in New England.
For the first time this year, taco tourists will also have the chance to sample creations from several other restaurants in other New Hampshire cities and towns; those will be available at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium – the New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ home field – during the same times.
“The taco is really the perfect canvas for food. It’s down and dirty, it’s quick … and it allows you to do all kinds of not too complicated, but interesting, stuff,” said Hippo Publisher Jody Reese, who started the event in 2009 with his staff. “So in talking with restaurant owners and chefs in the area, they were like, ‘That’s so cool. We would love to do that.’”
There is no required price of admission; you can simply come down to Elm Street or to the Fisher Cats ballpark anytime during the five-hour period of the tour, taste tacos for $2 each and vote on your favorite. Two winners are declared every year – for the People’s Choice Award and the Judge’s Choice Award – and both of them receive $1,000 to donate to a charity organization of their choice.
You don’t even have to be a regular taco eater or a lover of Mexican food; Reese said part of the fun is seeing what kinds of interesting creations some of the restaurants will produce.
“There have been everything from dessert tacos all the way over to things like a macaroni cheese taco or a Korean fusion pork bulgogi taco,” he said. “So it’s not only an event to bring people downtown and help local businesses downtown, but also one where we can really let the chefs shine.”
Taco Challenge participants encompass a variety of cuisines and include a combination of restaurants, ice cream parlors, pubs, delis and cafes, with a few newcomers, like Moe’s Italian Sandwiches on Elm Street. Even though Moe’s doesn’t offer tacos on their regular menu, owner Matt Field will be serving a slow-roasted barbecue pork taco he created that will be available for one night only.
“I’ve actually never been to the event, so I don’t know what to expect other than by what others have said to me,” said Field, who purchased Moe’s last October. “I know the taco will be totally different from a Moe’s sandwich, so I hope we do well and that we can put them out fast.”
Other participating restaurants this year are more seasoned Taco Challenge competitors. Campo Enoteca, for example, will be rolling out their popular eggplant polpetti taco – the same one that took home the Judge’s Choice award in 2016.
Peter Macone, operations manager of Campo Enoteca and of Republic Cafe – which will also be offering a dosa potato taco of its own – said the staff of the two restaurants have adjusted their techniques to approach the event in ways that make sense for them.
“We wanted to do these tacos in order to have more vegetarian options for people that might have a limited choice as it is,” Macone said. “The other thing we’ve learned is to come at it from a greater good perspective. We’re not doing this to make a profit ourselves but rather to market our downtown and to raise money for good causes. We never last selling tacos for the entire day [of the event] but we don’t try to because we focus on putting out a good product and we have fun with it.”
Some vendors are even taking their tacos a step further by creating a product consistent with their overall theme. Boards & Brews, which recently opened on Elm Street as New Hampshire’s first board game cafe, is offering the “Settlers of Carnitas” taco, a play on the popular board game Settlers of Catan.
“It’s a carnitas style pork with onions and cilantro, and then there’s going to be a couple of different salsas people can choose to put in that we’re calling ‘Scoville expansion’ sauces, so either a salsa verde or a spicier red salsa,” said J.P. Padfield, a longtime friend of Boards & Brews co-owner Keating Tufts who created the taco. “We’re even cutting the tortillas into hexagon shapes, which are thematic to the tiles of the game.”
Even a special “taco” treat for dogs is being introduced to the event for the first time. Bark City, a doggy daycare on Hanover Street, will be serving up the “El Barko Taco,” a grain-free taco-shaped treat with coconut, carob, yogurt and cinnamon.
Reese said you can pick up a copy of the May 3 edition of the Hippo for a map of where all of the participating restaurants will be.
“What I would do is take that and I would pick like six places that you want to go to,” he said. “That would be the easy way to do it, to strategically pick the coolest ones to you. You might be in line for a while, but then part of the charm to me is just some of the most fun conversations you will have with other people who are there for the same reason that you are.”
Voting will be available through a link that can be accessed at Reese said votes will be accepted through the following day.  

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