It’s barely 6 p.m. and a long line already stretches from the tiled countertop to the odd cinderblocks scattered through the outdoor seating area. Backpacked hipsters shift from foot to foot, trying to see the menu. A decidedly un-hip guy holds his iPad over his head, quietly snapping a picture of the glowing neon sign in the corner.
We’re in Kødbyen, Copenhagen’s trendy meatpacking district, which is filled with brewpubs, restaurants and art galleries that you’ve probably already seen on your Instagram feed. Tonight, we’re all waiting to order at Hija de Sanchez, which has been crafting some of the city’s must-eat tacos since the day it opened its doors. It’s probably a safe bet to say that it’s been popular since Day One, but tonight it seems to be more in-demand, possibly because it’s just been named the best street food in Europe.
EasyJet’s Traveller magazine recently released its Top 10 list of the continent’s best food stalls and, although it specifically mentions Hija de Sanchez’ other location, in the Torvehallerne food market, I doubt that anyone in front of me cares. (I sure don’t). And the appearance on top of Traveller’s list – edging steamed buns from London and a Berlin-based kimchi-poutine combo – is just another in a long line of accolades for Hija de Sanchez and its chef, founder and owner, Rosio Sanchez.
For five years, Sanchez worked as a pastry chef at Copenhagen’s award-winning Noma restaurant, but she left in 2015 to pursue her own passion – and her own heritage. “I grew up in the southside of Chicago, a first generation Mexican-American. My favorite things to eat were tacos de lengua, vegetarian tortas to corn esquites from the man with the push cart on the corner of 26 and Avers to desserts items like paletas and tres leches cake,” she explains.
After a career working in the highest of high-end restaurants (the original Noma was named the best restaurant in the world four times), Sanchez decided that she’d rather cook casual options that she felt more connected to. Plus, she said there was a “desperate need” for good Mexican food in Europe.
The result was the first Hija de Sanchez, which opened in 2015. (The more permanent Kødbyen shop followed a year later). In both locations, the menu changes daily, but always features made-from-scratch tacos that use corn imported from Oaxaca, Mexico. The organic quesillo cheese is local, but it’s crafted from a traditional Mexican recipe. And the results of that combination are pretty much unbeatable.
David Chang visited Hija de Sanchez during the “Tacos” episode of his Ugly Delicious Netflix series – and it was the only restaurant included that wasn’t in the United States or Mexico. And, earlier this year, Diners Club International included it in its World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy Series, which “highlights the next generation of dining destinations.” (Its committee agreed that Sanchez “takes tacos to new heights.”)
When it was my turn to order, I went with the beef carnitas, pork al pastor and a veggie option that featured thinly sliced cucumbers and gloriously crumbly queso fresco. The taco trio was DKK100 ($16) – and you could add a bottle of beer for DKK30 ($4.75) more. I legit licked pineapple and pork al pastor juice off my forearm while my dinner companion agreed that it was worth every penny.
iPad guy seemed to agree. He was still taking pictures of his plate when we left.