Over the winter I was impressed with a set of maps created in Los Angeles and in Mexico, respectively, that used geolocation data to pinpoint every known entity where tacos are served.
And of course, as the founder and editor of Michigan’s lone food magazine named after Mexican food, I wanted in on the action. For this, I turned to Alex B. Hill, a part-time faculty member at the urban studies and public health programs at Wayne State University. As the project director of the Detroit Food Map Initiative, he developed a number of food-focused maps that cull publicly available data sets to glean insight around access to fresh food.
Earlier this month, Hill came up with what he calls the “Ultimate Detroit Taco Map,” which pinpoints 359 places that sell tacos within Detroit’s six-county metropolitan statistical area. Of those he found that 204 of those locations were part of national chains — including 136 Taco Bells, 33 Qdobas, 26 Chipotles and nine Del Tacos. The remaining 155 locations were made up of smaller regional chains and independent, locally owned spots. For this exercise, Hill used keywords like “taco,” “Mexican,” and Spanish articles such as “El,” “La” and “Los,” pulling from common “point of interest” datasets, including Safegraph POI, verification using Google Places, and cross-checking with data from alltheplaces.xyz.
Largely absent from the map, were the dozens of taco trucks that are mostly concentrated in Southwest Detroit and Downriver. Unsurprisingly, it’s hard to track these mobile eateries with the search filters we used (after all, not every food truck is named after the food it serves). And while many can be found parked in the same location — rain, snow, or shine 365 days a year — they still lack the permanence enjoyed by brick and mortar restaurants.
Tostada Magazine will continue following the taco trail to build more comprehensive maps in the months to come. In the meantime, enjoy this visual representation of our taco chasing efforts.
A version of this article, which was originally published in The Dig, was made possible through a collaborative storytelling effort with Outlier Media, a Detroit-based service journalism organization. Outlier identifies, reports, and delivers valuable information to empower residents to hold landlords, municipal government, and elected officials accountable for longstanding problems.
Author: Serena Maria Daniels
Serena Maria Daniels is an award-winning journalist based in Detroit. She specializes in reporting on issues that intersect food, identity, and culture.
Find her one Twitter and Instagram @serenamaria36!