Stepping into Taco Libre on Jalan Kemang Raya, one is likely to be greeted by its head chef and operational partner, Joe Cortez. The Mexican American chef-slash-missionary, who moved from California to Jakarta in 2007, would say to his customers, “Nuestra casa es su casa”, a piece of Mexican hospitality which translates to “Our house is your house.”
A bold shade of turquoise on the outside, the taqueria or taco house implements a lively choice of decor inside, where Mexican flags criss-cross the ceiling while mariachi figures and painted ceramics adorn the concrete walls. “It’s a little dive in the middle of a big concrete city. And all we’re trying to do is bring you Mexican culture,” described Chef Joe.
Growing up in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant his immigrant grandmother founded, the chef knows a thing or two about introducing his culture to the world through food. He confidently dubs his tacos the “best in town”, of which options revolve around familiar fillings like Baja-style fish and grilled steak atop thin tortillas made in-house. They are best enjoyed with Tex-Mex specials like Jalapeño Poppers and Shrimp Martini alongside a refreshing glass of Clásico margarita or Horchata, a popular milk-based drink in Mexico.
While that spread sounds quintessentially Mexican, Chef Joe is not one to limit himself. “I want to have 25 different kinds of tacos. And I’m not just talking about Mexican tacos. I’m talking about Korean tacos, German tacos, or any kind. I’ve been to different countries, and they adapt their cultures to the tacos. So why not a sushi taco? Why not a kimchi and pork belly taco?”
Open seven days a week, evening events that bring people together—such as NFL rewind on Monday and salsa nights on Saturday—are always on the schedule. Those looking for a quiet evening should probably look elsewhere, but it’s a good bet for a fun night and company at the home of Taco Libre.