Iron Fork's first-ever Taco Throwdown: And the winner is...

Maya's winning creation: beef al pastor with spicy mango salsa.

Maya's winning creation: beef al pastor with spicy mango salsa.

The 11th annual Iron Fork took place last night at International Market Square.

This year also marked the first-ever Taco Throwdown, in which a half dozen of the best taquerias in the Twin Cities duked it out for best taco. Over a thousand attendees converged to watch and drool. 

The secret ingredient in the cooking competition was peppers, and we spotted a couple of judges sweating profusely from the heat. We’re certain International Market Square was never so fragrant, thanks to all of the roasting chiles, handmade tortillas browning on the griddle, and freshly chopped cilantro essence wafting through the room.

Here are the night’s winners and their competing dishes:

Maya Cuisine, also our 2015 pick for Best Mexican Restaurant, took first place with a small but mighty beef al pastor taco dressed in avocado and mango salsas.

Second place was a tie between Jefe: Urban Hacienda and Bar Luchador.

Maya chefs Victor Martinez and Fidel Bello Miranda

Maya chefs Victor Martinez and Fidel Bello Miranda

Jefe presented a powerhouse of coffee tinga, pineapple pico de gallo, coconut habanero crema, black radish and pepper slaw, and lemon zest on a sweet potato and a red pepper tortilla.

From Luchador came a showstopper “curry octopus double decker,” a corn and flour tortilla mashup. “We’re going late night,” said chef/co-owner Angelo Pennacchio. 

And finally in third place, El Burrito Mercado made a “Taco a la Diabla” with a handsome chipotle tortilla, poblano, handmade salsa, and plenty of avocado.

Jordan Shively of Taco Cat and Alejandro Castillon of Sonora Grill also threw down with a Minnesota sweet corn fritter taco and a green tempura ceviche creation, respectively.

And, as any true taco lover knows, there's no such thing as the "best" taco. They were all original, like snowflakes or unicorn tears. Individual and priceless! 

We thank all of the participants for their presence and for their excellence. It was a truly beautiful thing.

All hail the almighty taco!