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SoCal Taco Shop’s Secret to Flavor

Hidden in the alleyway behind Gravity lies downtown Lincoln's best hole-in-wall Southern California street tacos. It’s a hidden gem, but it's worth the hunt. 

Owner Jeremy Smith


SoCal Taco Shop operates out of the kitchen behind Gravity. There are two ways to enter: through Gravity or in the alley behind Sartor Hamann. 

Owner Jeremy Smith knows a thing or two about street tacos, being from Southern California himself. Smith moved to Lincoln in 2013. He is juggling three jobs and with time, the goal is to have taco making be the only job. 

“We moved [to Nebraska] for the schools, California is expensive,” Smith said. “Plus we had friends here.” 

SoCal Taco Shop sells one thing: the SoCal Taco, a tri-tip street taco made with authentic Southern California flavor. 

“I only sell the SoCal Taco right now,” Smith said. “I’d rather do one thing really well than a bunch of things only okay,” 

Tri-tip is a cut of beef located in the bottom flank of the cow. It is a popular cut of meat in California and often referred to as the “Santa Maria Steak”. 

“I season it with a Santa Maria rub–the original way,” Smith said. “Santa Maria is a mix of rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and pepper.” 

Smith marinates the beef in a secret marinade before flash-grilling it to preserve the flavor and juices. After marinating the meat for several hours, it slowly takes on a very satisfying peppery garlic flavor that makes you want more. 

Smith hopes to add more items to the menu. The “SoCal Taco” is made with locally sourced corn tortillas that cover the meaty filling, with cilantro lime crema and homemade mango salsa, topped with cotija cheese.  

“I’ve tried doing different tacos, I’ve done a brisket taco, and a chicken salsa type,” Smith said. “But I kept going back to the original tri-tip [taco].” 

Smith’s business has continued with pop-up events to get the word out about their storefront. Visit their Facebook for upcoming events. 

SoCal Taco Shop currently shares its kitchen with Delco Dave’s Steaks. The owner of Delco Dave’s, Dave Leonard, was the one to convince Smith to start making tacos for the public. 

“It started because we were in the same fantasy football league,” Smith said. “We became pretty good friends. Dave would be like ‘Jeremy, when are you going to start selling your tacos?’”

Eventually, Smith perfected the SoCal Taco and started slinging tacos, joining forces with Leonard. 

“We cross-trained each other, so if one of us is here, we can make either [tacos or cheesesteaks],” Smith said. You don’t have to choose between Delco Dave’s or SoCal Tacos–get both with the Coast-2-Coast combo: an 8” cheesesteak and two tacos. 

A sticker inside of the kitchen in the back of Gravity, where SoCal Taco Shop is located. Smith has used stickers as a way to promote his business, giving them to customers who will stick them around downtown.

Fans of SoCal Taco Shop have taken to social media to spread their love for this Downtown Hidden Gem. Some Lincolnites are saying this is the best taco shop in town and with the amount of effort and care put into each and every taco, one can taste the difference. 

SoCal Taco Shop is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; and on Saturdays when Gravity opens for business. 

Gravity is open Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.