Late summer and early fall are still prime time for a backyard barbecue, but people are bone-weary of ribs, burgers and hot dogs with that predictable scoop of potato salad. Kick it up a notch by serving chicken and steak street tacos instead, made even better with fresh, homemade toppings and a perfectly paired Mexican beer. Here is salsa-king Sean McMenamin’s easy set of recipes that will have your guests—like his—eager for the next invitation.
2.5 pounds chicken thighs
2 pounds skirt, flank or beer flap steak
4–6 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra for grilling
6 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
2 cloves of garlic
6 jalapeno peppers
2 large onions, chopped
4 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (plus additional fruit to use as slices for serving)
Small street taco corn tortillas
Salt and pepper
Separately marinate each of the meats in half of the olive oil, cilantro, garlic, jalapenos, onions and juice for 2–3 hours. Barbecue chicken on a hot grill, then chop it into chunks. Do the same with the steak.
When guests arrive, prep a Blackstone flat top with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper before putting down the tortillas and chicken or steak chunks. Heat both, then scoop meat into the tortillas, and serve two at a time on a sturdy disposable food tray. Let guests customize their own tacos with toppings.
A good topping buffet includes:
Homemade (or fresh store-bought) red salsa
Homemade (or fresh store-bought) salsa verde
Pickled red onions
Shredded cheese (cheddar, Mexican blend or Cotija)
Fresh chopped cilantro
Pair the tacos with an ice cold can of Tecate, and add a slice of lime and some cracked salt on the top of the can.
The King of Salsa
It may seem unlikely a local mortgage broker named Sean McMenamin is creating a jar of salsa people are demanding by the caseload, but since 2014, his spicy product has very nearly gone viral. It all started as an economics class project for oldest son Blake, then a junior in high school. They named it Soul Patch, designed a logo and started selling it on campus. “Soon there were parents meeting me in the school parking lot and buying a case at a time,” laughs Sean’s wife, Kelly McMenamin. “I’d take it out of my trunk and put it in theirs.” For the past four years, this is how they’ve rolled: Word spreads around town “Sean is making a batch,” and immediately text orders arrive, which Kelly fills by delivering to people’s doorsteps while the kids are at school. But now Sean is moving forward with a commercial kitchen, and his salsa is gradually appearing at Placer County breweries and farmers’ markets. The McMenamins also serve it at parties with Sean’s street tacos, of course, which are very nearly as addictive as Soul Patch. “I can’t quit my day job,” he admits. “But ultimately I’d love to be some guy with a salsa T-shirt on, shaking hands and talking to people.”