What do you imagine when you close your eyes and think of the ideal taco? Is it a taco with a firm shell and fillings like beef with spices, cheese, lettuce, and tomato? A second option would be to fill two little corn tortillas with pork, onions, and cilantro.
We’re pleased to announce our annual ranking of the greatest tacos in the United States, which this year includes everything from fried fish to pork with pineapple to roasted goat to cow’s tongue.
Let’s start with the basics and figure out what a taco is. In the broadest sense, it is a portable, folded, unleavened flatbread that contains food. However, for the sake of this discussion, we will consider anything that is placed on a warmed tortilla and eaten with one hand to be a taco. And, oh man, you can find some incredible tacos.
Tacos, along with the burger and the hot dog, are some of the most egalitarian foods ever created. Tacos can be found on the menu at some of the finest Mexican restaurants in the country, as well as at the most basic roadside stands. Their low price (often just a few dollars) is a big draw for many customers.
First, with the help of online review sites and local magazines, we compiled a list of several hundred of the best taco eateries in America, each with information about their most popular taco. These tacos needed to have distinct flavors that stood out from the crowd, so they focused on using fresh ingredients that could shine on their own.
The best tacos have just the right amount of fillings and nothing extra. The tortilla (often made from maize, but sometimes flour) ought to be quite fresh and, ideally, produced on the premises. The filling needs to be made with harmony in mind.
The toppings, whether they’re onions and cilantro or chipotle harissa, should complement the taco as a whole and bring out its full flavor. The tacos must first and foremost be a huge hit with the locals; after all, they are the ones who will tell you how good they really are.
1. Chorizo, Green Ghost Tacos (Ridgeland, Mississippi)
The Green Ghost, a popular restaurant in Ridgeland, has triumphed in the taco competition in Mississippi. “Mama Yolanda,” a native of San Luis, Mexico, runs the establishment, and the family recipes she uses have been passed down through the centuries.
Corn tortillas, hard-shell tortillas, and flour tortillas are used to make tacos, while other tortilla options include burritos, tortas, empanadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, chiles rellenos, and nachos. Corn tortillas are a must, and we recommend filling them with Mama Yolanda’s handmade chorizo.
2. Carnitas, El Charrito (Riverside, Connecticut)
You might be surprised to find authentic Mexican takeout in this area of the wealthy town of Greenwich. The Terrón brothers, Carlos and Alex, who also operate a successful food truck in nearby Stamford, have brought a level of Mexican cuisine to southwestern Connecticut at El Charrito that was previously only available in larger cities in Texas and California.
Tacos can be filled with anything from chicken and shrimp to spicy pork adobada and even pig’s ears, tripe, and cow’s tongue. The carnitas tacos are standard fare: two steamed corn tortillas topped with sweet, crispy pig pieces, minced onions, and cilantro; served with lime wedges for squeezing. Easy and excellent.
3. Al Pastor, El Come Taco (Dallas, Texas)
El Come Taco, a tiny taste of Mexico City in Dallas, Texas, opened in 2013 and quickly became known as one of the greatest Mexican restaurants in the city. The family-run counter-service restaurant is known for its tacos, but it also sells tortas, alambre, ceviche, and the elusive pambazos. Regulars keep coming back for the al pastor, despite the availability of more exotic options like cow head, tripe, and brains.
4. Al Pastor, Los Gauchos (Columbus, Ohio)
The tacos, especially the al pastor tacos, are the reason many travels to the little Los Gauchos in Columbus, Ohio. They also serve tortas, quesadillas, burritos, and huaraches.
By marinating the pig and roasting it on a vertical spit, al pastor is prepared in the traditional manner; it is then served sliced and stacked into two corn tortillas with pineapple, onions, and cilantro. The spit is prominently displayed on their emblem, and their slogan is “The best tacos al pastor in the city!” They are understandably proud of their al pastor; it is excellent.
5. Puffy Taco With Picadillo, Taco Taco Café (San Antonio, Texas)
The puffiness and lack of greasiness of Taco Taco’s puffy tacos make them a San Antonio specialty worth seeking out. All the tortillas, including the excellent flour tortillas, are made fresh daily in the inconspicuous building, but if you only order one thing, make it the puffy taco with picadillo, or spicy ground meat.
The ground beef is slow-cooked with onions, tomatoes, and a touch of potato before being combined with a variety of spices. With a splash of hot sauce, some lettuce, and some tomatoes, this puffy taco will have you feeling satisfied and ready to go home. You should plan your visit carefully, as they are only open from 8 am to 2 pm on weekdays.
6. Fish, Best Fish Taco in Ensenada (Los Angeles, California)
If a restaurant claims to serve the “Best Fish Taco in Ensenada,” it had better deliver, and this spot does not disappoint. Joseph Cordova owns and operates this Los Angeles, California treasure, where he prepares dishes using fresh seafood, shrimp, and produce.
The tacos are crisp and refreshing, the seafood is encased in a soft and crunchy crust, you can choose from a variety of salsas (we recommend the mango), the slaw is crunchy and fresh, and the seasoned crema is the frosting on the cake.
7. Lengua, El Taco Riendo (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
El Taco Riendo, a local favorite, transports the flavorful street food of Mexico City to the friendly and casual atmosphere of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tacos prepared from tortillas made by local tortilleria La Perla are works of art, but the tostadas, tamales, sopes, enchiladas, burritos, and chilaquiles also do a good job of bringing in customers. The slow-cooked lengua will convert even the most averse tongue eater.