1. Carne Asada, La Juanita (Storm Lake, Iowa)
Because of the enormous number of Latinos who work on farms and in meatpacking facilities in Iowa, the state’s smaller towns have become an unexpected destination for absolutely great tacos. Additionally, because there is so much corn in the area, the fresh tortillas are nothing to scoff at.
A good example is the La Juanita restaurant in Storm Lake, which is located near a huge Tyson Foods facility. This well-known local secret has been around for approximately 20 years, and it is known for its extensive menu of authentic fillings, including carne asada, chorizo, lengua, fish, chicken, carnitas, al pastor, tripe, liver, and chicharron.
Although their tortas and soups are quite popular, the carne asada tacos are a must-order item, particularly when topped with their own spicy sauce.
2. Fish, Coconut’s Fish Café (Maui, Hawaii)
The original Coconut’s location on Maui is still the best, and it serves the best taco you can get anywhere in Hawaii. Coconuts also has outposts in Arizona and California, but the Maui site is still the best.
The fish taco, which has been served at this restaurant since it opened in 2009, is a masterpiece. It consists of fresh mahi-mahi and ono that have been grilled and placed on top of a grilled tortilla. The fish is then covered with wasabi-coconut milk coleslaw, fresh tomatoes, mango salsa, and a tiny bit of melted cheese. It truly is a work of art.
3. Al Pastor, Aguilas de Mexico (Newark, New Jersey)
Although there is no shortage of good Mexican restaurants in Newark, New Jersey, most of the city’s residents feel that Aguilas de Mexico offers an authentic experience. Although this hidden gem in Ironbound has been there since 2012, the quality of its products and the regularity of its service have already won the hearts of the community.
The al pastor is juicy and flavorful and has a slight crunch to the pork because of the addition of pineapple, which also helps to bring everything together.
4. Fish, Fat Fish Cantinagrill (San Diego, California)
It’s no wonder that the “surf and turf” taco combo, which consists of one shrimp taco and one grilled steak taco, is generating a lot of talk for all the right reasons. At San Diego’s Fat Fish, the menu item with the same name as the restaurant produces some of the city’s finest tacos. Each of the two soft flour tortillas that come with each order is stuffed with fried Icelandic cod, lettuce, pico de gallo, and grated cheese, and the whole thing is topped with grated cheese.
5. Chico’s Taco, Chico’s Tacos (El Paso, Texas)
The easiest way to describe how Chico’s manages to serve one of the best tacos in the United States is to begin by describing how improbably terrible this small chain and its food appear when seen for the first time.
There is no indication of the restaurant’s famous dish on any of the signs posted outside of the drab and uninteresting buildings. The dish consists of three folded tacos filled with ground beef and finely shredded cheese, all of which are soaked in a transparent red “salsa” and served in a white cardboard boat and topped with jalapeno salsa.
Some people may have doubts about the cheese because it is shredded so thinly that it could be mistaken for seeing powder. But after the very first mouthful, something unexpected happens.
The flautas have a crisp exterior, but after being doused in the salsa, the crunchiness starts to give way. In spite of the fact that it is more similar to a watery soup, the flavor is surprisingly delicious. The cheese will melt as a result of the heat from the broth, resulting in a soupy mess of taste that will be amplified by the heat from the jalapeo sauce.
The food is served hot, and you are encouraged to dip it after each bite; however, you are not required to use any plastic cutlery. You pick one up, take a mouthful, dip it, and take another bite until all of them are gone, at which point you are left with a quarter of an inch of cheese and sauce that cries out to be consumed.
6. Tacos de Pescado Estila Baja, Hugo’s (Houston, Texas)
Hugo’s has been a Houston institution since its opening in 2002, when acclaimed chef Hugo Ortega was the one responsible for introducing the city to some of the city’s most delicious Mexican cuisine.
Visit the establishment during the midday hours, and when you do, be sure to place an order for the Tacos de Pescado Estila Baja, which are the only fish tacos prepared in the Baja style and are only available during the day.
In order to make the tacos, catfish fillets that have been dipped in beer and then fried until golden brown are placed into fresh corn tortillas on top of a mound of fresh shredded cabbage, chipotle mayonnaise, and pico de gallo. An amazing must-eat.
7. Lamb Birria, El Pique (Wilmington, Delaware)
Every day, the little hole-in-the-wall restaurant El Pique in Wilmington, Delaware, which is one of the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants you’ll find anywhere, is filled with customers, but it’s still easy to walk right by.
When you get inside, you will see that there are just a few tables, and behind the counter is a plancha that is manned by two women who cook an astounding range of proteins, including cuts that are difficult to locate, such as swine snout (trompa), cattle head (cabeza), and a combination of all different kinds of offal (surtida).
The birria, which is cooked with lamb, is the dish that you should opt for. It is really tasty and wonderfully tender, and it is served with onion, cilantro, and your choice of three different sauces after being crisped up on the griddle.
8. Asadero, Matt’s Famous El Rancho (Austin, Texas)
Since its opening in 1952, Matt’s has been Austin’s go-to Mexican restaurant. The restaurant, which boasts on its website that it serves the “Best Mexican Food in the World — Always Good,” is a large establishment with an extensive menu.
There are die-hard fans of dishes such as the smoked duck enchiladas, the grilled shrimp with bean and cheese flautas, and even the chicken-fried steak “cowboy-style” with chili, but the tacos are outstanding. Consider ordering the Asadero, which consists of grilled beef tenderloin tacos topped with asadero cheese, onions, and poblano peppers.
9. Carne Asada, Johnny Sanchez (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Even though John Besh is no longer engaged, you can still bet your bottom dollar that the ultimate result of a collaboration between two chefs with the pedigree of Aarón Sánchez and John Besh would be amazing.
The two chefs opened an authentic Mexican restaurant together. And Johnny Sanchez is, according to all accounts. You can get a good idea of the level of skill (as well as the quality of the ingredients) on display at this extremely popular restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, by beginning your meal with an order of carne asada tacos.
These tacos are made with skirt steak that has been grilled to perfection and is topped with guacamole that has pickled jalapenos and pico de gallo that is made from fresh tomatoes. It truly is a work of art.
10. Mole, Indy Tacos (Indianapolis, Indiana)
The fact that there is always a line leading out the door of Indy Tacos during the peak lunch hour is evidence that the restaurant serves some of the very best tacos in the entire state of Indiana, despite having what may be the most modest storefront in all of Indianapolis.
The menu is uncomplicated and easy to understand, yet it is updated frequently to accommodate innovative takes on traditional dishes such as fish tacos, steak poblano, and mango chicken. Do not pass up the opportunity to order the chicken mole taco, though, because the chicken is succulent and full of flavor, and the homemade mole negro is of the highest caliber.
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