Where to Eat Standout Tacos from Coast to Coast
These restaurants across the country are putting uniquely delicious spins on the beloved taco.
Photo By: Annette Navarro
Not Your Ordinary Tacos
Here's where you'll find mind-blowing tacos from coast to coast. Some are more adventurous than others: Pig’s head tacos in Dallas have a very “interesting” presentation; D.C.’s grasshopper tacos challenge you to try something new; mighty oven-roasted goat tacos tantalize your palate in Chicago and luxurious spicy tuna tacos in New York taste as amazing as they sound.
New Orleans: SoBou
SoBou’s Crispy Oyster Tacos served with pineapple ceviche, mirliton (a squash also known as chayote), and Cajun ghost-pepper caviar is a dish with a personality. The chef tells us that the fried oyster is balanced with the pineapple ceviche, and a kick of ghost pepper adds a huge punch of flavor in every bite.
Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio: Nada
Nada serves up a terrific its Grilled Salmon Taco topped with chipotle crema, corn pico, jalapenos and cilantro. Executive Chef Jeremy Lieb says: “We came up with the dish in celebration of our unlimited access to Midwest gold, more commonly known as local corn. The taco is an exercise in fresh flavors and shows a few of the many ways we love to eat the sweet grain. We marry slow-roasted, box-grated corn with fresh pico de gallo, laced with chile and lime, to create a complex corn relish. The relish is spooned onto simply grilled salmon along with a smoky, tangy chipotle aioli.”
Phoenix: Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca
What else does one need to make a dish fantastic besides crispy fried fish? Well, how about topping it with jalapeno vinegar, pickled red onions, shredded green cabbage and Mexican crema spiked with hot sauce? Yep, all this in a hot corn tortilla. These tacos have won “best in Phoenix” awards multiple times, and for good reason.
Falls Church, Va.: Taco Bamba Taqueria
The lunch line is always out the door at this authentic Mexican restaurant. The staff, ever smiling, is ready to feed you some of the tastiest tacos in Virginia. Our favorite? Camaron a la Diabla: seared shrimp in a spicy diabla sauce. It is served with cilantro rice, roasted poblano crema and scallions in a corn tortilla. Chef Victor Albisu tells us this is a classic spicy Mexican shrimp dish that they’ve turned into a taco. “Every component of the dish is flavorful and adds texture, heat or complexity to the dish,” he says. Don’t forget to order a side of their terrific (and unusual) grilled guacamole.
Denver: Tacos – Tequila – Whiskey
Take a moment to savor this drool-worthy description of the pork belly taco served at Tacos–Tequila–Whiskey’s two Denver locations: “Pork Belly ‘Agridulce’ / Sweet-and-sour braised pork belly, candied garlic, cabbage and cilantro slaw, braising jus.” Chef-owner Kevin Morrison tells us, “What makes this dish so unique is how the sweetness of the orange juice and tang of the vinegar marry with the natural flavors of the pork belly during the braising process. The result is a wonderfully tender hunk of swine nirvana.”
Washington, D.C.: Oyamel
Put on your Andrew Zimmern (of Bizarre Foods fame) hat and head to ever-swarming Oyamel in D.C. for their grasshopper taco, Taco de Chapulines, consisting of sauteed grasshoppers, shallots, tequila and guacamole. Chef Colin King tells us, “The unique flavor and textures of the grasshopper with the creamy spicy guacamole and homemade tortilla makes it a delicious and fun bite.”
New York: Cherry
Cherry serves up a Spicy Tuna Taco with jicama, cucumber and scallion that is essentially their take on a spicy tuna roll converted into a taco. Executive Chef Marc Spitzer describes the dish with passion: “The crispiness of the gyoza shell mimics the addition of tempura flakes in some spicy tuna rolls, adding great texture to the softness of the big-eye tuna. The jicama (Mexican yam) and cucumber, besides bringing texture, add just the right pop of freshness to contrast the spice of the sauce. The pickled shallot adds that bit of vinegar to help bring it together."
Atlanta and Nashville: Taqueria del Sol
Taqueria del Sol's Memphis taco consists of smoked pork with a spicy jalapeno coleslaw and tequila BBQ sauce, in a soft flour tortilla. Why the name Memphis? Chef Eddie Hernandez tells us, “This taco represents everything great about Southern and Tex-Mex cuisines. I think the reason it is such a popular taco is that people can relate to it; it evokes memories. Since barbecue is so big in the South, we wanted to represent it in the taco form. It is one of my favorite tacos we have on the menu."
Chicago: Birrieria Zaragoza
Birrieria Zaragoza serves up a Birria Tatemada, a taco of slow-roasted goat. The goat is first steamed for five to six hours. An ancho chile–based mole is applied to the meat, which is then transferred to the oven to roast, resulting in a wonderfully tasty birria (stew). The meat is then lightly drizzled with a special plum tomato–based broth and garnished with chile de arbol picante (hot sauce), onions, cilantro, lime and roasted arbol chiles. This special dish is accompanied by handmade corn tortillas, which are pressed on a wooden tortilla press. Owner John (Juan) Zaragoza says, “Our birria satisfies your hunger while feeding your soul.”
Phoenix: Taco Guild
One of the highlights at Taco Guild is the nontraditional Peking Duck Taco with plum sauce, fire-roasted poblano-apricot compote and Brie cheese. “East really does meet Southwest in this taco," Chef Leo Madrigal tells us. "All the flavors that are incorporated, from ginger and cinnamon to the plum sauce and apricot compote, really set this taco apart. The poblano chiles add a nice hint of heat, and the Brie adds the creaminess that makes it all come together.”
Key West, Fla.: Garbo’s Grill
This reasonably priced and super-busy food truck is a local favorite. Always parked at the same location, the truck cooks up terrific dishes to order, including their Cayo Fish Taco of mahi mahi (or yellowtail) served with red cabbage, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, mango and Garbo’s own Caribbean sauce. “What makes this dish so good is the use of fresh ingredients,” says owner Eli Pancamo.
Dallas: CBD Provisions
This taco presentation is truly one of a kind. Executive Chef Michael Sindoni serves his Berkshire Pig Head Carnitas family style with pickled radishes, house-roasted tomatillo salsa and fresh corn tortillas for assemble-your-own tacos. “The whole pig’s head comes on the bone and easily pulls apart to create a really hands-on dining experience," says Chef Sindoni. "The preparation has the perfect ratio of skin to fat to meat. You can create your taco to your liking, or just eat the meat separately with your fingers.”
New York: Bodega Negra and Bodega Negra Cafe
After all the pork, grasshopper, tuna and other non-vegetarian tacos mentioned in this roundup, it is now time to bring forth a terrific veggie taco, and yes indeed, it has kale. Bodega Negra serves up Veggie Tacos with grilled kale, roasted mushrooms, rajas (charred pepper strips), queso Oaxaca and pico de gallo. “The idea behind the vegetable tacos was to start with mushrooms because they tend to have a meatier texture," Executive Chef Michael Armstrong tells us. "The addition of the grilled kale brought a nice balance of texture and flavor to it, and a healthy element. The roasted poblano chiles add a nice spice, and we finish it off with melted queso Oaxaca and pico de gallo.”