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The Best Tacos in 15 U.S. Cities

By Zagat Staff
April 29, 2014

It's Taco Tuesday here at Zagat, which means it's all tacos, all day long. Here are 15 of the best tacos in the land from each of our local markets. How many have you tried? Tell us in the comments or on social media with hashtag #ZagatTacoTuesday.

  • Austin: Rosita’s Al Pastor

    Why We Love It: Delicious, no-frills tacos from an inconspicuous but locally famous trailer.

    Insider Tip: It’s in the name, y’all. Al pastor is the way to go here, with cilantro, onions and green salsa.

    Price: $1.25

  • Atlanta: Carnitas at Taqueria la Villa

    Why We Love It: La Villa used to be located in the back counter of the supermercado next door in this Smyrna strip mall, but expanded to its own storefront when a neighboring Quizno's closed down. Much of the decor remains, but you won't be looking at the walls with La Villa's carnitas tacos sitting in front of you. They're Michoacán-style, braised and then roasted to a point of being both tender and crisp.

    Insider Tip: The salsa bar offers choices that range from mild to monumentally fiery. Taste before you drench.

    Price: $1 per taco.

  • Boston: Mahi Mahi A La Plancha Tacos at The Painted Burro

    Why We Love It: Because it brings a taste of the tropics to the Davis Square Mexican, giving the grilled fish and freshy and fruity spin with pineapple and serrano salsa, jicama, avocado and frisee.

    Insider Tip: Painted Burro owner Joe Cassinelli has something new up his sleeve. He's planning to turn the nearby Somerville landmark Rosebud diner into a "roadhouse"-inspired American eatery.

    Price: $7.50

  • Chicago: Goat Taco at Birrieria Zaragoza

    Why We Love It: This family-run eatery does one thing and one thing well: goat. Whole goats are butchered, steamed, marinated in red mole and then roasted before the meat is pulled apart, soaked in a tomato consommé and served with soft tortillas.

    Insider Tip: While tacos appear on the menu, opt for the DIY version with meat in a pool of consommé and tortillas on the side.

    Price: $2.75

  • Dallas: Pastor at El Come Taco

    Why We Love It: This new-ish restaurant roasts its sweet pork traditionally, on a spit called a trompo, with pineapple atop it so fruity juices drip right into the meat.

    Insider Tip: The Fitzhugh Avenue spot stays open till 2 AM on Fridays and Saturdays, so it’s the perfect spot for after-club taco devouring.

    Price: $1.50

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Denver: Cochinita Pibil at La Calle Taqueria y Carnitas

    Why We Love It: Housed in a comfy little two-room cottage along the Valverde stretch of Alameda, this absolute gem gives new meaning to the word "sumptuous." We wholeheartedly recommend every taco on the menu, but since you’ve got to start somewhere, try the cochinita pibil - pork slow-roasted in citrus-achiote marinade (pictured left below the also-amazing chivo, or goat). With one bite, the depth of its rich and tangy flavor seems almost boundless; slivers of pickled onion add sharp contrast should you want it, but the stew-thick mixture is perfect as is. (And don't fret about those lemon wedges - we're sure the lime shortage will be over soon.)

    Insider Tip: While the wall-mounted menus are entirely in Spanish, a printed menu at the order counter offers moderately helpful English translations.

    Price: $1.50 or $6.95 for five

  • Houston: Barbacoa Tacos at Hugo's

    Why We Love It: Succulent and flavorful lamb is marinated in chiles, onion, garlic and avocado leaves, slow-roasted in agave skin and complemented with chopped onion, fresh cilantro and warm tortillas.

    Insider Tip: Have your taco with the sangria of the day.

    Price: $25

  • Los Angeles: Shrimp Dorado Taco at Mariscos Jalisco

    Why We Love It: Shrimp inside a corn tortilla, fried till crispy, doused in salsa and topped with chopped avocado. Sit on the brick wall and dig in. By the time you’ve finished the first (or even second) taco, you’re already pondering more.

    Insider Tip: There’s now a fried avocado taco for anyone who doesn’t want shrimp.

    Price: $1.50

  • Miami: Fried Chicken Taco at Huahua's Taqueria

    Why We Love It: This South Beach taqueria's award-winning taco (recently featured on the Cooking Channel) is an irresistible combo of Southern-meets-Mexican comfort food thanks to the jalapeño cornbread croutons mixed with rich ancho ranch dressing.

    Insider Tip: The grilled Mexican sweet corn with spicy mayo is the perfect starter for such a Southern-style comfort-food taco. 

    Price: $3.99 each

  • NYC: Pork Adobada at Los Tacos No. 1

    Why We Love It: This stand in Chelsea Market serves some of the tastiest tacos in NYC, by way of San Diego and Tijuana. We love their pork adobada taco for its spicy yet juicy meat and fresh toppings of pineapple, onion and cilantro.

    Insider Tip: The quesadillas here are tiny (the size of a taco) and are just as delicious. Get the especial for $1 extra and pair it with one of the pork tacos for the perfect combo.

    Price: $3

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: Tuna Taco at Sancho Pistola’s

    Why We Love It: Chef Adan Trinidad has a way with fish - his ceviches and tiraditos are best in the city - and here you get to try it with a handy tortilla wrapper. Togarashi spices cover the charred tuna, topped with mango salsa, house guac and honey pasilla glaze.

    Insider Tip: The bar at this Fishtown cantina is the place to try a mezcal cocktail - try the Smoked Piña with citrus and pineapple.

    Price: $9 for two

  • Photo by: Aqui es Texcoco

    San Diego: Lamb Taco at Aqui es Texcoco

    Why We Love It: Andrew Zimmern made a special visit for a taste of their lamb tacos and it’s with good reason. All lamb dishes are barbecued the traditional way at Texcoco, resulting in tender and flavorful meat wrapped up in a soft, pliable tortilla.

    Insider Tip: No drinks from mixes here. All agua frescas like horchata, Jamaica and tamarido are housemade.

    Price: $1.25 each

  • Photo by: Flickr/gnaihc

    San Francisco: Tacos tropical at Loló

    Why We Love It: The most ingenious tortilla in town is actually made of thinly sliced jicama. It's a crisp bed for the irresistibly crunchy panko-battered shrimp and mango sauce.

    Insider Tip: Get two orders right away; it's an exercise in futility to just have one or two of these.

    Price: $9

  • Photo by: Paola Thomas

    Seattle: Adobada at Taqueria La Fondita

    Why We Love It: This taco truck in White Center with covered indoor seating does a tremendous job on all its taco fillings, including lengua (tonuge) and cabeza (head meat). But this spicy shredded pork stands out as a fiery winner, with juicy chunks of meat tucked into a tortilla. 

    Insider Tip: To get a little bit of everything, go for the No. 3, which is five tacos. And order a side of the above-average guacamole, a deal at $1.25. 

    Price: $1.75 each, or $7 for the whole enchilada

  • Photo by: Rina Rapuano

    Washington, DC: Carnitas Tacos at Oyamel

    Why We Love It: These aren't just any old carnitas tacos - these are carnitas the Jose Andres way. This taco is stuffed with a confit of baby pig with green tomatillo sauce, onions and cilantro. The pièce de résistance? Crispy pork rinds line the top.

    Insider Tip: If you find yourself at the bar here after 10 PM Sunday through Wednesday or after 11 PM Thursday through Saturday, try the outstanding taco de suadero filled with braised, sliced and grilled local brisket with salsa verde, onions and cilantro ($4.50) currently available only on the late-night menu. Also, this place makes its own tortillas - a touch that makes a huge difference.

    Price: $4 apiece

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