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Best Tacos: Dallas and Surroundings

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Photographs by Kate Lesueur

Tacos-Taco-al-Pastor-a-la-Tuma-Urban-Taco-DallasTaco al Pastor a la Tuma, Urban Taco
Type: Specialty
Rating: 5
Price: $4.50
Markus Pineyro opened the first Urban Taco in the Mockingbird Station retail complex in 2007. Few realized it then, but with his fresh takes on interior dishes—he even offered house-recipe nixtamal tortillas—the Mexico City native was a pioneer in what would become known TopTacoin the city as Modern Mexican. In 2010 Pineyro and co-owner John Tuma opened a flagship location in Uptown, offering salsa flights, ceviche towers, chilled tequila on draft, a tight agave spirits program, and tacos al pastor—the meat sliced off the vertical rotisserie known as a trompo, with enticingly charred edges and a chile-achiote tang. Their touchstone taco today is the deluxe “a la Tuma,” a fiery al pastor masterpiece that pays homage to the costra, a Mexico City late-night treat in which a fried cheese shell replaces the tortilla. Urban Taco keeps the tortilla but adds a liner of fried Manchego, with slices of jalapeño nestled in between. The pork gets dunked in habanero salsa, then topped with avocado and pineapple. 3411 McKinney Ave, 214-922-7080 (multiple locations). Sun–Thur 11–10, Fri & Sat 11–11.


Chile Relleno, Taqueria Burritos Locos
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.75
Price: $2.98
Next time you head over to Grapevine to visit its wineries or you take the kids to the Gaylord Texan to see the holiday ice sculptures, do yourself a favor and stop at Burritos Locos. The extensive menu hides a special treat: a chile relleno taco. Taken for granted in Mexico but scarce in DFW—this may be the only place to offer it regularly—the cheese-filled, breaded, and deep-fried poblano chile swaddled in a corn tortilla is a treasure. (It comes with undistinguished lettuce and tomato, but just brush those off and add the chile de árbol salsa instead.) 416 W. Northwest Hwy, Grapevine, 817-416-7230. Sun–Thur 7–midnight, Fri & Sat 7–3 a.m.


Crispy Taco, Gonzalez Restaurant
Type: Tex-Mex
Rating: 4.75
Price: $7.95/plate
This is no common crispy taco. The tortilla shell is freshly fried (you can tell by the lingering whiff of oil), the well-seasoned ground beef is blessedly ungreasy, and the grated cheese is Monterey Jack. Not to mention the lettuce and tomato, which are bright and crisp—not pale or wilted—and served at room temperature, not straight from the fridge. A word to the wise: this taco, plus the restaurant’s huge, fluffy handmade flour tortillas, makes for a long lunch line any day, but especially after church on Sunday. 367 W. Jefferson Blvd, 214-946-5333. Tue–Fri 11–9, Sat & Sun 9–9.

 

 


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Chicken Tinga, El Taco del Rincon de Villa
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.25
Price: $1.99
Chicken tacos generally inspire monumental indifference. But you won’t be able to get enough of these corn masa pockets filled with juicy, chipotle-smoky shredded fowl. For an extra kick, add the orange-tinted chile de árbol salsa. 6867 Greenville Ave, 214-891-9954. Daily 8–6.


Costilla en Salsa Roja, Tortilleria La Sabrocita
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.5
Price: $1.79
Tacos de costillas are a rare find in the greater Dallas area. Rarer still are the kind that feature pork ribs drenched in a tomato-chile sauce and served on warm corn tortillas in a hole-in-the-wall outfitted with rodeo-themed booths. 201 Dallas Dr, Denton, 940-382-0452. Mon–Thur 7–9, weekends Fri  7 a.m.–Sun 9 p.m.


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Taco Ahogado de Birria, Los Torres Taqueria
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 5
Price: $2.99
You’d be smart to order the handmade flour TopTacotortillas at Los Torres. They’re the choice in Sinaloa, the Mexican state where the owners—siblings Eva and Ramiro Torres and Ramiro’s wife, Irene—lived before opening this taqueria, in 2012. The past three years of offering Sinaloense fare have been a slog for them: despite being across from a school and along a bus route, the restaurant isn’t heavily trafficked. Yet one bite of the birria de chivo—slowly braised, earthy-spiced goat—and its staying power becomes clear. Los Torres serves incredible tacos found nowhere else in Dallas. At the top of the list? The ahogado, which requires a coarse corn tortilla to soak up its “drowned” contents. Filled with birria and Monterey Jack and then almost submerged in goat consommé, the ahogado is simply world-silencing. 1322 W. Clarendon Dr, 214-946-3770. Mon, Wed & Thur 9–8, Fri & Sat 9–9, Sun 8–8.


Carnitas, El Pueblo
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.75
Price: $1.50
At this corner eatery, the carnitas are exactly what they should be: delicious bits of tender pork fried in lard to mellow crispness. Try them and you’ll never settle again for the hulking, oven-roasted chunks passed off as carnitas elsewhere. A restorative agua fresca will make you feel as if you’re in Mexico. 525 E. Jefferson Blvd, 214-946-3070. Daily 7–8.


Tacos-Cornmeal-fried-oyster-Velvet-Taco-DallasCornmeal Fried Oyster, Velvet Taco
Type: Specialty
Rating: 4
Price: $4.95
Granted, Velvet Taco has taken highfalutin, zany tacos (and their price points) to new heights. Even so, its fried-oyster taco is worth the charge. With a strategic combination of fluffy, cornmeal-dusted oysters, napa cabbage slaw, roasted-corn pico, rémoulade, and chile butter in a handmade hibiscus tortilla, it is a well-balanced taco that even a traditionalist can admire. Of course, if it’s unbridled experimentation you crave, Velvet Taco is happy to oblige with its WTF (Weekly Taco Features) menu, which has been known to highlight scrapple, fried green tomatoes, and rice noodle salad, keeping the kitchen hopping into the wee hours on weekends. 3012 N. Henderson Ave, 214-823-8358. Mon & Tue 10–midnight, Wed 10–2 a.m., Thur 10–3 a.m., Fri 10–4 a.m., Sat 9–4 a.m., Sun 9–midnight.


Taco al Vapor de Deshebrada, Taco Rico #2
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.75
Price: $1.25
You might assume that al vapor, or steamed, tacos would be gummy, but these tidy parcels are notably unsticky. Done Monterrey-style, they are filled with piping-hot shredded beef and potato stewed with chiles and tomatoes. Lift the corn tortilla’s edge to tuck in the accompanying cabbage and tomatoes and your choice of electrifying red or green salsa. 2850 W. Clarendon Dr, 214-623-0885. Sun–Thur 8–11, Fri & Sat 8–midnight.


Tacos-Rajas-Con-Queso-La-Nueva-Fresh-&-Hot-Tortilleria-DallasRajas con Queso, La Nueva Fresh & Hot Tortilleria
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.5
Price: $1.85
The array of classic guisados here is stunning—as is the “fever” that most induce. The rajas con queso taco, however, keeps things to a low, steady burn with smoky strips of chile poblano, jalapeños, and salty white cheese. What’s more, you no longer have to order to go, because the tortilla machine has been moved to make room for seating. 9625 Webb Chapel Rd, 214-358-7261. Mon–Sat 6–8, Sun 6–6.


Brisket, Mesero
Type: Modern American
Rating: 4
Price: $11.95/plate
Mexican-food impresario Mico Rodriguez upgrades the plate made famous at his mother’s restaurant, Mia’s Tex-Mex, at his own contemporary establishment. Twists of brisket and Chihuahua cheese get a heavy dose of tart tomatillo sauce on pliable tortillas, and a vibrant slaw replaces the standard refried beans. 2822 N. Henderson Ave, 214-821-6426. Sun–Thur 11–9:30, Fri & Sat 11–10:30.

 


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Tacos Norteños, El Corazon Vintage Tex-Mex
Type: Tex-Mex
Rating: 4.5
Price: $11.95/plate
Combo platters and nostalgia are the bedrock of El Corazon, the latest from the Cuellar family, founders of the El Chico chain. But what brings us back are the tacos norteños. The house-made flour tortillas are smeared with refried beans; packed with beef fajita meat, avocado, and jack cheese; then crisped on the griddle to make perfect Tex-Mex gems. 110 W. Davis, 214-943-8610. Sun & Tue–Thur 11–9, Fri & Sat 11–10.


Chuleta con Queso, El Tizoncito Taqueria
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.5
Price: $2
To walk into the original El Tizoncito, in Oak Cliff, is to believe you’ve stepped into a Mexico City taqueria. The colors! The smells! The aguas frescas! Sure, there’s al pastor, but treat yourself to an excellent, less common taco: chuleta con queso, juicy bits of pork chop under a quilt of melted Monterey Jack, served on double corn tortillas. 3404 W. Illinois Ave, 214-330-0839. Sun–Thur 10–11, Fri & Sat 10–1 a.m.


Ribeye, La Zaranda Modern Kitchen & Tequila
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.75
Price: $14.95/plate
La Zaranda’s thinly sliced quality ribeye and grilled panela cheese, embraced by house-made corn tortillas, set a joyful standard for all steak tacos. 5000 Belt Line Rd, Ste. 850, 972-866-8900. Mon–Thur 11–10, Fri 11–11, Sat noon–11, Sun 11–9.


Tacos-El-Come-Taco-Joses-Taco-DallasJose’s Taco, El Come Taco
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.75
Price: $2.50
Luis Villalva and his family serve traditional Mexico City–style tacos, including suadero and al pastor, in a mod setting with pink walls, exposed brick, and Day of the Dead stencils. One of the best is the arrachera (skirt steak) taco, with its grilled nopales and potatoes, as well as the al pastor, whose slowly cooking pork sends irresistible aromas wafting from the trompo. But as an appetizer, we always get the Jose, named after Luis’s father. The elder Villalva’s favorite homemade snack, the taco features a base of creamy refried beans, a generous layer of crumbled queso fresco, and a slice of avocado (a squeeze of lime and a squirt of Valentina hot sauce make it the ultimate comfort food). The adventurous can branch out to tacos of sesos (calf brains) or chapulines (grasshoppers) and wash them down with a shot of mezcal. 2513 N. Fitzhugh Ave, 214-821-3738. Tue–Thur 11–10, Fri & Sat 11–midnight, Sun 11–9.


Potato and Chorizo, Flatlanders Taco Company
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.5
Price: $3.25
Once a gourmet truck and now housed in a renovated 1945 steam laundry, this mom-and-pop effort puts out killer tacos made with an eye to tradition. It’s worth eating through the entire menu, but the taco that really nails it is the fiery mix of Yukon gold potatoes stewed with Mexican chorizo and laced with crema. If you order to go, you can enjoy your tacos with a craft beer at the Oak St. Drafthouse & Cocktail Parlor across the way—just don’t forget to get one of Mimi’s Pralines for dessert. The recipe comes from co-owner Ashley Hall’s grandmother. 109 Oakland, Denton, 940-387-4999. Tue 11–9, Wed & Thur 11–10, Fri & Sat 11–11, Sun noon–8.


Surtida, La Salsa Verde Taqueria
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.75
Price: $1.15
Taquerias and gas stations are one of the great twofers of the modern world. Yet aside from a few famous ones (think Fuel City), most in Texas are unremarkable. La Salsa Verde, a quick-service counter inside a Chevron, is a standout. You’ll find cabeza al vapor (cow’s head steamed to succulence), lengua rebanada (earthy ribbons of sliced tongue), and cachete (beef cheek). But the best filling for your tiny corn tortilla is the surtida, a slurp-worthy, slightly gamy mix from all parts of the cow’s head. The crowning touch is a hit or two of the peanut-habanero salsa. 14225 Coit Rd, 972-330-0403. Sun–Thur 8:30–10:30, Fri & Sat 8:30–11:30.


Picadillo, Taco Stop
Type: Classic Mexican
Rating: 4.75
Price: $1.90
At this Design District walk-up taqueria, a delightful picadillo of stewed ground beef, potatoes, and carrots, dripping with vermilion-hued juices, is spooned onto tortillas fresh from a factory across the river. If you dare, ask for the peanut-and-chile-de-árbol salsa. 1900 W. Irving Blvd, 972-971-4859. Mon–Sat 7–3.

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