This story is a part of Texas Monthly‘s Taco Week, a series dedicated to proving Texas is center of the taco universe.

It’s easy to skip over the sides at a taqueria or Mexican restaurant and just focus on eating as many tacos as possible. But such negligence can leave you not fully experiencing a place. The range of side dishes and their variations can be daunting. There are traditional options, such as elotes, but there are also inventive choices, such as assorted takes on the humble potato. Below, I break down and rank ten commonly found sides from worst to best.

10. Corn Ribs

Although Austin restaurant Hai Hai Ramen may have been serving corn ribs since 2016, it wasn’t until 2021 that a TikTok video turned them into a viral sensation. The seasoned corncob slivers have been served at Nixta Taqueria in Austin and Stixs & Stone in San Antonio. Whether plated in fetching curls or stacked like yellow Lincoln Logs, they’re a finger-food nightmare. The innermost part of an ear of corn is not appetizing, and neither is the dish known as corn ribs.

9. Guacamole

Avocados are expensive. Plus, they have a short shelf life that requires a sixth sense to determine optimal ripeness, and their most common application, guacamole, is easily botched. It’s even worse when a taqueria or restaurant showcases table-side guacamole as Mexican culinary theater, and you watch as the prized fruit becomes a paste infested with unnecessary ingredients. Let’s get something straight: mashed avocados are great, but only when treated with respect, which means minimal adulteration. No peas. No plastic-tasting tomatoes. No garlic powder. And don’t place guacamole on a bed of wilted, browning lettuce. Salt, lime, maybe chiles, and it’s perfect, which is how it’s prepared at José in Dallas.

8. Rice and Beans

Rice and beans are an omnipresent duo in Mexican food, so they are often taken for granted on taco plates or Tex-Mex combo platters. The rice is often stale or gummy. The beans, usually served refried with a sprinkle of queso fresco or melted cheddar, quickly cool from a semisolid state to a hardened disc better used as a projectile weapon or for disc golf. One exception is the rice and beans at Hugo’s in Houston, where simplicity defines the standard.

7. Tortilla Soup

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t the tortilla soup served at most taquerias and restaurants just bouillon cube–seasoned water with commodity tortillas sliced into strips? Y’all let me know when you find a decent one.

6. Fideo Loco

Fideo, vermicelli served in a tomato-y broth, is a pillar of Mexican comfort food. But leave it to San Antonians and South Texans to soup up (pun intended) the nostalgic and cold-weather dish with beans, picadillo, potatoes, and whatever the cook wants to throw in (which is welcome, unlike in guacamole). Fideo loco, as it’s known, is so popular in the Alamo City that it has its own festival. The event, which includes a cook-off, is held annually in November. Con Huevos Tacos in San Antonio serves bowls of the warming concoction year-round.

5. Potatoes

Northern Mexico and South Texas are home to myriad outrageous dishes, including foot-high, candy-garnished raspas and concha burgers. Perhaps most intimidating and wonderful are papas asadas: baked potatoes split open and stuffed with butter, sour cream, bacon, chiles, and a protein of choice, usually a common taco filling like trompo or barbacoa. There are alternative potato sides to enjoy as well, including baked sweet potatoes sliced into strips and blanketed with salsa macha, as offered at Taconeta in El Paso; waffle-cut fries dressed in a mellow, smoke-licked morita aioli and queso cotija at Cochinita & Co. in Houston; and mole-smothered french fries finished with crema and queso cotija at Milagro Tacos Cantina in Dallas.

4. Elotes

There is arguably no more popular side than elotes, ears of corn served slathered with mayonnaise, butter, chile powder, and a dousing of queso fresco or parmesan (a common substitute for queso cotija). The version served in a cup is technically called esquites. But neither should be called street corn, a denigrating term with unsanitary connotations. Regardless, these dishes are staples of street-side stands, taquerias, taco trucks, and Mexican restaurants across Texas, and they’re sometimes served with different toppings. Elotes or esquites (they’re now interchangeably used stateside) can be served with sal de pulque (a salt made of a fermented Mexican drink), epazote (an herb), honey, and more. The Los Danzantes truck in Austin serves elotes with bricks of rich bone marrow, a regional specialty of Aguascalientes, Mexico, called chascas.

3. Chicharrónes

Fried pork skin is a thing of beauty. A network of pockmarks allows the skin to puff when dunked in hot oil or melted lard. Chicharrónes, as the dish is called in Spanish, are best served fresh, when the twists and triangular cuts are still popping from their bath. Keep your chips—I’ll take chicharrón from El Rincón del Maíz in Garland or Elemi in El Paso.

2. Frijoles Charros

Pinto beans swimming in a cup of their own liquid and seasoned with bacon, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes is a classic starter in South Texas taquerias and Mexican restaurants. Unfortunately, charro beans are often served in large portions and are filling. Enjoy a couple of spoonfuls to wake your appetite. Then save the rest as a proper side. Bonus points for the inclusion of sliced weenies and cheese, as done at the Miguelonches truck in San Antonio.

1. Extra Tortillas

When it comes to Mexican food, nothing beats tortillas. Corn or flour, it does not matter, as long as they are just as good as the ones from Don Artemio in Dallas and El Conquistador in Waco. Just add a touch of salt or butter, maybe a spoon of salsa. Or reserve the tortillas for salvaging bits of fallen filling. It’s like getting an unexpected bonus taco.