As anyone who lives in Dallas or Fort Worth knows, these two cities have distinctly different personalities. But they’re always lumped together, whether it be people referring to the area as DFW or—to the chagrin of some—calling the whole sprawl the Metroplex. But one thing the two cities really do have in common is a nearly infinite variety of tacos, from Monterreyan tacos de trompo and Mexico City-style tacos al pastor to hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex joints serving silken barbacoa and modern, upscale restaurants experimenting with traditional spit-roasted pork. No matter if you’re driving up 35E or 35W or exiting off of I-30 or I-20, taco options abound. So why all the taco tasting madness? Not that there really needs to be a reason to want to eat all the tacos, but Texas Monthly is beginning its research on finding the best tacos across the state, a list we’ll publish at the end of the year. Our quest to unearth the top contenders already took us on a taco tour of Austin, where we scouted out more than 100 taquerias, food trucks, highfalutin joints—well, basically any place were tortillas are slung and filled—and settled on 16 great options from the Capitol City. Now, we’ve trekked across the vast expanse that is DFW to bring you 15 great tacos from the area. This list is far from comprehensive, and as we continue our mission to find the best fillings stuffed in a folded tortilla, we ask that you share your recommendations (like we could stop you). We promise to get to them. In the meantime, here are some regional favorites.
Mexican cuisine is not some homogenous cuisine neatly bounded by corn. Rather it’s defined by its regions, and Morales Restaurant specializes in the cooking of the mountainous interstate Huasteca province, serving traditional dishes like zacahuil, a fragrant banana leaf-wrapped pork tamal that can feed a quinceñera. But the gem here is a plate of rojos de papas, small tacos of red tortillas (the color derived from the chiles used in the masa) wrapped around barely mashed potatoes concealed by a mound of shredded lettuces, queso fresco, and a couple of slices of tomato that are bordered by thin rounds of potatoes mixed with chorizo. The shareable dish is warm and light, yet jammed with all the fixings. The tortillas may not be freshly prepared, but they did not crack when pinched and they weren’t oily, not too shabby for a wrapper not made in-house.
612 Schooldell Dr., Dallas (214-331-4006). Open Mon-Sat 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
Taquerias advertising tacos de trompo line Davis Street in Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhood, but there’s something magnetic about Mi Tierrita. When the taqueria rolls its portable trompo bearing the slowly rotating top of pork onto the sidewalk outside the restaurant, it acts like a beacon emitting a siren song to the late-night revelers spilling out of the Tradewinds Social Club dive bar across the street. Identical to Mexico City’s tacos al pastor in almost every way, tacos de trompo hail from the northern city of Monterrey with meat that gets soaked in a paprika-based marinade, instead of the chile-achiote-citrus trifecta common to al pastor. Moreover, whereas tacos al pastor can trend subtle, tacos de trompo are bold, smoky, peppery and, when doused with chile de árbol salsa, are liable to make ears sweat. Here, they take the pork and mix it with carne asada on large flour tortilla topped with mozzarella (subbed for queso Oaxaca), fold it, griddle it and serve it in three sections, a creation called the campechana, a gloriously intimidating taco daring you to finish it in one sitting.
2838 W. Davis St., Dallas (214-333-2300). Open Mon–Thur 10 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri-Sat 10 a.m.–2 a.m., Sun 10 a.m.–12 a.m.
Los Torres Taqueria
One of the wonders of Dallas tacos in general and Oak Cliff tacos specifically is their variety. The Monterreyan options reflect the population south of the Trinity River, but there is more, including Los Torres, a family-run restaurant cooking up the meaty specialties of the Torres clan’s native Sinaloa state. Goat dominates here, but barbacoa options are well-represented too. There’s cabeza (beef cheek), although our favorite is barbacoa roja estilo Sinaloa. Unlike the one-meat preparations popular in Texas and parts of Mexico, barbacoa roja is a union of beef and pork slow cooked with a red chile-heavy seasoning. It’s an area rarity improved by Los Torres’s handmade tortillas. The default here is corn (which is fresh-made and great), but consider opting for flour instead. After all, it is the tortilla of choice in Sinaloa.
1233 Clarendon Dr., Dallas (214-946-3770). Open Mon 8 a.m.–9 p.m., Wed-Thur 8 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri-Sat 8 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun 8 a.m.–8 pm.
The Local Oak
We Texans take our crispy tacos seriously. No prefab, straight-off-the-wholesaler-shelf shells for us, thank you very much. Our hearts belong to the freshly fried tortilla baskets bearing throat-tickling spicy ground beef, snappy iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes and, of course, matchstick-thin, shredded orange cheese. That’s precisely what is offered at the Local Oak at the edge of Dallas’s Bishop Arts District — but only on Mexican Mondays. The pub in a refurbished twenties-era building is co-owned by Alycen Cuellar, a member of the extended Cuellar family, the Tex-Mex royalty of El Chico, La Calle Doce, and El Ranchito fame (they also own nearby El Corazon Vintage Tex-Mex). Wash down the Local Oak’s crispy tacos—you need at least two—with the day’s special of $3 cans of Mexican beer.
409 N. Zang Blvd., Dallas (214-946-4625). Open Mon 5 p.m.–10 p.m., Tue-Thur 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m–12 a.m., Sun 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
The idea of feasting on beef intestines can be off-putting. Perhaps it’s the texture or simply the knowledge of anatomy. But tripe is commonly found in Mexican dishes, and for good reason—when done right, it’s delicious. For those skittish about biting into offal, La Banqueta, an East Dallas institution relocated to a larger space with ample seating across the street from its original location—and just as awash in yellow—wants to help. They fry the innards until they’re as crispy as chicharrones (pork rinds) and have a similar salty flavor. The salsa verde blended with lettuce is a refreshing touch to the dish. For those who first want to put on exotic meat training wheels, start with the silky cabeza (beef cheek).
1305 N. Carroll Ave., Dallas (214-823-1260). Open Mon-Sat 9 a.m.–10 p.m.
El Come Taco
If the trompo is fired up at El Come Taco, get a few tacos al pastor. You’d be depriving yourself of East Dallas greatness otherwise. The same goes for the fish taco and taco de cabeza with the house toppings of cactus strips (nopalitos) and potatoes. But for classic comfort get the Taco de Jose, named for owner Luis Villalva’s father and the elder Villalva’s favorite taco. The combo of refried beans, queso fresco, and avocado is the stuff of a mid-afternoon—or midnight, on Fridays and Saturdays—snack. It is something so simple and delightful, it’s easy to forget the taqueria’s modern trappings, what with its attractive Day of the Dead sugar skull designs adjacent to an unfinished concrete wall, a dining room filled with varnished wood tables bearing a burned-in brand, and the overkill pastel palette. Also noteworthy are the chapulines (roasted grasshoppers) and escamoles (ant larvae), Mexican delicacies that, while not always available, make for excellent tacos when boosted with a shot of guacamole and Valentina hot sauce.
2513 N. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas (214-821-3738). Open Tue-Thur 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m.–2 a.m., Sun 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
While Urban Taco’s taco al pastor alone is worth the trip to the chain’s Uptown flagship, it’s the a la Tuma upgrade that will inspire a return visit. The contemporary taqueria’s homage to the costra—a Mexico City post-nightclub street taco—is named after owner Markus Pineyro’s business partner, John Tuma. The restaurant’s specialty is an innovative assemblage of cheese fried to the outside of fresh yellow corn tortilla, with slivered jalapeño wheels secretly sandwiched between the cheese and shell. The taco is then filled with crimson, adobo-seasoned pork, and topped with a shaving of pineapple and a warm wedge of avocado. The few bites it takes to devour the costra are punctuated by the biting back of the hidden chiles.
3411 McKinney Ave., Dallas (214-922-7080). Open Sun-Thur 11 a.m.–10 p.m.,
Fri-Sat 11 a.m.– 11 p.m.
In 2008, Leonardo Spencer opened the first of three El Tizoncitos in an old Starbucks in Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhood, offering guests a fine example of eats from the owner’s hometown, Mexico City. Lightly seasoned al pastor from a trompo reclined on fresh yellow corn tortilla. Adherence to tradition means the exile of chips and salsa. Here, meals begin with a complimentary ramekin of epazote-scented black beans. Whichever El Tizoncito outpost you visit—we recommend the flagship Cedar Springs location—between the beans and al pastor order the choriqueso appetizer, a flour tortilla trio under a soul-mate coupling of salty and vermillion-staining cheese and chorizo. Ooey and gooey never tasted so dang good.
5150 Lemmon Ave., Ste. 111, Dallas (214-521-0201). Open Sun-Thur 10 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri-Sat 10 a.m.–1 a.m.
La Nueva Fresh & Hot
A universal truth in Texas is that the most important taco of the day is the breakfast taco. In Mexico City those tacos are sometimes called tacos de guisados. These are filled with a sprawling variety of slow-cooked stews or stir fries or an assortment of homey dishes, ranging from scrambled eggs in a salsa roja to vegetable fritters. A favorite is the rajas con queso, a bramble of smoky poblano chile strips and creamy queso blanco folded into tortillas fresh off La Nueva Fresh & Hot Tortilleria’s creaky tortilla machine. As the name suggests, La Nueva isn’t a restaurant. Get your tacos at the counter and head out to your car for a trunk picnic.
9625 Webb Chapel Rd., Dallas (214-358-7261). Open Sun 7 a.m.–6 p.m., Mon-Sat 7 a.m.–8 p.m.
You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but Aguilera’s Café is a Fort Worth landmark. The restaurant, which lacks any exterior signage, has been going strong for 56 years inside a house on the city’s Northside. Santos Aguilera, whose father opened the establishment, does all the cooking—even making his own chorizo. The small menu (about four items) includes two breakfast tacos. The bacon and egg on flour is commendable, but it’s the carne guisada—a light stew of tomatoes, potatoes and cubes of beef—that wows. When my dining companions and I ordered a few, the waiter (Santos’ son) told us there would be a wait. Santos was finishing a second batch, he said. Less than five minutes later, three carne guisada tacos put were in front of our group. And then there was silence. We hope Santos has years of carne guisada ahead of him because when the elderly gentleman passes, so will his restaurant. Santos’s family can’t afford the renovations necessary to bring the building up to code after the grandfather clause expires.
2005 N. Grove St, Fort Worth (817-624-0189). Open Mon-Fri 6:30 a.m.–10 a.m., Sat 6:30 a.m.–11 a.m.
Chile Pepper Grill
After a night of drinking in the West 7th Street mixed-use development (home to the likes of Waters, John Bonnell’s seafood joint, and Kin Kin Urban Thai Restaurant), a rectangle of straight-forward beefy cow’s tongue tucked inside a small corn tortilla crisped up a bit on a flattop griddle sounds so right to us, especially when capped with a salsa de chile árbol so hot it will expunge your hangover before onset. The usual location opens at 8 p.m., but Chile Pepper’s trailer often serves Tuesday lunch on the SMU campus in Dallas. When they participate in food festivals, watch out: they ditch the rig in favor of a canopy and catering set-up that includes a convex comal pan in which suadero, a Mexico City brisket favorite, is fried in lard.
2801 Crockett St., Fort Worth (817-908-9493). Open Wed-Fri 8 p.m.–2 a.m.
Taco Heads, a wood and corrugated metal trailer behind Poag Mahone’s Irish Pub off West 7th Street in Fort Worth, is known for their late-night breakfast tacos (they’re only served after 10 p.m), but the brisket taco, topped with slaw and a long, warm slice of avocado (the temperature matters!), is always available. The beefy, slightly oily, non-BBQ preparation is served in small, street taco-style tortillas. Go early if you’d prefer to not deal with the rowdy bar crowds, but don’t be surprised if Taco Heads isn’t opened yet. Food trucks and trailers aren’t known for their punctuality. Also, don’t repeat our past mistake and order from the pick-up window lacking signage. Follow the wood ramp to Poag’s patio.
700 Carroll St., Fort Worth (no phone number). Open Wed-Sat 7 p.m.-2 a.m.
Within walking distance of Revolver Taco Lounge, Taco Heads, Chile Pepper and the Fort Worth Food Truck location of Holy Frijole is the Velvet Taco, a Dallas import. The menu here is a bit of an aberration; they serve absolutely-not-traditional tacos surrounded by Mexican hits. I’ve worked my way through the menu a few times at the original spot, and my favorite at both DFW outlets (there’s a third in Chicago and one slated for Houston) is the fried paneer, a take on fried South Indian-style cottage cheese with a host of components that give the grub oscillating cool-and-peppy turns.
2700 W. 7th St., Fort Worth (817-887-9810). Open Mon-Wed 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Thur 11 a.m.–1 a.m., Fri 11 a.m.–3 a.m., Sat 9 a.m.–3 a.m., Sun 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
A beautiful thing happens when classic grub meets classical technique, and that beautiful thing is on full display at Holy Frijole, a taco truck that’s ratcheting up the city’s standards of Mexican street food. Quesadillas play it straight with topping options like squash blossoms and huitlacoche (corn fungus). The chopped duck tacos with bits of crunchy skin and plump mushrooms are complemented by the even-keeled habanero salsa. The saucy chicharron prensado, a guisado taco of fried pork rinds given a chipotle bath, are messy and spicy and are delightful, even if the addition of rice to rein in some of the liquid would lighten the used-napkin aftermath.
2509 Weisenberger St., Fort Worth (817-902-5273). Open Sun-Sat 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Revolver Taco Lounge
It’s difficult to select a favorite taco at Revolver Taco Lounge. The duck, a medium-rare slice of breast with a band of fat that is augmented with sautéed onion and a slice of roasted poblano alongside deep tomatillo-chile de árbol salsa is stunning. But if we had to pick just one, it would be the huitlacoche, packed with funky, nutty corn fungus and a sprinkling of queso fresco. It is a delicacy worth seeking out, whatever the price point—in this case that is $15. It’s because the stuff is so fresh (the Rojas use fresh or they don’t use it at all). But it’s witnessing the camaraderie of family that makes Revolver so welcoming. In the kitchen, owner Regino “Gino” Rojas’s Mexican-smock-wearing mother, Juanita, does the cooking. Her sister, Teresa, dressed in the same traditional manner, is dedicated to the delicate tortillas, which aren’t attended to until ordering and are so new to the world when they reach the table they’ll burn your fingers. El Gorupo, the mustached Rojas patriarch and a gun engraver since childhood, is the dishwasher, and don’t be surprised if Gino is your waiter.
2822 W. 7th St., Fort Worth (817-820-0122). Open Tue-Sat 5 p.m.–10 p.m.