Although the Dallas–Fort Worth metro area is recognized nationally for its diverse cuisine, its reputation as a taco destination isn’t what it should be. Give the area’s tacos a shot, and you’ll taste why North Texas has one of the most exciting taco scenes in the state.
Bad Spanish Tacos
This Tarrant County-based taco pop-up is a favorite of local breweries and is full of surprises. Bad Spanish Tacos’ ever-changing menu includes treats such as hibiscus-infused corn tortillas and plenty of vegetarian items. badspanishtacos.com, 682-401-9629.
Birrieria y Taqueria Cortez
Show up at least an hour early or expect to wait for a long time at Birreria y Taqueria Cortez, which features Fort Worth’s most popular cheesy, red-hued birria de res. 2220 E. Rosedale, Fort Worth, 817-600-0127.
Del Sur Tacos
After four years operating out of a McKinney gas station, the owners of Del Sur Tacos opened a second location in 2019, on the far east end of Oak Cliff’s Jefferson Boulevard, and gained quick acclaim for their nixtamalized corn tortilla–based tacos. They are available in traditional styles, signature preparations, and specials. One special turned into a permanent menu item: the chile relleno taco (see “Guisados” in the Tacopedia). It’s a bit of a chameleon. The first time I tried it, the taco was filled with a poblano stuffed with milky queso Oaxaca that’s just on this side of melting. At other times, it’s been filled with a thin, rectangular block of panela cheese sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and finished with a thin lace of white Mexican crema, evoking chile en nogada. delsurtacos.com, 720 E. Jefferson Boulevard, Dallas, 972-982-0004.
What does a Japanese-trained Korean chef in Texas do when given the opportunity to prepare omakase (a Japanese chef-driven tasting menu)? Insist on making tacos, of course (see “Asian-Mex” in the Tacopedia). Keunsik Lee, chef of the Irving restaurant, does them with sea urchin uni, vegetables, and eel, available in the omakase and via a separate menu. edokolascolinas.com, 1030 W. John Carpenter Freeway, Suite 100, Irving, 972-600-8626.
El Come Taco
Few places that advertise themselves as selling Mexico City–style tacos actually sell Mexico City–style tacos. Few tacos originated there. But El Come Taco is the real deal (see “Pork-Beef-Chicken” in the Tacopedia). It’s got the capital city’s iconic tacos al pastor; it’s got suadero (braised brisket that’s finished on a griddle for dueling textures of a charred exterior and tender interior); it’s got cabeza (head meat); and it’s got tacos campechanos. The latter is a mixture of beef and longaniza (aged chorizo). Standing apart from these options is a classic: the Jose taco. The velvety refried-bean base supports an avocado wedge and a sprinkling of queso fresco. It’s simple and stunning. elcometaco.com, 2513 N. Fitzhugh Avenue, Dallas, 214-821-3738.
El Palote Panaderia
This vegan Mexican bakery and taqueria in Dallas’s Pleasant Grove neighborhood is out of the way for most people—the GPS once had us take a dirt road to get there—but vegans, vegetarians, and those hankering for a different take on typical tacos make the trek. They are rewarded with El Palote’s soy protein–flavored carnitas, al pastor, and barbacoa, and other taqueria staples that approximate the genuine article in taste and texture—you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for pork braised in lard, marinated spit-roasted pork, or steamed beef cheek, respectively. You’ll love every bite too. el-palote-panaderia.business.site, 2537 S. Buckner Boulevard, Dallas, 972-807-2673, Thursday–Monday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Mexico City native Leonardo Spencer opened his first El Tizoncito (named for the charcoal used in trompos) in an old Starbucks connected to a bank. The original location retained the drive-through window, which has taken orders from equestrians. But walk in the front door and the first thing you’ll see is the massive trompo in the open kitchen. Before you order tacos al pastor, served on small corn tortillas (see “Mini” in the Tacopedia), you’ll be greeted with a bowl of black beans seasoned with aromatic Mexican herbs such as epazote. Put in your order while you allow the beans to cool. But make sure to begin the meal with the appetizer of choriqueso, flour tortillas topped with a vermillion and white mixture of chorizo and cheese. It’s heavenly. Also wonderful is the chuleta con queso taco, a Mexico City favorite of chopped pork chop smothered in melted white cheese. There is no need to ask for garnishes on the side. They are presented in small ramekins, including diced pineapple, mild green and red salsas, and the expected cilantro and onions. tiztaco.com, 3404 W. Illinois Avenue, Dallas (multiple locations), 214-330-0839.
This decades-old Oak Cliff Tex-Mex institution is renowned for its crunchy taco and its fluffy thick flour tortilla breakfast tacos found in the “burrito” section. So expect to wait. Gonzalez Restaurant’s crunchy taco is fried to order and filled with lightly seasoned ground beef topped with the Tex-Mex trinity of lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Everything is fresh, crisp, and warm. gonzalezrestaurant.com, 367 W. Jefferson Boulevard, Dallas, 214-946-5333.
The best thing about this tony Park Cities restaurant is its executive chef, Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman. When she took over the José kitchen in December 2018, she revamped the menu, changing it seasonally, and introduced the creative Tacos de Tacha (Tacha was her childhood nickname). The rotating specials, which might last a few days to a week, use extra ingredients, new ingredients, and flavored tortillas. These tacos, which might include carrot-infused corn tortillas, octopus with bone marrow, or habanero ash aioli, keep us going back to José. jose.mx, 4931 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas, 214-891-5673.
This convenience store taqueria lures taco lovers looking for classics such as chorizo, al pastor, and carne asada. However, Mariachi’s Dine-In has a mirror taco menu, one where the fillings are replicated with meat substitutes (see “Vegetarian/Vegan” in the Tacopedia). Our favorite eschews faux animal protein for a banana blossom, which stands in for fish in the Baja-style taco. The battered and fried filling is golden brown and has a good crunch. It’s not flaky, like fish, but it’s got a pleasant heft and a bit of zip from the chipotle mayo. mariachisdinein.com, 301 S. Sylvania Avenue, Fort Worth, 682-760-9606.
Mas Coffee Co.
Tuesday through Friday mornings, Zavala’s Barbecue transforms into the coffee and breakfast taco shop Mas Coffee Co., where Americanos and cold brew are beautifully matched with brisket and eggs, smoked turkey and eggs with a light gravy, and a morning variation of the Sloppy Juan taco. mascoffeeco.com, 421 W. Main, Grand Prairie, 214-702-8169.
Maskaras Mexican Grill
Co-owner Rodolfo Jimenez walked away from a lucrative career in Spanish-language television and moved from Los Angeles to Dallas to open Maskaras Mexican Grill in 2016. The restaurant, a large space that is appointed with about 10 percent of Jimenez’s thousand-item collection of lucha libre (masked Mexican wrestling) items, dishes out a wonderful menu starring food from the owner’s native Jalisco and its capital, Guadalajara. There are carnitas-filled tortas ahogadas as well as tacos ahogados (sometimes served in tortillas resembling the Mexican flag), and there are tacos de camarón estilo San Juan de los Lagos (see “Seafood” and “Dorados” in the Tacopedia). The latter is a fried taco of ground shrimp finished with a lacy salsa roja and named for a city in the Jalisco highlands. There is greatness is the quesabirria tacos (see “Birria” in the Tacopedia), milky melted white cheese wrapping thin strands of stewed beef in red-stained tortillas crisped on the flattop. Maskaras is a taco pilgrimage site. facebook.com/maskarasmexicangrill, 2423 W. Kiest Boulevard, Dallas, 469-466-9282.
The weekends-only vegan pop-up (see “Vegetarian/Vegan” in the Tacopedia) is led by a schoolteacher. So we need to give Rellenas a lot of respect for persevering through the pandemic and doing so while selling out for Saturday orders, especially the well-seasoned, crispy jackfruit birria. rellenascuisine.ecwid.com
Owner-chef Andrew Savoie has a prestigious résumé that includes a stint at Jean-Georges in New York City, but after marrying a Dallasite, he relocated to North Texas. Eventually, he opened Resident Taqueria in his Lake Highlands neighborhood (hence the name) with a focus on chef-driven tacos rife with vegetables (see “Chef-Driven” in the Tacopedia). The most popular by far is the roasted cauliflower with ribbons of kale, a sprinkle of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and a creamy lime-epazote salsa on a fresh flour tortilla. There are fresh corn tortillas available too. residenttaqueria.com, 9661 Audelia Road, Suite 112, Dallas, 972-685-5280.
Revolver Taco Lounge/La Resistencia
Although its name is inspired by the owner’s family’s history as gunsmiths, Revolver Taco Lounge also evokes a relaxed (but fighting) spirit. The tacos balance tradition and contemporary experimentation with high-quality ingredients and fresh tortillas (see “Birria,” “Modernist Mexican,” and “Seafood” in the Tacopedia). It recently opened an additional concept in the space, the reservations-only La Resistencia, which plays with the intersection of Mexican and Japanese cuisines (see “Asian-Mex” in the Tacopedia). revolvertacolounge.com, 2701 Main, Suite 120, Dallas, 214-272-7163.
Blending family roots that reach deep into Oaxaca, Mexico City, and the Rio Grande Valley, Salsa Limón co-owners and siblings Ramiro and Rosalie Ramirez do things a little differently. The standout taco, the El Capitán, is a manifestation of that mix: a melted weave of Oaxaca and Jack cheese paired with carne asada and topped with pickled cabbage, onion, and cilantro (see “Pork-Beef-Chicken” in the Tacopedia). salsalimon.com, 550 Throckmorton, Fort Worth (multiple locations), 817-615-9760.
Arlington is full of little taquerias slinging staple pork-beef-chicken tacos. Perhaps none is better than Taco Pionero. Opt for the slick but not greasy barbacoa on house-made tortillas. tacopionero.com, 1121 W. Arkansas Lane, Suite A, Arlington, 682-252-7715.
Taco y Vino
In the world of pairing alcoholic beverages with food, wine and tacos might not be the first match that comes to mind. However, it’s one you shouldn’t pass over, especially at Taco y Vino, owned by Rio Grande Valley native Jimmy Contreras. It’s in the name! The blackened Baja-style catfish is a customer favorite (see “Seafood” in the Tacopedia), as is the double-decker taco, a Sonoran-style flour tortilla wrapped around a freshly fried hard-shell taco. It’s pure Americanized Mexican comfort food. Wash it down with a rosé. tacoyvinodallas, 213 W. Eighth, Dallas, 469-372-0022.
Fort Worth is dotted with old-school taco trucks, the kind that serve long into the night in gas-station and supermarket parking lots, on empty parcels of land next to auto shops, or wherever there’s space to park. The king of the bunch just might be Adrec’s, a tacos al pastor rig with a spot-on carne asada taco too. 401–403 N. Sylvania Avenue, Fort Worth, 682-203-5889.
Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhood is home to a significant portion of immigrants from the northern Mexican city of Monterrey. With them comes a bounty of restaurants specializing in their food. Just look for representations of the Cerro de la Silla mountain or trompos, the vertical rotating spits that are emblematic of the northern regional variation of tacos al pastor, tacos de trompo (see “Trompo” in the Tacopedia). One neighborhood taqueria makes its provenance and specialty plain and clear. Trompo started as a cash-only underground taco spot—photos were allowed as long as images didn’t include clues to the location. Years later, it moved to a to-go spot in West Dallas. It’s currently housed in a small strip shopping center in the Bishop Arts District. The tacos de trompo, using small, handmade corn tortillas, are packed with flavor from the paprika-heavy marinade and finished with chopped raw white onions and cilantro. A creamy salsa verde and a smoky salsa de chile de árbol are served on the side. The latter can be so hot your eyebrows will tingle. But if you want palate-scalding spicy, request the secret habanero. Before you go for the off-the-menu salsa, ask for a campechano, a mix of bistec and trompo in melted mozzarella on a griddled flour tortilla from local Sonoran-style tortilla master La Norteña. oakclifftrompo.com, 407 W. Tenth, Suite 140, Dallas, 972-809-7950.
A pioneer of the modernist Mexican concept in Dallas, Urban Taco opened in Mockingbird Station in 2007. Since the beginning, it’s offered traditional tacos on hand-pressed tortillas as well as inventive turns, the most iconic of which is the taco al pastor a la Tuma, featuring griddled aged Spanish manchego seared to a corn tortilla (see “Costra” in the Tacopedia). Between the layers are two jalapeño slices, making for fiery bites. The heat is amped up with pork al pastor sliced from a trompo and bathed in a salsa habanera before it’s nestled in the tortilla. The taco is finished with sliced pineapple and an avocado wedge. urban-taco.com, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Suite 105, Dallas, 214-823-4723.
Vaqueros Texas Bar-B-Q
Multigenerational pitmaster Arnulfo “Trey” Sanchez III doesn’t see Tex-Mex barbecue as a novel movement of Chicano smoked-meats enthusiasts. It’s how he grew up, and it’s how he smokes at his Vaqueros Texas Bar-B-Q set-up at Hop & Sting Brewing Company. Yes, there is fantastic brisket, sausage, and ribs. However, the Sunday-only smoked cabeza wrapped in traditional maguey pencas (agave leaves) are as close to standard South Texas in-ground pit-cooked barbacoa as you can get. vaquerostexasbarbq.com, 906 Jean, Grapevine, 214-532-4244.