Texas’s largest and most diverse city offers tacos from all over the place. We’re not just talking different parts of Mexico; we mean tacos influenced by the cuisines of immigrants from other nations or Americans from other parts of the U.S. who have made Houston home. They range from Cajuns from the Acadiana region of Louisiana to South Asians from India and Pakistan. We can’t forget the Mexican immigrants who continue to settle in Houston or the booming barbecue taco scene in the Bayou City, either.
Brothers Taco House
Get to this East Downtown cafeteria-style breakfast taco spot early, lest you care to wait in line. Good thing is, Brothers Taco House is worth the wait, especially for its tingly chorizo and eggs and its barbacoa. 1604 Emancipation Avenue, 713-223-0091.
EaDeaux’s Cajun Cocina
At their EaDeaux’s Cajun Cocina food truck (see “Cajun-Mex” in the Tacopedia), which is stationed at their East Downtown car wash business, Jason and Starr Harry mix their Cajun and Southwestern backgrounds with Tex-Mex. Go for the gumbo and boudin tacos but stay for the etouffée nachos. Get the car detailed while you’re at it. eadeauxs.com, 2919 Leeland, 713-818-6897
Eddie O’s Texas Barbecue
One of the Tejano-style barbecue pop-ups that have marked Houston as a capital of Mexican American smoked-meat purveyors, Eddie O’s peddles in straight-up brisket and meat combos as well as tacos, flautas, empanadas, tortas, and the special that’s closest to our hearts, El Corazon. This costra taco (see “Costra” in the Tacopedia) dispenses with the tortilla altogether; instead, a shell of griddled cheese bears the smoky, peppery weight of thick-cut brisket, with a fat slice of pickled carrot to cut through the other prominent flavors. eddieosbbq.wixsite.com/eddieosbbq, 713-659-9961.
This old-school barbacoa joint has been drawing lines for its beef head meat since 1977. Available by the pound and in tacos, the fatty, glistening barbacoa is plated in equally glistening tortillas. Cilantro and onions are available, as is a conflagration of a salsa verde. 609 Patton, 713-699-0820.
To visit Hugo’s in the Montrose neighborhood is to experience the perfect blend of hospitality and food. The 18-year-old restaurant from chef Hugo Ortega and Tracey Vaught offers classic Mexican dishes with touches of playfulness. Chief among them are the tacos dorados de papa, a traditional Mexican fried taco of mashed potatoes in a rolled or folded tortilla. At Hugo’s, the idea of the taco is turned inside out. Here, the tortilla is made with fried potato. The shell is packed with napa cabbage, pickled jalapeño, and pickled onions. There’s crunch, heat, and punch in whimsical form, and it’s available only via the bar menu. hugosrestaurant.net, 1600 Westheimer Road, 713-524-7744.
JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ
Of all the so-called Tex-Mex barbecue operations, this one helmed by pitmaster Joseph Quellar is perhaps the most vocal about leaning hard into Texican gastronomy. Through regular pop-ups at 4J Brewing Company and local markets, JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ has found success with plancha-crisped tacos dorados brimming with brisket and beef birria that’s stewed from smoked brisket and oxtail. The latter features a deep richness singular to Quellar’s cooking. JQ’s popularity has led to the development of a trailer and a weekly pop-up at the Politan Row food hall, while Quellar himself has been traveling the country doling out barbecue tacos in places as far away as Connecticut. jqstexmexbbq.com, 832-859-3375.
This truck’s costra, El Primo (the cousin), inspired the aforementioned El Corazon at Eddie O’s. La Esquina’s original is intimidatingly large and comes filled with the protein of your choice. Also good here are the breakfast tacos. The standout comes filled with springy scrambled eggs and cubed potatoes with fluffy interiors. 418 Hunt, Monday–Friday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This north-side truck specializes in the northern Mexico style of tacos al pastor known as tacos de trompo, named for the vertical spit upon which the meat rotates (see “Trompo” in the Tacopedia). The signature meat goes into the taco, burgers, and quesadillas made with flair, including the cheesy, trompo-stuffed Naan-Quesa-Nia. The popular menu item replaces a flour tortilla with chewy, crisped naan bread and is named after a regular customer. Although La Macro has a regular spot, it’s on the move often. vivalamacro.com, 3903 Fulton, 832-618-4611.
La Vibra Tacos
This homage to Mexico City’s sit-down taquerias and innovative late-night costras comes with all the expected components: a trompo, house-made tortillas, a top-notch array of salsas, delicate rolls of a griddled Oaxaca-Gouda cheese blend in which are tucked a selection of fillings. Our favorite order at La Vibra Tacos is the vegetarian rajas con queso with spoonfuls of tart tamarind salsa plopped atop the assemblage. Make sure to go traditional and grab an order of iconic tacos al pastor. lavibratacos.com, 506 Yale, Suite A.
The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
After nearly fifty years, the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation continues to serve stellar tacos al carbon, long stacks of sliced smoky, charred beef fajitas tucked into sturdy but pliable flour tortillas. Give the rotating taco specials a try. It’s the part of the menu where executive chef Alex Padilla channels his creativity. ninfas.com, 2704 Navigation Boulevard, 713-228-1175.
The Pit Room
This Telephone Road taco spot doubles as a Mexico-bound bus service stop. So it’s best to find on-street or walkable parking to prevent being blocked in by an idling bus. Choose and point to the fillings for your tacos de guisados in the steam trays behind glass, as long as one is the chilaquiles. The saucy preparation of tortilla strips enmeshed in eggs is sweet and slightly spicy—it’s a joyful dish. The taco and Taqueria Monchys are that great. taqueriamonchys.com, 719 Telephone Road, 713-926-2900.
Tarascos Ice Cream
While waffle-cone shell ice cream tacos dominate the dessert taco scene (see “Dessert” in the Tacopedia), Tarascos is here to remind everyone that every taco, even one meant for those with a sweet tooth, requires a tortilla. At this Mexican scoop shop, that means a sugar-dusted tamarind tortilla nesting mixed fruit and Japanese peanuts—invented by a Japanese immigrant to Mexico in the mid-twentieth century. It’s finished with a dusting of Tajín seasoning and a drizzle of chamoy syrup. This fruit taco, as it’s called at Tarascos Ice Cream, offers the best of Mexican desserts, balancing sweet, savory, and spicy; it will leave you refreshed. tarascosicecream.com, 13932 Westheimer Road, 281-584-9696.
Umair Alem’s Twisted Turban is part of a second wave of Indo-Mex taco (see “Asian-Mex” in the Tacopedia) developing out of Houston. The first wave crested a little more than a decade ago. As it did initially, this blending of South Asian and Mexican cuisine often manifests with a chewy paratha flatbread in place of a flour tortilla, which is the case at Twisted Turban. Especially good are the namesake Turban taco, shredded beef dressed with a bramble of cabbage and squiggles of acidic mango salsa and candy-like “secret” Turban sauce. Also noteworthy is the caulitaco with cottage cheese–like paneer, peppers, and smooth raita and piquant tamarind chutney. 2838 S. Texas Highway 6, Suite B, 281-372-8194.
Xochi, which opened in 2017, offers chef Hugo Ortega’s fine-dining expression of his upbringing in Oaxaca. The downtown restaurant adjacent to the Houston Convention Center serves infladitas de conejo, the puffed tortilla a murky black from the squid ink–infused masa. The pork ribs served in a mole made with Oaxacan flying chicatana ants offer tender meat in a well-balanced sauce and accompanying fragrant nixtamal tortillas, for customizable tacos. Ask for extra tortillas, whatever color they are (it depends what is in stock), to sop up leftover mole in the serving bowl. xochihouston.com, 1777 Walker, Suite A, 713-400-3330.