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This story was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated.
The River City is the cradle of Tex-Mex, and its tacos reflect that fact. First and foremost, there are the city’s breakfast tacos. Or as San Antonians call them, tacos. There are also puffy tacos—the taco’s full name is the San Antonio–style puffy taco. The minor league San Antonio Missions baseball team even has a puffy taco mascot. Tacos are everywhere, including delectable barbacoa tacos. So beloved is the dish that there is an annual Barbacoa & Big Red Festival.
Even though tacos de guisados are rising in popularity around the state, Camelia’s guisados stand out. The restaurant is easy to find—it’s just around the corner from breakfast taco stalwart the Original Donut Shop. Camelia’s, too, has typical breakfast taco options such as bacon and eggs, but as the taqueria’s employees will tell you, the guisados are what you should order. Winners include the slightly spicy rajas con crema; velvety, bright mole verde with juicy chicken; and tart cochinita pibil. If you don’t specify the type of tortilla you want, the cooks will defer to the San Antonio preference of flour tortillas, pleasantly chewy and spotted from the griddle. Although we’re not going to scoff at your choice, guisados really do belong in corn tortillas. instagram.com/camelias_taqueria, 104 Babcock Road, 210-947-3388.
Carnitas Don Raúl
Before being featured on Netflix’s Taco Chronicles, longtime carnitas purveyor Carnitas Don Raúl, of Morelia, Mexico, was already planning a San Antonio outpost. Martin Muñoz and Michelle Muñoz, the daughter of Don Raúl, decided to start small with a trailer. They have replicated the flavors and cozy experience of the Mexican original in the state famous for the namesake food (see “Carnitas” in the Tacopedia): Michoacán. Peek inside in the trailer at the Broadway News food truck park and get a glimpse of the wide copper cazos (the traditional pots used to cook carnitas) made by hand and imported from the Mexican town renowned for them, Santa Clara del Cobre, also in Michoacán. Cobre is Spanish for copper. There are several cuts of pork carnitas available on the menu as well as several preparations in which to enjoy them. We’re fans of the surtida, which offers a mix of all the cuts and their textures, as a taco or a quesadilla Moreliana. carnitasdonraul.com, 2202 Broadway, 210-427-3202.
The original San Antonio carnitas specialist, Carnitas Lonja was opened in 2017 by chef Alejandro Paredes, a native of Morelia, Mexico. I first ate at the South Side spot in spring 2018. The plate of silky pork carnitas (see “Carnitas” in the Tacopedia) with a side of wide, thick handmade tortillas, hiccup-inducing salsas, guacamole (also spicy), pickled chiles, and more was my best meal of the year. Carnitas Lonja is among the best taquerias in the state, even garnering the chef-owner a James Beard Award semifinalist nod this year. Salsas and tortillas are available for retail. carnitaslonja.com, 1107 Roosevelt Avenue, 210-455-2105.
Casa Tarasca Carnitas Estilo Michoacán
Owner José Luis Chavez opened the Acapulco barbershop on the deep West Side twenty years ago. In April 2017, as a way to sate his culinary nostalgia and bring a taste of home to fellow immigrants from Michoacán, Mexico, he opened Casa Tarasca Carnitas Estilo Michoacán to serve traditional carnitas. He did so from a shoddy-looking trailer adjacent to the barbershop. His luscious, weekends-only, lard-confit pork tacos have been such a hit that in summer 2021 he was able to open a modern trailer to replace his original setup on the same property. While he’s busy serving from the shiny new rig, Chavez is also renovating the building behind the truck to house a brick-and-mortar Casa Tarasca. instagram.com/casa_tarasca, 1805 Guadalupe, 210-810-9869.
Con Huevos Tacos
Breakfast tacos are more than just food in San Antonio; they are critical to the identity and culture of the city. So much so that any time someone speaks ill of the iconic Tex-Mex dish or claims it comes from Austin, war is declared. The city brims with so many breakfast taco spots, it’s difficult to stand out among the competition. Yet, since opening in 2019, Con Huevos has done just that. The stellar tacos feature a mix of classics and signature dishes named after the important women in co-owner/taquero Hugo Garcia’s life. The Irma, named after one of his aunts, is simple yet flavorful: bouncy scrambled eggs are blanketed in salsa verde and queso Oaxaca, topped with a buttery wedge of avocado, and sprinkled with bright cilantro. It’s served on a flaky, gauzy handmade flour tortilla that’s given a little lift with baking powder. Order at the window, then enjoy your tacos on the partially covered patio deck or take them to go. conhuevostacos.com, 1629 E. Houston, 210-229-9295.
Eddie’s Taco House
For nearly fifty years, the Caballero family has doled out hearty Tex-Mex breakfast tacos and lunches. The former are nestled in dusty, cushioned flour tortillas, with fillings such as weenies and eggs, potatoes and eggs, and sink-in-your-chair-comforting carne guisada. The familiar decor of the South Texas–style diner gives Eddie’s Taco House’s two locations a welcoming feel that makes lingering easy. eddiestacohouses.com, 402 West Cevallos, 210-222-2400; 3755 Thousand Oaks Drive, 210-490-5500.
El Pastor Es Mi Señor
Like most great taquerias, this restaurant specializes in one thing and one thing only: tacos al pastor. And El Pastor Es Mi Señor just might be home to the state’s best. Choose from traditional pork or the rarer sirloin, both prepared on a trompo. The meats are shaved thinly and piled high onto corn tortillas, and made tastier with splashes of zippy salsa roja and tart salsa verde. The proteins are also available on fries, burgers, tortas, and even crispy tacos. elpastoresmisenor.com, 8727 Wurzbach Road, Suite 102, 210-479-3474.
An early adopter of the buzziest, line-worthy taco of the year, the trailer specializes in birria de res (see “Birria” in the Tacopedia) based on a family recipe from the small town of Sahuayo, Michoacán. El Remedio’s cheesy quesitacos are stuffed with knots of succulent, stewed beef, and a side of consommé. 2924 Culebra Road, 210-847-8064.
Garcia’s Mexican Food
Before I officially began my job at the magazine, I knew the first taco I was going to write about: the pork chop at Garcia’s Mexican Food. The puzzling breakfast option (see “Breakfast” in the Tacopedia) is a thin, bone-in pork chop that is seared and grilled and served with a steak knife. A lot of customers use the knife to cut off the bone. However, I recommend eating around it. Add a spoonful of the jalapeño relish for a helping of acidic heat. facebook.com/Garcias-Mexican-Food, 842 Fredericksburg Road, 210-735-4525.
Henry’s Puffy Tacos Express
Brothers Arturo, Ray, and Henry Lopez opened several restaurants specializing in the iconic San Antonio–style puffy taco (see “Puffy” in the Tacopedia), an alchemical creation divined from a raw corn masa tortilla that’s deep-fried until it inflates. As that occurs, the tortilla is crimped into the familiar taco-shell U shape. Henry, the youngest brother, opened his first namesake spot as a counter-service eatery on West Woodlawn, in 1978. A second location on Bandera followed and, in 1989, Henry’s son Jaime signed an agreement with the minor league baseball team San Antonio Missions to create the Henry the Puffy Taco mascot. Henry’s produces a tortilla with a crispy, just shy of flaky, exterior and a chewy center. Filled with ground beef, lettuce, tomato, and cheese, the taco brings crunch, salt, and a touch of sweetness to the palate. henryspuffytacos.com, 3202 W. Woodlawn Avenue, 210-433-7833.
La Capital del Sabor
The innocuous storefront gives this outstanding Mexican restaurant a shield of invisibility. It looks like most of the joints along its stretch of Bandera Road, but step inside and you’ll be treated to colorful pop-art murals. The menu tracks a path through Central Mexico and includes flautas ahogadas, machetes in nixtamalized corn tortillas, and subtly flavored lamb barbacoa. Pair your meal with a cup of the ancient fermented drink pulque, which has mix-in options such as mango and apple. Imbibe responsibly. lacapitaldelsabortx.com, 502 Bandera Road, 210-200-8901.
Los Weyes de la Asada
The outdoor cocktail garden and food truck park El Camino rotates mobile rigs frequently. Los Weyes de la Asada, though, seems to have found a permanent home there, serving mesquite-grilled beef and chicken on a norteño-style appliance with an adjustable grate. Don’t miss steak night on Tuesdays—you’ll need to line up early as the food sells out quickly. losweyesdelaasada.com, 1009 Avenue B, 210-788-9121.
For nearly forty years, Maria’s Cafe, owned by Maria Beza, has been serving hearty South Texas Mexican favorites as well as barbecue. It has a regular and extensive menu for traditional dishes, but the gems are scribbled on decorated poster boards, chalkboard, and printer paper hung from windows and the walls, all competing for space with Coca-Cola advertisements and knickknacks collected over the decades. These extra-menu tacos are an assemblage of customized orders and creative specials that have gained larger appeal. For example, the Minion taco—migas with brisket smoked by Beza’s husband, Tom, and a salsa ranchera—is listed on a page from a waiter’s notepad attached to a flattened snack box featuring the yellow Minions from the Despicable Me franchise. The Puff-chilada, invented by Beza’s daughter Leslie, is a baked red-tortilla enchilada squishy with cheese and draped with chunky, mouth-coating chile con carne. It’s brought to the table resting in a slick, thin, puffy taco shell. 1105 Nogalitos, 210-227-7005.
Mariscos del Puerto
This San Antonio Mexican seafood joint (see “Seafood” in the Tacopedia) goes all out with the nautical theme. The menu is extensive, listing everything from raw oysters and shrimp cocktails to all manner of tacos. That’s where Mariscos del Puerto shines. There are straightforward seafood tacos, and there are quirky, creative tacos. One favorite is the Chilaca, Tierra y Mar taco, a dark green chilaca chile packed with shrimp and skirt steak in a net of melted white cheese that’s finished with a swoosh of cream. temp.mariscosdelpuertosanantonio.com, 10430 Culebra Road, 210-637-9404.
When Francisco Estrada and his wife, Lizzeth Martinez, immigrated to Texas from Mexico City, they left lucrative careers in law and interior design, respectively. A homesickness overcame them, so the couple opened their food truck, Naco Mexican Eatery, in 2018, featuring a mix of Mexico City classics and San Antonio stalwarts. Pair taco de chilaquiles, saucy and crunchy, with fluffy scrambled eggs on a nixtamalized blue corn tortilla, alongside bacon, egg, and cheese on flour. Prized, funky huitlacoche is available, as are melted-cheese costras billed as “keto” tortillas. In 2021, Estrada and Martinez expanded to a brick-and-mortar near the airport, where they added pan dulces and new menu items, including chicharrón en salsa roja tossed with grilled, chopped octopus. nacomexican.com, 310 West Grayson, 210-610-5136.
Ray’s Drive Inn
This River City institution was opened in 1956 by Ray Lopez (older brother of Henry—see the aforementioned Henry’s Puffy Tacos) as a no-frills drive-in. It’s here that Henry learned the skills he would apply at his own restaurants. Now the space is chock-full of decades of amassed memorabilia, including a 1926 Ford Model T truck. There’s also a makeshift altar packed with prayer candles and religious objects. The latter is fitting. Eating at Ray’s Drive Inn is tantamount to going to church. The restaurant is hallowed taco ground. History and tradition and community intertwine to create an uplifting experience in which to enjoy wonderful puffy tacos (see “Puffy” in the Tacopedia). Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and impossibly light, they are pure joy. Go traditional and order the ground beef. raysdriveinn.net, 822 SW Nineteenth, 210-432-7171.
Ro-Ho Pork & Bread
Guadalajara-style tacos ahogados (literally “drowned tacos”) are a rare treat in Texas. But the Mexican import—carnitas-filled, folded fried tacos bathed in a tomato-based salsa roja—are a must-have wherever they are served, including at Ro-Ho Pork & Bread. At this San Antonio restaurant they are served in a plastic-lined wicker basket and topped with a flurry of cabbage, sliced radish, and red onion. A salted lime wedge is on the side. The chef and owner alluded to in the eatery’s name is Jorge Rojo, who established his restaurant in 2015. Its first location was in the Sanitary Tortilla Factory storefront. Several years later, after Rojo made a name for himself with his from-scratch regional dishes, the operation moved into a freestanding building, where papel picado hangs from the ceiling of the covered patio. ro-ho-pork-bread-tortas-ahogadas.business.site, 8617 N. New Braunfels Avenue, 210-800-3487.
This restaurant evangelizes guisados, which are known as tacos de colores in the owners’ home state of Aguascalientes, Mexico. Served either by the pound or in tacos, the twelve guisados that are available daily include succulent picadillo, pork snout, nopales in an earthy guajillo salsa, and roasted, sliced poblanos tossed with corn kernels. At San Taco customers are privy to a taste of Mexico outside the typical pork-beef-chicken template of many taco joints. Taco lovers cannot live on carne asada alone. instagram.com/san_taco114, 114 Fredericksburg Road, 210-314-3099.
Stixs & Stone
Leo Davila has created possibly the most San Antonio taco ever. I’m not talking about breakfast tacos or even puffy tacos; I’m referring to the Big Red and barbacoa taco at this restaurant, Stixs & Stone. Nixtamalized masa is infused with the city’s beloved red soda, giving the corn disc a neon pinkish hue. Then, the tortilla is filled with beef barbacoa smoked overnight on applewood and crisped on a flat top griddle and smeared with a double-whammy of strawberry–Big Red jam and pecan pesto. It’s all sprinkled with queso fresco and thinly sliced, pickled watermelon rind. For just a dollar more, the plate, which features three tacos, can be paired with a twelve-ounce can of Big Red. stixs-stone.business.site, 5718 B Wurzbach Road, 210-592-1187.
Tacos al Carbón Cabrón
Like Los Weyes de la Asada, Tacos al Carbón Cabrón on San Pedro Avenue grills meat using mesquite. Unlike Los Weyes, which adheres to the northern Mexican border tradition, Tacos al Carbón Cabrón serves tacos Tijuana-style. The restaurant transports customers to the West Coast with smoky, salty flavors and salsa options that change frequently. Mexican patrons will feel right at home in the space awash in red and white. tacosalcarboncabron.com, 6653 San Pedro Avenue, 210-267-9492.
Taquitos West Ave.
The epitome of mini tacos (see “Mini” in the Tacopedia)—what are often mistakenly called street tacos; those are served only at street stands—are doled out long into the night at Taquitos West Ave. There are classic suadero, bistec, tripas, cabeza, and lengua tacos served on oil-slicked nixtamalized corn tortillas from San Antonio Colonial Tortilla Factory. These are small, quick noshes perfect for lunch, pre-gaming, or the last stop of the night. The red and green salsas are fiery palate cleansers. Tacos al pastor straight from the trompo are often available. facebook.com/TaquitosWestAvenue1, 2818 West Avenue, 210-525-9888.
The Original Donut Shop
After decades of selling some of San Antonio’s favorite breakfast tacos, the Original Donut Shop could coast on its reputation. But it’s consistently delicious, and continues to offer generations of customers some of the best tacos around, including classic bean and cheese. us.orderspoon.com/ods, 3307 Fredericksburg Road, 210-734-5661.
The words “Big Red and Barbacoa,” painted on the yellow side wall of the Wurzbach Road outpost, says all you need to know about what to drink and eat at Tommy’s Restaurant, mytommys.com, multiple locations,
Named in honor of the founder and cook of Los Barrios Restaurant, Viola Barrios, this Barrios family restaurant specializes in spiffed-up, time-honored home-style Mexican recipes, including puffy tacos. Go for the juicy chicken. violasventanas.com, 9660 Westover Hills Boulevard, 210-684-9660.