Welcome to the year of the taco. In fact, it began in November 2014, when we kicked off a series of online taco “tours” of the state that started in Austin and made stops in Dallas–Fort Worth, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, and Houston before ending in El Paso last month. The delicious research for those stories grew—and grew and grew—into “The 120 Tacos You Must Eat Before You Die”, which, in my humble opinion, is the greatest magazine service piece on tacos ever published. At 29 pages, this epic story required four months of reporting and covered two dozen cities. Executive editor Patricia Sharpe corralled a team of twelve dedicated and hungry writers—including José R. Ralat, the force behind the Taco Trail blog and the food editor at Cowboys & Indians, and Jessica Elizarraras, the food and nightlife editor for the San Antonio Current—who sampled more than a thousand tacos. The ones that made the cut were shot by no fewer than eight photographers and given a stunning layout by designer Victoria Millner.
But we’re offering more than just our recommendations for outstanding carnitas or lamb brisket tacos (and, yes, crispy tacos too). Where else would you find a poem about chiles by Carmen Tafolla, the state poet laureate? Or hear the case for corn tortillas over flour tortillas by Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who is also the state tweeter laureate? Or read an interview with Henry the Puffy Taco, a mascot for the San Antonio Missions? Or discover a timeline of pivotal moments in taco history (1952: El Paso’s George N. Ashley creates an aluminum mold for making the perfect U-shaped fried tortilla). The final touch is a handy reference guide to meat, to keep you from mixing up your barbacoa with your borrego.
Simply put, the only thing more enjoyable than reading this package will be actually sampling some of our favorites. Of course, we hope that you’ll enjoy the ones we picked, but there’s always room for debate. What should have made the list? And what shouldn’t have? You’ll find the score sheet that was used by our writers to rank their favorites at the end of the story. Feel free to use it when you set out on your own taco adventure. And when you finish, let us know how we did on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now there’s even a taco emoji you can use.