No dish better captures the culinary spirit of Brownsville, Texas’s southernmost city on the tip of the Mexican border, than the taco—a food as flavorful as the culinary traditions that inspired it and as diverse as the cultural influences shaping it today.
Block after block along Interstate 69E, colorful taquerias and Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants shine (and smoke), making Brownsville what Texas Monthly Taco Editor José R. Ralat hails as “a bright hot spot” for tacos and taco culture.
So where to begin? Ask four Texans to point you to their favorite taqueria, and you’re likely to get sent in four different directions. But don’t worry. Brownsville’s official Taco Trail is here to guide you to the best tacos in the Rio Grande Valley.
Thanks to a mobile exclusive Taco Trail passport, organizing your culinary adventure is easy. Access participating restaurant listings, an interactive map to get you there, and digital coupons to make each visit even tastier. Dine at all 12 stops and receive an official Taco Trail t-shirt. There’s no app to download, no reservation required—nothing to do but eat tacos and win a prize.
The website can direct your journey, but you’ve got to set the pace. The reigning champion of Taquito Express’s All You Can Eat taco special consumed 84 tacos in two hours, but you should take some time to savor their bistek taco. Featuring thinly cut slices of marinated beef filet cooked on a flat iron, bistek tacos are “the most famous,” says founder and owner Guillermo Gonzalez. The restaurant’s success is built on the lessons Gonzalez learned while running a taqueria in the neighboring Mexican town of Matamoros. “People kept asking for the classics,” he says, “bistek, tripa, and pastor.” With traditional fillings, Gonzalez’s own recipe for tortillas (made daily), spicy salsas, and eye-catching piñatas, a trip to Taquito Express “makes you feel as if you were in Mexico.”
Traditional Mexican dishes, such as quesabirrias (a taco/quesadilla hybrid of slow-cooked beef and melted cheese), have gained stateside popularly thanks to Instagram. Be quick with your pic at El Ultimo Taco before someone snags a bite. Recently voted Best Tacos in Brownsville, El Ultimo Taco offers dishes both delicious and photogenic.
When demand for his catered taquizas (or taco parties) called, Roberto Castillo Jr. and his daughter Melissa Castillo answered with La Barra del Taco. Melissa explains: “I started noticing how much people wanted a place to go and eat tacos, and not wait until an event to have them.” The father and daughter team collaborate as owners and chefs and take pride in satisfying their community’s cravings. The chicharron (deep fried pork rind or pork belly) tacos tempt hungry guests across Texas and Mexico, but vegan options like mushroom tacos, vegan fajita, and vegan chicharron, made with oats and stewed cabbage, make La Barra del Taco an attractive dining destination for the whole crowd. #TacosUpPinkiesOut
Billed as a barbecue joint, Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Cue offers fresh corn tortillas to turn their nationally-acclaimed barbecue into handheld perfection. In 2020, the James Beard Foundation recognized Vera’s with an American Classics Award, honoring the eatery for its commitment to outstanding food that reflects its community. In addition to popular favorites such as slow-cooked carnitas (braised pork) and barbacoa (shredded beef), Vera’s smokes up delicate cachete (beef cheeks) and lengua (tongue). Start a spinoff barbecue tour by visiting one of Marcelo’s Tacos’ two locations. Famous for barbacoa, Marcelo’s also offers thirteen different tacos with authentic and traditional fillings. With a Taco Trail digital coupon, you can get your second taco for free.
When in doubt of what to order, bistec tacos are a safe bet and famous among each taqueria’s loyal following. Taqueria Sheko’s has been serving bistec and pastor tacos, tortas (sandwiches), and Mexican snacks such as sopes for more than 50 years! But leave room for something new. While most taco fillings are cooked on a griddle, vapor tacos contain meats slow-cooked over steam. Find yours at Tacos Al Vapor Estilo Monterrey. In addition to the taco classics, Taqueria El Taco Loco offers tortas and tostadas as well as menudo (red chili pepper-based soup with cow’s stomach) Friday through Sunday. With its crisp tortilla, fresh guacamole, shredded chicken, and tangy crema, La Siberia Original’s chicken tostada might sound like a snack, but its enormous size could make it a meal.
When your fellow trail riders are taco-ed out but you’ve got your eyes on the t-shirt prize, check out Adolios, with its diverse menu of American cuisine and an extensive cocktail menu. Enjoy $3 off your Tacos Volcán (grilled fajita), and sneak a bite of your friend’s grilled mahi-mahi. Wash it all down with a late-night taco and a festive adult beverage at Calacas Tacos & Beer. Street tacos and ceviche (raw white fish cured in citrus juices) taste even better with a chili-rimmed Mexican beer, a michelada, or a limonada tamarinda.