barbacoa tacos

The Best Taco in Every State Gallery

No matter where you live, a great taco isn’t far away
barbacoa tacos

The Best Taco in Every State

The Best Taco in Every State


Tacos are one of the most delicious and perfect foods on earth, and we’re thankfully living in an era when a high-quality Mexican street-style taco is within driving distance of just about everyone in America. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading to learn where to find the best taco in every state and the District of Columbia.

In order to find the best taco in every state, we started with the top-ranked tacos from this year’s ranking of the Best Tacos in America. We then consulted with our contingent of city editors from across the country, checked local rankings, and researched review sites to see which ones got the highest marks from in-the-know locals. We then judged each contender on quality of ingredients, skill in preparation, level of local renown, and authenticity; most of these tacos fit within the framework of the classic Mexican street taco, but we provided some leeway to allow for different styles (like Baja-style fish tacos) and for culinary creativity.

The next time somebody tells you that you can’t find a great taco outside of a handful of states, you can remind them that though that might have been true 20 years ago, times have changed, and that’s something for which we should be very thankful.

Alabama: Al Pastor, Los Dos Hermanos Taco Truck (Birmingham)

Alabama: Los Dos Hermanos Taco Truck, Birmingham: Al Pastor

Photo by Ayushe S. via Yelp

Run by brothers and Michoacán natives Daniel and Jaime Guzman, who also run Birmingham’s insanely popular Taqueria GuzmanLos Dos Hermanos is turning out some spectacular Mexican fare, including burritos, quesadillas, tortas, and tostadas, but it’s the $2 tacos that are the real standout. Opt for the flavorful al pastor, and don’t’ forget to grab a chile from the bowl.

Alaska: The Alaskan, Lane’s Quickie Tacos (Fairbanks)

Alaska: Lane’s Quickie Tacos, Fairbanks: The Alaskan

Chef Lane Quick grew up in San Antonio, and was disappointed that he was unable to find any authentic Tex-Mex tacos in Fairbanks after moving there. So in 2013, after much trial and error, he opened a stand at the Tanata Valley Farmers Market, and it was so successful that it warranted a brick-and-mortar restaurant of its own: Lane's. If you visit, make sure you try the Alaskan, which was modeled after the famed green chile pulled pork taco from Torchy’s in Austin: slow-roasted shredded pork in two fresh corn tortillas, topped with queso fresco, onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime, made fresh to order.

Arizona: Fish Tacos, Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca (Phoenix)

Arizona: Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca, Phoenix: Fish Tacos

Photo by Yerim K. via Yelp

Formerly known as Tacos Atoyac, this beloved Phoenix taquería closed down with no notice a few years back and reopened nearly a month later with a new name (Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca) and, thankfully, the same menu. Though the standard lineup of meats are all spectacular (even the tripas, or intestines, are good), the fish taco is the way to go. Flaky white fish is fried until golden brown and crispy and then topped with shredded cabbage and a flavorful chipotle sauce. Roasted onions and jalapeños are offered for free on the side; you’re going to want to say yes to those. 

Arkansas: Carne Asada, Taqueria El Palenque (Little Rock)

Arkansas: Taqueria El Palenque, Little Rock: Carne Asada

Photo by Rachel D. via Yelp

Hiding in a hidden corner of an anonymous strip mall, tiny Taqueria El Palenque is turning out some seriously authentic Mexican fare for in-the-know locals. Specialties like enchiladas, carnitas, and shrimp cocktail are fresh and flavorful, and tacos (which only cost $1.49) are available in seven meat options running the gamut from al pastor to buche (pork stomach), but the grilled carne asada is perfection. 

California: Carnitas, La Taqueria (San Francisco)

California: La Taqueria, San Francisco: Carnitas Taco

Photo by Winnie L. via Yelp

When it comes to leaders of a culinary genre, there are few restaurants in America with greater gravitas for their respective focus than San Francisco’s La Taqueria has for tacos. That gives it, and its tacos (carnitas among them, quite arguably the best), quite a heavy reputation to live up to. La Taqueria, just one of the Mission’s many casual Mexican joints, does Mexican the way they should be done: fresh. As if the amazing rice-free burritos weren’t enough (you’d never notice its absence), there are the tacos. To prepare the carnitas, chef/owner Miguel Jara slow-cooks chunks of pork shoulder in cauldrons of bubbling lard until tender, then roasts it until it’s crispy. When it's tucked into a double layer of corn tortillas and topped with your choice of pinto beans, onions, pico de gallo, cheese, crema, or guacamole (or none of the above), there just might be no better taco in America. 

Colorado: Pork Belly “Agridulce,” Tacos Tequila Whiskey (Denver)

Colorado: Tacos Tequila Whiskey, Denver: Pork Belly “Agridulce”

Photo by Anthony J. via Yelp

Originally a taco truck, chef Kevin Morrison’s Tacos Tequila Whiskey puts a modern twist on comida de la calle (Mexican street food), along with small-batch tequilas. Morrison has put a modern twist on Mexican street food, serving a standout taco filled with sweet-and-sour-braised pork belly with candied garlic, cabbage and cilantro slaw, and a nuanced braising jus to add extra flavor and moisture. 

Connecticut: Carnitas, El Charrito (Riverside)

Connecticut: El Charrito, Riverside: Carnitas

Photo by Jeff J. via Yelp

This community in the famously posh town of Greenwich may be the last place you'd expect to find real Mexican takeout food. But at El Charrito, Carlos and Alex Terrón, who also run a popular food truck in neighboring (and more Hispanic) Stamford, have brought southwestern Connecticut a standard of Mexican cooking usually found only in urban Texas or California. The wide variety of taco fillings ranges from chicken, shrimp, and spicy pork adobada to pig's ear, tripe, and cow's tongue. The carnitas tacos are typical: a couple of flavorful steamed corn tortillas with a scattering of sweet, crispy pork bits, minced onions, cilantro, and lime segments on the side to squeeze over everything. Simple and perfect.

Delaware: Lamb Birria, El Pique (Wilmington)

El Pique, Wilmington

Photo by Shannon R. via Yelp

Tiny hole-in-the-wall El Pique gets packed on a daily basis, but it's still easy to pass by. Head inside and you'll encounter just a few tables and behind the counter, a plancha manned by two ladies cooking an astounding variety of proteins, including hard-to-find cuts like pork snout (trompa), beef head (cabeza), and a combo of all different types of offal (surtida). The best move is to go for the birria, made with lamb. It's super-flavorful and incredibly tender, crisped up on the griddle and served with onion, cilantro, and your choice of three sauces.

Florida: Raw Tuna, My Ceviche (Miami)

Florida: My Ceviche, Miami: Raw Tuna

Photo by Victor Z. via Yelp

My Ceviche is a fast-casual seafood spot that’s become a Miami standby with a handful of locations throughout the city. Ceviche (made with your choice of three types of seafood and in six styles), burritos, bowls, and salads are all solid options, but don’t miss the tacos, which are available with fish, shrimp, octopus, chicken, or raw tuna. It may be unexpected, but raw tuna is the way to go: It’s chopped into tiny pieces and piled into a corn or flour tortilla with a bright combo of pickled red onions, julienned matchsticks, shredded queso fresco, and cilantro; we suggest you ask for some sliced avocado on top as well. 

Georgia: Cabeza, El Rey Del Taco (Atlanta)

Georgia: El Rey Del Taco, Atlanta: Cabeza

Photo by Daniel B. via Yelp

Ethnic eats abound on the Buford Highway, and 24-hour Mexican diner El Rey Del Taco doesn’t disappoint. Made-to-order tortillas come filled with exotic options like tongue, tripe, and pork stomach, but don’t be afraid of the cabeza, or beef cheek, which is meltingly tender. Shredded and topped with some cilantro and onion (and roasted onions if you ask for them), these things are groan-inducing good.

Hawaii: Fish Tacos, Coconut’s Fish Café (Maui)

Hawaii: Coconut’s Fish Café, Maui: Fish Tacos

Photo by Ann S. via Yelp

Coconut’s has locations in Arizona, Cupertino, and Sacramento, but the original Maui location is still the best, and it’s serving the best taco you’ll find in Hawaii. Open since 2009, the fish taco is a work of art: Fresh grilled mahi mahi and ono top a grilled tortilla, and the fish is topped with wasabi-coconut milk coleslaw, fresh tomatoes, mango salsa, and a little melted cheese. It’s a masterpiece. 

Idaho: Tin Roof Taco, Tin Roof Tacos (Boise)

Idaho: Tin Roof Tacos, Boise: Tin Roof Taco

Photo by Jake N. via Yelp

When two Texas sisters realized that they couldn’t find a good street taco in Boise, they put their heads together and Tin Roof was the result. Full of Texas charm (you’ll find plenty of expats here downing Shiner Bocks and watching the Texas A&M game), Tin Roof serves a variety of creative tacos on tortillas made-to-order on their own tortilla machine. Opt for their eponymous Tin Roof Taco, made with brisket that’s been slow-roasted for 18 hours, queso fresco, cilantro, and onions. 

Illinois: Birria Tatemada, Birrieria Zaragoza (Chicago)

Illinois: Birrieria Zaragoza, Chicago: Birria Tatemada

Photo by Ryan N. via Yelp

At Chicago’s family-run Birrieria Zaragoza, goat is the name of the game. Namely, the roasted goat taco, or birria tatemada, based on a recipe that’s more than 100 years old. The goat is steamed for around five hours, then rubbed with an ancho chile-based red mole sauce before being roasted and served on house-made corn tortillas with fresh condiments, including onion, cilantro, red salsa, and roasted chiles. You can request any part of the goat you like, but we suggest you go with the pistola, or shank. It’s juicy, tender, and full of flavor — a bite worth seeking out if you’re even a passing fan of falling-off-the-bone meat. And who isn’t?

Indiana: Mole, Indy Tacos (Indianapolis)

Indiana: Indy Tacos, Indianapolis: Mole

Photo by Allison F. via Yelp

Behind perhaps the most unassuming storefront in Indy hide the best tacos in the state, and the daily line out the door of Indy Tacos during the lunch rush proves it. The menu is simple and straightforward, but it changes often to allow for some creative spins like mango chicken, steak poblano, and fish tacos. But when the chicken mole taco is available, don’t miss it: The chicken is juicy and flavorful, and the homemade mole negro is top-notch. 

Iowa: Carne Asada, La Juanita (Storm Lake)

Iowa: La Juanita, Storm Lake: Carne Asada

Yelp/ Josh S.

The large number of Latino farm and meatpacking workers in Iowa has made the state’s small towns an unexpected destination for truly spectacular tacos, and with so much corn around the fresh tortillas are nothing to sneeze at. Case in point: La Juanita in Storm Lake, where Tyson Foods has a large operation. This beloved hidden gem has been in business for nearly 20 years, and serves a wide variety of authentic fillings like carne asada, chorizo, lengua, fish, chicken, carnitas, al pastor, tripe, liver, and chicharron. Their tortas and sopes are also popular, but carne asada tacos are a must-order, especially when topped with homemade hot sauce.

Kansas: Cochinita Pibil, Taco Republic (Kansas City)

Kansas: Taco Republic, Kansas City: Cochinita Pibil

Photo by Taco Republic via Yelp

The low-key and inviting Taco Republic is one of the coolest spots in Kansas City — and one of the most popular patios. The fun menu includes items like five-cheese queso, spicy tequila lime wings, grilled shrimp tostadas, and a very popular wood-fired chicken, but the tacos are the star of the show here. The Salazar (pork belly, salsa verde, cilantro, onions, and chicharrónes) and Tecate Barbacoa (beer- and chile-braised brisket with onions and cilantro) are fan favorites, but you have to try the classic slow-cooked cochinita pibil, marinated and roasted pork topped with pickled red onions and tostones. It’s a taste of the Yucatán in Kansas. 

Kentucky: Mahi Mahi, Seviche (Louisville)

Kentucky: Seviche, Louisville: Mahi Mahi

Photo by Zee R. via Yelp

One of Louisville’s finest restaurants, Seviche also serves what’s most likely the city’s best taco. The mahi mahi in the taco at chef Anthony Lamas’ shrine to Latin cuisine is marinated and grilled before being topped with a cumin-lime aïoli, cabbage, and a cilantro-flecked pico de gallo and placed atop two grilled corn tortillas. You might as well order two when you sit down, because you’re not going to want to stop eating these.

Louisiana: Carne Asada, Johnny Sanchez (New Orleans)

Louisiana: Johnny Sanchez, New Orleans: Carne Asada

Photo by Swati S. via Yelp

When chefs with the pedigree of John Besh and Aarón Sánchez team up to open an Authentic Mexican restaurant, you can bet good money on the end result being spectacular (even though Besh is no longer involved). And by all accounts,Johnny Sanchez is. To get a good idea of the amount of skill (and the quality of the ingredients) on display here, start your meal with an order of carne asada tacos, made with perfectly cooked grilled skirt steak and topped with a one-two punch of pickled jalapeño guacamole and fresh pico de gallo. It’s a masterpiece. 

Maine: Bisteck Crispy Taco, Taco Escobarr (Portland)

Maine: Taco Escobarr, Portland: Bisteck Crispy Taco

Photo by Jeremie L. via Yelp

Portland has no shortage of great restaurants (it’s got the highest number of restaurants per capita in the country, in fact), but if you ask locals where the best taco joint is, they’ll say Taco Escobarr. Tacos are available in three varieties: soft corn tortillas, crispy griddle-fried tortillas, or deep-fried San Antonio-style puffy tacos. The crispy taco is the winner of the bunch; fill yours with smoky slow-braised poblano-kicked shredded beef, melted Chihuahua cheese, cilantro, and pico de gallo. 

Maryland: Al Pastor. Tortilleria Sinaloa (Baltimore)

Maryland: Tortilleria Sinaloa, Baltimore: Al Pastor

Photo by Christina S. via Yelp

The perpetually packed Tortilleria Sinaloa is consistently drawing crowds for the homemade tortillas and fresh, plentiful fillings. Don’t miss the tamales, pozole, and special tilapia tacos with Old Bay butter sauce, but the menu’s standout is the al pastor, tender and flavorful with chunks of grilled pineapple mixed in. 

Massachusetts: Lengua, Taco Loco (Boston)

Massachusetts: Taco Loco, Boston: Lengua

Photo by Jacqueline T. via Yelp

Nobody would argue that Taco Loco is anything but a dive, but ask anyone who’s ever dined here and they’ll tell you it serves some of the best Mexican food in Boston. A huge variety of dishes are available at the steam table, and you really can’t go wrong with pupusas, burritos, and tamales, but don’t miss the classic tacos, especially the slow-cooked lengua. 

Michigan: Carnitas, Taqueria El Rey (Detroit)

Michigan: Taqueria El Rey, Detroit: Carnitas

Photo by Sarah C. via Yelp

Low-key Southwest Detroit gemTaqueria El Rey is perhaps best known for its adobo grilled chicken, cooked on a massive drum-like grill by owner Chico Fuentes and his son, Sammy. But the tacos they’re serving are also spectacular, especially the slow-cooked and perfectly crisped carnitas. 

Minnesota: Lengua, El Taco Riendo (Minneapolis)

Minnesota: El Taco Riendo, Minneapolis: Lengua

 Photo by Mon P. via Yelp

This Twin Cities favorite is bringing Mexico City street food to Minneapolis in a fun and laid-back setting. Tostadas, tamales, sopes, enchiladas, burritos, and chilaquiles keep the crowds coming, but the tacos, made with tortillas produced by local tortilleria La Perla, are really things of beauty. Even if you’re not a fan of tongue, the slow-cooked lengua will make you a convert. 

Mississippi: Chorizo, Green Ghost Tacos (Jackson)

Mississippi: Green Ghost Tacos, Jackson: Chorizo

Photo by Cody C. via Yelp

Jackson newcomer Green Ghost Tacos has already emerged as the winner of Mississippi’s taco game, with two locations opening in the past three years. It’s run by San Luis, Mexico, native “Mama Yolanda,” and her recipes have been passed down for generations and cooked in small batches. Burritos, tortas, empanadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, chile rellenos, and nachos are all spectacular, and tacos are served in corn tortillas, hard-shell tortillas, and flour tortillas. We suggest you stick with the classic corn tortillas, and use them as a vessel for Mama Yolanda’s spectacular homemade chorizo. 

Missouri: Campechano, La Tejana Taqueria (St. Louis)

Missouri: La Tejana Taqueria, St. Louis: Campechano

Photo by Brian M. via Yelp

Located inside an unassuming strip mall, La Tejana is a no-frills room with a handful of booths and tables, but what’s coming out of the kitchen is spectacular. The selection of meats available is pretty outstanding as well: steak, carnitas, cabeza (cow head), tongue, chorizo, chicken tinga, grilled chicken, al pastor, chicharrón, and occasionally goat. If you can’t make up your mind (and even if you can), we suggest you go for the campechano, which is the best of two worlds: steak and chorizo, all mixed up on one perfect taco.

Montana: Fish, Taco Del Sol (Missoula)

Montana: Taco Del Sol, Missoula: Fish Taco

 Yelp/ Malissa P.

There’s nothing like a great fish taco to stop you dead in your tracks in the middle of landlocked Missoula, Montana. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at Taco Del Sol, which has a handful of locations in town and additional outposts throughout the state. Modern and inviting, this Mission-inspired taquería has been going strong since 1997, serving tacos in soft flour, soft corn, and crispy corn shells. Though the pulled pork and grilled steak tacos are great, it’s the fish taco (baked Alaskan cod, beans, shredded cheese, fresh salsa, shredded cabbage, white sauce, hot sauce, and jalapeños) that’s a symphony of deliciousness. 

Nebraska: Al Pastor, La Choza (Omaha)

Nebraska: La Choza, Omaha: Al Pastor

Photo by Will S. via Yelp

Specialties of El Salvador and Mexico are on display at La Choza, where Salvadoran specialties like pupusas and plantain leaf-wrapped tamales share the bill with the best tacos in the state. To prepare the al pastor, pork is marinated for three days before being grilled with chunks of pineapple, and the end result is a stellar taco. 

Nevada: Al Pastor, Taco y Taco (Las Vegas)

Nevada: Taco y Taco, Las Vegas: Al Pastor

Photo by Katherine A. via Yelp

If you’re looking for a classic taquería experience in Las Vegas, you’re going to need to abandon The Strip and head to Taco y Taco, which has locations on East Tropicana Avenue and South Eastern Avenue. Opt for the al pastor, and pork will be sliced from a giant rotating spit and deposited directly onto the flat top for some extra caramelization. Piled into a tortilla with onions, cilantro, and chopped pineapple with an elote (ear of corn) on the side, it’s the perfect distraction from the glitz and glamor of The Strip. 

New Hampshire: Pastor, El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria (Manchester)

New Hampshire: Pastor, El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria (Manchester)

Yelp/ Mark T.

El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria is a beloved Mexican spot in Manchester, serving spot-on classic Mexican fare with an eye toward nuance and authenticity in a fun and festive atmosphere. You really can’t go wrong (don’t miss some of the chef’s specialties, including Chiflando y Aplaudiendo, a mix of carnitas, beef, and caramelized onions with chorizo, served with refried beans, rice, pico, guac, and tortillas), but make sure you try some tacos, especially the tender and flavorful al pastor, studded with pineapple chunks.

New Jersey: Al Pastor, Aguilas de Mexico (Newark)

New Jersey: Aguilas de Mexico, Newark: Al Pastor

Photo by Victoria L. via Yelp

There’s no shortage of solid Mexican spots in Newark, but locals agree Aguilas de Mexico is the real deal. This family-owned Ironbound gem has only been around since 2012, but its freshness and consistency has already endeared it to locals. Al Pastor is tender and delicious, with a little crisp on the pork and some pineapple tying it all together. 

New Mexico: Chicken with Green Chile, The Shed (Santa Fe)

New Mexico: The Shed, Santa Fe: Chicken with Green Chile

Eric L. via Yelp

Santa Fe loves the green chiles from Hatch, down in the southern part of New Mexico, and their nearly supernatural ability to pair perfectly with just about any type of food you can think of. At The Shed, in business since 1953, the chiles are grown especially for the restaurant and brought in fresh daily, then processed on  site. One of the best applications of this spicy green sauce that you’ll find in the city is on the restaurant’s taco plate: two fresh blue corn tortillas with baked chicken topped with green chile, Cheddar, onion, lettuce, and tomato. The chicken is perfectly cooked, but the chile is the real star of the show (as is the stellar posole that comes with it).

New York: Adobada, Los Tacos No. 1 (New York City)

New York: Adobada, Los Tacos No. 1 (New York City)

Photo by Jason P. via Yelp

With Los Tacos No. 1 setting up in the Chelsea Market, there’s only one thing to say to taco-crazy New Yorkers eager to assert that they now have one of America’s best tacos: You're right.

Los Tacos No. 1 serves a taco so good that you could dare anyone to taste it blindfolded against their supposed favorite and make money betting on the outcome. Not that the proprietors here are unfamiliar with real tacos: Los Tacos is a collaboration between three close friends from Tijuana and Brawley, California. You really can’t go wrong with the adobo or pollo tacos here, but the winner is the red chile-marinated pork — the adobada. Moist. Salted. Flavorful. Sweet but not cloying. There are also expertly prepared salsas, so you can dress your taco yourself. 

North Carolina: Barbacoa, Tacos La Vaquita (Durham)

North Carolina: Tacos La Vaquita, Durham: Barbacoa

Photo by Thomas R. via Yelp

Since the turn of the millennium, Durham has experienced a boom in the size of its Hispanic community, and helping to give the city’s new residents a taste of home is Tacos La Vaquita. There’s a whole lot to love about the menu, but make sure to order the barbacoa taco. It’s composed of flavored beef with chopped onions, cilantro, radish, and green or red sauce, all rolled into a handmade corn tortilla.

North Dakota: Taco, Red Pepper (Grand Forks)

North Dakota: Red Pepper, Grand Forks: Taco

Photo by Red Pepper via Yelp

We’re just going to say it: If you find yourself craving a Mexican street-style taco in North Dakota, you’re probably going to end up disappointed. Instead, we’ll steer you to Red Pepper, a Grand Forks institution for more than 50 years. Its “grinders” (ham, salami, turkey, taco meat, and Colby cheese on a soft loaf) are the stuff of late-night legend, and its tacos are the best in the state. Listed on the menu as just “Taco,” it’s a perfect hard-shell taco filled with homemade ground seasoned beef, lettuce, hot sauce, and grated Colby cheese. They’ll put it in a soft flour tortilla for you if prefer, but why mess with perfection?

Ohio: Carne Trozo, Barrio (Cleveland)

Ohio: Barrio, Cleveland: Carne Trozo

Photo by Mel T. via Yelp

Downtown Cleveland's beloved Barrio trusts its guests to build their own ideal tacos from a selection of fillings including Coca-Cola marinated steak, braised beef, housemade chorizo, pulled pork, bacon, shrimp with garlic cream, grilled portobello mushrooms, apple jicama slaw, and Western Reserve smoked Cheddar, but we suggest you let the masters build it for you and choose from the variety of “El Jefe’s Selecciones.” Don’t miss the spicy Carne Trozo: braised beef, smoked Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, onion, corn salsa, salsa verde, and secret sauce in a hard shell. It’s a party in one bite. 

Oklahoma: Green Chile Pork, Big Truck Tacos (Oklahoma City)

Oklahoma: Big Truck Tacos, Oklahoma City: Green Chile Pork

Yelp/ Cindy L.

One of OKC’s most popular food trucks now has three trucks and a brick-and-mortar location, and Big Truck Tacos is putting a twist on traditional Mexican street food. Get there early to avoid the lines, and take your pick from specialties including The Rancher (brisket, sautéed mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and escabeche); Okie-Wahoo (tilapia, sweet chili jicama-cabbage slaw and green onions); and Borracho Chicken (spice-rubbed beer-can chicken, spicy tomato sauce, onion, and cilantro). But if you’re only going to try one taco, make it the Green Chile Pork with slow-roasted pork, Hatch green chiles, queso fresco, onions, and cilantro. It’s a classic Southwest dish, and these guys do it right. 

Oregon: Carnitas, Sanchez Taqueria (Tigard)

Portland doesn’t suffer from a lack of good Mexican food, but for a real taquería experience, you’ll want to head out of the city on 99W, and stop in at Sanchez Taqueria, a roadside institution since 1999 that declares: “We’re not fancy, we’re delicious!” The house specialty is chavindecas — a hard-to-find regional dish from small towns near Mexico City — basically quesadilla-like sandwiches made with fresh corn tortillas layered with beans, meat, crema, cabbage, onion, cilantro, avocado, and cotija. But if you’re in the mood for a taco, their carnitas are second to none.

Pennsylvania: Shrimp, El Vez (Philadelphia)

Pennsylvania: El Vez, Philadelphia: Shrimp Tacos

Lucy T. via Yelp

Restaurateur Stephen Starr knows what people love to eat, and at Philadelphia’s El Vez he’s bringing top-notch Mexican food to the hungry masses. An order of the tacos al carbon is enough to feed two, and the grilled shrimp is the way to go; it’s a masterpiece. Homemade flour tortillas get filled with slightly spicy and super flavorful shrimp that are hot off the grill, and you can customize how much poblano, pico de gallo, guacamole, and queso fresco you want to add. Thankfully, a second location opened in New York in 2014.

Rhode Island: Carnitas, Tallulah’s Taqueria (Providence)

Rhode Island: Tallulah’s Taqueria, Providence: Carnitas

Joseph X. via Yelp

A breath of fresh air in the Providence culinary scene, Tallulah’s is serving classic Mexican fare prepared with a deft hand in a trendy space. Tacos, burritos, tortas, bowls, and quesadillas can be filled with your choice of 11 fillings (as well as breakfast ingredients), and though you can’t go wrong with al pastor, barbacoa, chipotle braised potato, or grilled shrimp or fish, don’t miss the carnitas: slow-braised pork belly and shoulder, served (like all the tacos) in a corn tortilla with guacamole, onions, cilantro, salsa, radishes, and lime. 

South Carolina: Carnitas, Carmen y Juan’s (Mt. Pleasant)

South Carolina: Carmen y Juan’s, Mt. Pleasant: Carnitas

Yelp/ Scotty C.

Located far from the beaten path in a Mt. Pleasant strip mall, Carmen y Juan’s is serving some seriously delicious tacos. Everything from the tortillas to the hot sauce is made from scratch (including a killer mole and a traditional long-cooked menudo), and the slow-cooked meats are deeply satisfying. Make sure you try the carnitas, big chunks of falling-apart pork marinated in orange and pineapple juice before being simmered in hot oil and tucked into a fresh tortilla with onion and cilantro. Be sure to drizzle on some of the housemade hot sauce.

South Dakota: Chicken, Sabor A Mexico (Rapid City)

South Dakota: Sabor A Mexico, Rapid City: Chicken Mole

Yelp/ Axel B.

Believe it or not, you can find great tacos just a stone’s throw from Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills’ Rapid City. Just head down East North Street until you reach the small and unassuming Sabor A Mexico, where you’ll find Michoacán-native Ana Line Munoz cooking her traditional family recipes in the kitchen. Scratch-made salsas, tamales, and sopes are definite crowd-pleasers, but make sure you sample some tacos, especially the shredded chicken. 

Tennessee: Barbacoa, Carniceria Y Taqueria Don Juan (Nashville)

Tennessee: Carniceria Y Taqueria Don Juan, Nashville: Barbacoa

Photo by Joe K. via Yelp

At Don Juan, the menu is painted onto the side of the building and you order your food through a small window. The small taco you’re handed is every bit as good as you hoped it would be. Simply topped with a smattering of diced onions and cilantro and served with a wedge of lime, these tacos are definitely legit — and an absolute steal at $1.25. Make sure you try the barbacoa, rich shredded beef. 

Texas: El Conquistador, Tacodeli (Various Locations)

Texas: Tacodeli, Various Locations: El Conquistador

Austin without Tacodeli, which has ten locations, just wouldn’t be the same. Its made-from-scratch sauces are works of art, and its most popular taco, El Conquistador, is a perfect showcase for the house chile pasilla sauce. Mixed in with shredded, slow-roasted pork shoulder topped with avocado, cilantro, and onion, all wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla, it's the star of a taco you’ll be dreaming about. Go for lunch — all Tacodeli locations are only open until 3 p.m.

Utah: Carnitas, Tacos Don Rafa (Salt Lake City)

Utah: Tacos Don Rafa, Salt Lake City: Carnitas

Photo by Jesus R. via Yelp

The crowds line up every day to get their tacos from this small cart, and its loyal devotees will tell you that these are the absolute best tacos around. They’re cheap (75 cents!) and delicious, and the crispy and flavorful carnitas will most likely become your favorite. Don’t miss the nearby cooler that’s filled with a wide selection of toppings and salsas. 

Vermont: Chile Colorado, The Mad Taco (Waitsfield)

Vermont: The Mad Taco, Waitsfield: Chile Colorado

Photo by Amanda M. via Yelp

Located in a quiet corner of central Vermont, The Mad Taco is serving wildly good tacos and craft beer to crowds of thankful locals. Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, and they even smoke their own pork and chicken. There are some surprising menu items, but sample them and you’ll be rewarded. The Chile Colorado, for example, is made with rich and flavorful shredded pork topped with onion, cilantro, and avocado; it’s a must-order. 

Virginia: Chorizo, Tacos El Chilango (Arlington)

Virginia: Tacos El Chilango, Arlington: Chorizo

Photo by Chuck N. via Yelp

The best tacos in Virginia can be found at a food truck called Tacos El Chilango in Arlington, right outside D.C. This unassuming truck, located on the side of a residential road, is serving a traditional variety of $2 tacos: steak, chicken, tongue, al pastor, and chorizo, all grilled on a flat-top to order and served atop two flour tortillas with onion, cilantro, and homemade hot sauce if you want it (you want it). Go for the chorizo: It’s just spicy enough, just oily enough, and insanely flavorful with a perfect crisp from the grill. 

Washington: Fish, Essex (Seattle)

Washington: Essex, Seattle: Fish

Photo by ros k. via Yelp

Taco & Tiki Tuesdays at Essex have Seattle residents all in a tizzy every week as they clamor to get their hands on chef Ricardo Valdes’ excellent tacos. The lamb and chicken versions get a lot of praise, but everyone agrees that the fish tacos are not to be missed. The flour tortillas are made by hand, and the fresh fish is cooked in Valdes’ wood-burning oven. The result? Winner winner fish taco dinner!

Washington, D.C.: Carnitas Estilo Michoacan con Salsa de Tomatillo, Oyamel

Washington, D.C.: Oyamel: Carnitas estilo Michoacan con salsa de tomatillo

Photo by Oyamel Cocina Mexicana via Yelp

Just about anything chef José Andrés makes turns to gold, and that can certainly be said of his tacos. At Oyamel, his now-legendary Mexican restaurant in D.C., tortillas start out as heirloom Mexican corn and are ground in-house daily and cooked to order. Shredded pork, sautéed mushrooms, braised beef, shredded goat, grilled chicken, cobia, house-cured pork belly, and even grasshoppers all make for delicious fillings, but you absolutely must try the carnitas Michoacán: slow-cooked shredded confit of suckling pig topped with green tomatillo salsa, onions, cilantro, and pork rinds for that extra crunch. It’ll stop you dead in your tracks.

West Virginia: Fish, Maria’s Taqueria (Shepherdstown)

West Virginia: Maria’s Taqueria, Shepherdstown: Fish

Photo by Kelly L. via Yelp

Northern Virginia native Maria Allen opened Maria's on a whim after graduating from local Shepherd University, and it became a hotspot almost immediately, necessitating a recent move into bigger digs. The reason? The food here is fresh, scratch-made, and tasty, and there’s an expansive menu that will make just about anyone happy. The fish taco is a real crowd-pleaser in particular: Crispy fried cod is tucked into a soft flour tortilla and topped with cilantro, jalapeño aïoli, and spicy cabbage slaw. 

Wisconsin: Carne Asada, Taqueria Guadalajara (Madison)

Wisconsin: Taqueria Guadalajara, Madison: Carne Asada

Yelp/ Joshua B.

The small and unassuming Taquería Guadalajara, one block from Monona Bay, is a beloved institution in a city not known for its culinary diversity, and during peak times the line can stretch out the door. The secret to its success? Using all fresh ingredients and making all of its proteins in small batches. This is most evident in the juicy carne asada made with high-quality local beef and grilled until a perfect medium. 

Wyoming: Carne Asada, Jan Juan (Jackson)

Wyoming: Jan Juan, Jackson: Carne Asada

There’s actually no shortage of decent taquerias in Wyoming, and the best of all is San Juan, formerly known as Sanchez. Owners Maria and Rigoberto Sosa, who hail from Guerrero, Mexico, and purchased the restaurant from its previous owners in 2014 after working there for 12 years, transformed the space from a humble taqueria into a full-service Mexican restaurant, taking over the adjacent outdoor seating area and acquiring a liquor license. Peek into the kitchen and you’ll see the Sosas turning out tacos, enchiladas, tortas, quesadillas, with a wide variety of fillings, based on their old family recipes. Tacos come filled with your choice of beef or pork al pastor, carne asada, chorizo, rosemary pork, grilled chicken, shrimp, and a variety of specials; along with some fantastic burritos.

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