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The Best Taco in Every State Gallery

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The Best Taco in Every State

Photo by Ryan N. via Yelp

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.

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

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

Run by brothers and Michoacán natives Daniel and Jaime Guzman, who also run Birmingham’s insanely popular Taqueria Guzman, this truck 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: Lane’s Quickie Tacos, Fairbanks: The Alaskan

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. 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: Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca, Phoenix: Fish Tacos

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Arizona: Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca, Phoenix: Fish Tacos

Formerly known as Tacos Atoyac, this beloved Phoenix taquería closed down with no notice a couple years back and reopened nearly a month later with a new name, 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: Taqueria El Palenque, Little Rock: Carne Asada

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Arkansas: Taqueria El Palenque, Little Rock: Carne Asada

Hiding in a hidden corner of an anonymous strip mall, this tiny taquería 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: La Taqueria, San Francisco: Carnitas Taco

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California: La Taqueria, San Francisco: Carnitas Taco

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

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

Pinche Taquería, now known as Tacos Tequila Whiskey because “pinche” isn’t fit to translate on a family website (it’s something you’d say when you’re moved by extreme emotion), was originally a taco truck, and the name of the shop still harkens a bit of street attitude: Given how good the restaurant’s pork belly “Agridulce” is, you too may be emotionally moved. Chef Kevin Morrison has put a modern twist on Mexican street food, serving a 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: El Charrito, Riverside: Carnitas

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Connecticut: El Charrito, Riverside: Carnitas

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.

El Pique, Wilmington

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Delaware: El Pique, Wilmington: Lamb Birria

This tiny hole-in-the-wall 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: My Ceviche, Miami: Raw Tuna

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Florida: My Ceviche, Miami: Raw Tuna

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: El Rey Del Taco, Atlanta: Cabeza

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Georgia: El Rey Del Taco, Atlanta: Cabeza

Ethnic eats abound on the Buford Highway, and this 24-hour Mexican diner 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: Coconut’s Fish Café, Maui: Fish Tacos

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

Coconut’s has locations in Arizona, Plano, 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 Tacos, Boise: Tin Roof Taco

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Idaho: Tin Roof Tacos, Boise: Tin Roof Taco

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: Birrieria Zaragoza, Chicago: Birria Tatemada

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Illinois: Birrieria Zaragoza, Chicago: Birria Tatemada

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: Indy Tacos, Indianapolis: Mole

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Indiana: Indy Tacos, Indianapolis: Mole

Behind perhaps the most unassuming storefront in Indy hide the best tacos in the state, and the daily line out the door 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: La Juanita, Storm Lake: Carne Asada

Yelp/ Josh S.

Iowa: La Juanita, Storm Lake: Carne Asada

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: Taco Republic, Kansas City: Cochinita Pibil

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Kansas: Taco Republic, Kansas City: Cochinita Pibil

This low-key and inviting restaurant 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: Seviche, Louisville: Mahi Mahi

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Kentucky: Seviche, Louisville: Mahi Mahi

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: Johnny Sanchez, New Orleans: Carne Asada

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Louisiana: Johnny Sanchez, New Orleans: Carne Asada

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: Taco Escobarr, Portland: Bisteck Crispy Taco

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Maine: Taco Escobarr, Portland: Bisteck Crispy Taco

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: Tortilleria Sinaloa, Baltimore: Al Pastor

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Maryland: Tortilleria Sinaloa, Baltimore: Al Pastor

This perpetually packed restaurant (with a second location that opened last year) 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: Taco Loco, Boston: Lengua

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Massachusetts: Taco Loco, Boston: Lengua

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: Taqueria El Rey, Detroit: Carnitas

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Michigan: Taqueria El Rey, Detroit: Carnitas

This low-key Southwest Detroit gem 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: El Taco Riendo, Minneapolis: Lengua

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Minnesota: El Taco Riendo, Minneapolis: Lengua

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: Green Ghost Tacos, Jackson: Chorizo

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Mississippi: Green Ghost Tacos, Jackson: Chorizo

This Jackson newcomer has already emerged as the winner of Mississippi’s taco game, with two locations opening in the past two 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: La Tejana Taqueria, St. Louis: Campechano

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Missouri: La Tejana Taqueria, St. Louis: Campechano

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: Taco Del Sol, Missoula: Fish Taco

Montana: Taco Del Sol, Missoula: Fish Taco

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: La Choza, Omaha: Al Pastor

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Nebraska: La Choza, Omaha: Al Pastor

Specialties of El Salvador and Mexico are on display at this popular Omaha spot 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: Taco y Taco, Las Vegas: Al Pastor

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Nevada: Taco y Taco, Las Vegas: Al Pastor

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: El Colima, Nashua: Carne Asada

El Colima Mexican Restaurant

New Hampshire: El Colima, Nashua: Carne Asada

A warm and inviting dining room sets the stage for a fresh and authentic Mexican meal at this Nashua stunner. The slightly clubby atmosphere makes this a great place for a couple margaritas, but make sure you sample the Tacos Al Carbon with carne asada. Grilled marinated steak is served with three flour tortillas, pico de gallo, guacamole, and a side of beans.

New Jersey: Aguilas de Mexico, Newark: Al Pastor

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New Jersey: Aguilas de Mexico, Newark: Al Pastor

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: The Shed, Santa Fe: Chicken with Green Chile

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

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: Tortilleria Nixtamal, Queens: Carnitas

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New York: Tortilleria Nixtamal, Queens: Carnitas

Located a couple of blocks from Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Tortilleria Nixtamal isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a tortilla factory. Opened in 2008, it quickly developed a reputation as one of New York’s premier taco spots, and with good reason: Just about everything they offer is astoundingly delicious. Tortillas are made from non-GMO corn with no additives or preservatives, and meat comes from Franco’s, a local butcher. Though the lamb barbacoa and homemade chorizo are certainly delicious, you won’t want to leave without trying the carnitas. Chunks of pork are slow-cooked for more than two hours in lard, and then simply topped with onion, cilantro, and a little hot sauce. It’s taco perfection.

North Carolina: Tacos La Vaquita, Durham: Barbacoa

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North Carolina: Tacos La Vaquita, Durham: Barbacoa

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: Red Pepper, Grand Forks: Taco

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North Dakota: Red Pepper, Grand Forks: Taco

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: Barrio, Cleveland: Carne Trozo

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Ohio: Barrio, Cleveland: Carne Trozo

This beloved Downtown Cleveland hotspot 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: Big Truck Tacos, Oklahoma City: Green Chile Pork

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

One of OKC’s most popular food trucks now has three trucks and a brick-and-mortar location, and it’s 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: Sanchez Taqueria, Tigard: Carnitas

Oregon: Sanchez Taqueria, Tigard: Carnitas

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: El Vez, Philadelphia: Shrimp Tacos

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Pennsylvania: El Vez, Philadelphia: Shrimp Tacos

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: Tallulah’s Taqueria, Providence: Carnitas

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Rhode Island: Tallulah’s Taqueria, Providence: Carnitas

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

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

Located far from the beaten path in Mt. Pleasant, this unassuming strip mall joint 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: Sabor A Mexico, Rapid City: Chicken Mole

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

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 chicken mole, with a labor-intensive sauce made by hand by Munoz. 

Tennessee: Carniceria Y Taqueria Don Juan, Nashville: Barbacoa

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Tennessee: Carniceria Y Taqueria Don Juan, Nashville: Barbacoa

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: Tacodeli, Various Locations: El Conquistador

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Texas: Tacodeli, Various Locations: El Conquistador

Austin without Tacodeli, which has five locations around the city (as well as two in Dallas and one in Houston), 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: Tacos Don Rafa, Salt Lake City: Carnitas

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Utah: Tacos Don Rafa, Salt Lake City: Carnitas

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: The Mad Taco, Waitsfield: Chile Colorado

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Vermont: The Mad Taco, Waitsfield: Chile Colorado

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: Tacos El Chilango, Arlington: Chorizo

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Virginia: Tacos El Chilango, Arlington: Chorizo

The best tacos in Virginia can be found at a food truck 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: Essex, Seattle: Fish

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Washington: Essex, Seattle: Fish

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.: Oyamel: Carnitas estilo Michoacan con salsa de tomatillo

Photo by Oyamel Cocina Mexicana via Yelp

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

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: Maria’s Taqueria, Shepherdstown: Fish

Photo by Kelly L. via Yelp

West Virginia: Maria’s Taqueria, Shepherdstown: Fish

Northern Virginia native Maria Allen opened this taquería 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: Taqueria Guadalajara, Madison: Carne Asada

Wisconsin: Taqueria Guadalajara, Madison: Carne Asada

This small and unassuming taquería 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: Jan Juan, Jackson: Carne Asada

Yelp/ Cynthia Y.

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; you can find a full guide to the best food and drink in Wyoming here

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