Food & Drink

The Best Tacos in Austin

Published On 10/18/2016 Published On 10/18/2016
José R. Ralat/Thrillist

Migas

Veracruz All Natural

Address and Info

South Lamar

If a migas taco is done right, the eggs retain bounce while the fried tortilla strips keep a semblance of crunch. The rest of the ingredients -- the onions, tomatoes, chilies, and cheese -- fold in and accentuate the flavors. This is what mini taco truck empire Veracruz All Natural does. There is of course a fresh tortilla. In the case of Veracruz that means handmade corn discs, and we prefer to order the whole package  at the trailer parked outside Radio Coffee & Beer, where you’ll need an Americano to hold you over until your order is ready. Waits can be up to 45 minutes. That’s OK, right? Austinites like to wait, in line or with restaurant pagers. Thankfully the migas taco is worth it.

Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

Smoked carnitas

Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

Address and Info

Far South Austin

The line is much shorter at this family-owned and -operated trailer, where the best of all possible Texas culinary worlds hug it out all the way down your belly. Rain or shine, customers wait patiently to place their orders of smoked meats in fluffy, slightly dusty flour tortillas. The peppery brisket comes with a ribbon of smoke and gets amped up for the mighty Real Deal Holyfield breakfast taco, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you do not request the smoked carnitas. Surprisingly light, the cuts of pork -- sometimes chopped, sometimes shredded -- have a smoky sweetness tightened by caramelized onions and carried by the luminescent tomatillo-habanero salsa.

José R. Ralat/Thrillist

Q-rizo

Cool Beans

Address and Info

West Campus

There isn’t a great vegetarian or vegan tradition in Texas tacos. Thankfully, taco ops like Cool Beans taco truck from Rolando Garza, a native of Brownsville, Texas, and Priscilla Jerez, from Los Angeles, are changing that. The Q-rizo subs quinoa for the spiced pork while staying with the potatoes and Garza’s grandmother’s recipe. “It’s heavy on the apple cider vinegar,” he says. And, indeed it is. So much so that it flirts dangerously with the kind of face-squishing, ears-folding-over-the-eyes flavor characteristic of the chorizo y papas taco at Tacos Gus in Mexico City. But this is in the Q-rizo’s favor -- so uncanny is it in resemblance to the real thing. Make sure to grab one behind the Spider House Café & Ballroom or the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 race track.

Chile relleno taco de arroz

Mi Tradición

Address and Info

Wooten

Chile en nogada, a holiday dish of a stuffed poblano chile draped in walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, isn’t a rarity in Texas. A classic stuffed chile taco (taco de chile relleno), however, is found only here and there in the Lone Star State. One of the best is served at this north Austin bakery and restaurant where a large blue corn tortilla base is topped with yellow rice and a breaded and fried quesadilla cheese-stuffed chile. The taco has a salty kick preceded by the textural wonderland that is the chewy tortilla and the generous portion of rice.

José R. Ralat/Thrillist

La Fresa

Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon

Address and Info

South Austin/Bouldin Creek

Never mind that former president Bill Clinton received a special vegan taco at this Austin wood-fired chicken concern. (He should have gone to Cool Beans for that.) It’s all about the clucking bird at Fresa’s Chicken. And it is best at Fresa’s second, bigger location with a vast patio awash in festive pastels with blocky wood tables to one side and smaller tables to the other. There’s a small pocket space for knee-biters. All of it is bordered by East Bouldin Creek to the back. It’s seriously all kinds of freaking pleasant. The dark meat chicken in the namesake taco is deep and juicy. Avocado imparts a creaminess, cotija adds a milky, salty, mouth-puckering quality, and cabbage & onion give the package crunch. In other words, it’s everything a chicken taco should be.

No. 4 taco

Mi Madre’s Restaurant

Address and Info

Cherrywood

If your definition of an Austin breakfast taco includes the adjective “sloppy,” Mi Madre’s has a real treasure for you. The
No. 4 Taco -- a parcel of black beans, eggs, and cheese bulging with protein -- will more than satisfy. The beans are al dente, the scrambled eggs have a soft-craggy give, and the salty cheese does a poor, but tasty, job of keeping it all together.

Bacon, egg & cheese breakfast taco

Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop

Address and Info

East Austin

If you’re over the whole bacon fad -- and we don’t blame you if you are -- the bacon used in Joe’s Bakery’s tacos won’t reconvert you, but the strips of pork, dredged in flour before frying, will likely be the only bacon you’ll want to consume thereafter. The breakfast meat’s increased density and the fact that the strips are left intact allow the bacon to hold its own against the hearty serving of scrambled eggs and cheese in the fresh, camping-bed-pad-thick flour tortilla.

Tacos de Carnitas Estilo Don Alberto

Takoba

Address and Info

East Austin

A bit fancy in contrast to the adjacent food truck, Takoba on East 7th St is home to straight-up beautiful pork shoulder carnitas. And no traces of refuse. Generous in portion and shredded but not stringy enough to get tangled in the spaces between your teeth, the carnitas meat is just sweet enough from the pork-fat bath simmered low and slow in the method used by Takoba owner José De Loera’s father Alberto, a carnitas vendor in his native Aguascalientes, Mexico. The carnitas’ accompanying salsa verde amps up the package into something even more delightful.

José R. Ralat/Thrillist

Pachuca taco

Mellizoz Tacos

Address and Info

South Austin/Bouldin Creek

A great Aztec warrior stands confidently. In his firm hands he balances a taco worthy of eating challenges on television. The art is a striking sight on the side of Mellizoz Tacos, a South Congress food truck that trades in old-school Tex-Mex (hello, ground beef), iconic Mexican (hola, carnitas) and creative (hiya, Bowman) tortilla-based noshes. But it’s the Pachuca that should be your No. 1 pick. The new breakfast menu item comes with eggs, machaca (dried salt beef typical of northern Mexico and South Texas), pico de gallo, and a melted queso so lacy and mild it can be mistaken for butter.

José R. Ralat/Thrillist

Taco No. 1

Tamale House East

Address and Info

East Austin

The last outpost of a once-citywide taqueria founded by the Vasquez family, Tamale House East is owned and overseen by descendants Carmen Valera and her family. And it continues honoring Austin’s past while pushing the city’s contemporary taco culture forward with options like chicken mole, grilled fish, and cochinita pibil tacos. But it’s the litmus-test Taco No. 1, in which is tucked potato, egg, bacon, and cheese, that shines. Why is it a litmus test taco? Because the cubed potatoes are firm on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and need no extra seasoning. Tamale House East’s way with the tricky potato shows a mastery most taquerias don't achieve.

José R. Ralat/Thrillist

Barbacoa de chivo

La Fruta Feliz

Address and Info

MLK

This perennial Austin favorite is heralded as much for its juices and aguas frescas as it is the chivo (goat) barbacoa garnished simply with cilantro and onion, a lime wedge propped on the side of the Styrofoam plate. As is the rule with any taqueria, order the house-made tortilla; here it’s a cakey white corn disc that, try as it might, can’t restrain the abundant juices running off the goat, which, for those not into such flavors, has tinges of gaminess.

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1. Veracruz All Natural 1704 E Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78702 (East Austin)

Owned by sisters born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico, this trailer (with a few locations across the city) serves tacos, tortas, and smoothies. The migas -- cloud-like scrambled eggs mixed with house-made tortilla chips, pico de gallo, cheese, avocado, then served atop a fresh tortilla -- are the stand-out dish.

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2. Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ 7612 Brodie Ln, Austin, TX 78745 (South Austin)

This family-run truck in Capital City serves some Tex-Mex, some barbecue, and some plates that combine the two. Expect mesquite-smoked brisket and ribs served three ways: as platters with coleslaw and pickles, loaded into hamburger buns, or folded into tacos house-made flour tortillas and guacamole. Its location right behind Star Bar means it's a great spot for the post-drinking munchies.

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3. Mi Tradición 8716 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758 (North)

This North Austin strip-mall bakery and cafe has everything from tacos to tortas to pan dulce, all of which fans swear are the most authentic and addictive Mexican treats around. On the right side of the space, you'll want to order some horchata to sip as you nosh on the classic taco de chile relleno, a large blue corn tortilla topped with yellow rice and a breaded and fried cheese-stuffed chile (this one isn't easy to come by in Texas). Once you're finished, head to the left side, where you can choose from dozens of cookies and cakes in a rainbow of colors and flavors.

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4. Fresa's Chicken Al Carbon 1703 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon in Austin prides itself not only on its modern take on the classic Mexican chicken al carbon, but also providing a friendly, casual atmosphere for customers to enjoy their heady Mexican dishes. The white-brick façade is bedecked with festive pastel yellows and blues, redolent of Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skulls. Walk up to the takeout window or enjoy sit-down service in the indoor dining area or the dog-friendly outdoor patio; all three tout the same menu, which is separated into wood-grilled meals, tacos, bowls, veggies, salads, wings, and selections of guacs and quesadillas. Even if you didn’t come to Fresa’s for any particular occasion, the signature Yucatan spice chicken, served with fluffy, piping hot white rice, moist black beans, grilled onion, jalapeno, lime, salsa, and pudgy corn tortillas, will have you partying like it’s spring break in Cancun all over again, so do yourself a favor and join the cocktail train. Sip on a house margarita or rose sangria: all the buzz, without any (or most) of the regrets.

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5. Mi Madre's Restaurant 2201 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722 (Cherrywood)

Austin Chronicle dubbed Mi Madre's breakfast tacos the best in Austin, and it's pretty damn hard to disagree. Do yourself a favor and get their homemade cilantro-infused sausage... actually, get four of them and eat them all alongside your choice of horchata, lemonade, beer, or coconut milk. Go in the summer (wait, it's Texas... so, go any time of year) and enjoy their outdoor patio with a few brews and buds.

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6. Joe's Bakery & Coffee Shop 2305 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702 (East Austin)

At its current East Side Austin location since 1969, this family-run Tex-Mex diner serves all-day breakfast and lunch plates like house-made tortillas, thick-cut bacon, breaded pork chops, and refried beans. Don't leave without stopping at the pastry counter for cookies, pan de huevo, and other Mexican baked goods.

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7. Takoba 1411 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702 (Central East)

The owners of Takoba know what they're doing with Mexican food -- they grew up in a rural area in central Mexico before relocating to Austin. They're dedicated to fresh, local ingredients and the menu reflects this philosophy, offering a great selection of standard favorites like quesadillas and more authentic, lesser-known dishes like a traditional Mexican pork stew. Best of all may be the outdoor patio-cum-sandbox that's filled with multicolored lounge chairs.

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8. Mellizoz Tacos 1503 S 1st St #B, Austin, TX 78704 (South Austin)

Terms like “food truck,” and “tex mex,” while of course applicable, simply don’t do Mellizoz Tacos justice. The Austin taco joint operates out of a 42-foot trailer and serves a menu of appetizers, like queso bacon fries, tortas, and tacos filled to the brim with such varied toppings as Ancho braised pork, blackened tilapia, tempura shrimp, and fried avocado for vegetarians. You choose red or green sauce to escort your warm, overflowing pocket of delight, and the best part is that the menu is served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. Derived from the Spanish word Mellizo, meaning fraternal twin, Mellizoz ensures that you and your taco brethren will have never felt closer.

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9. Tamale House East 1707 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 (Central East)

If you have less than 10 dollars in your pocket but still want to pig out on tacos, Tamale House East is the place to go. The original location shuttered when owner Moses Vasquez died in 2014, but his granddaughters brought it back to life at this counter-serve location on East Sixth Street. The massive dog-friendly patio provides ample room to enjoy a few breakfast tacos and an agua fresca.

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10. La Fruta Feliz 3124 Manor Road, Austin, TX 78723 (Central East)

Epitomizing a hole-in-a-wall, LFF is a well-hidden, little-known Mexican spot tucked away on Manor Road. This top-notch taqueria boasts some of the most authentic, and potentially surprising, taco fillings, from tongue and stomach, to the must-try barbaco de cabra (goat head meat). If you want to do Mexican right, this is the only place worth going to.