Food & Drink

The 8 most important tacos in Dallas

Published On 05/07/2014 Published On 05/07/2014
Dallas's Essential Tacos
José R. Ralat

This being Texas, you undoubtedly have some opinions on tacos. A favorite breakfast taco? Certainly. A preferred gas station taco spot? Quite possibly. That’s all well and good -- there are some spots serving excellent examples of the basics -- but the taco universe is incredibly varied and ever-expanding. Here, in no particular order, are the eight most distinctive, essential, and important tacos in DFW, so you don't waste any of your precious taco time.

José R. Ralat

Los Torres Taqueria: Birria
Oak Cliff
The coastal Northwestern Mexican state Sinaloa has two known representative restaurants in Dallas. One specializes in seafood. The other, Los Torres, is a meat Alhambra, where incomparable stewed goat meat with sour needling is served in the handmade flour tortillas characteristic of the region.

Urban Taco

Urban Taco: Tacos al pastor
Beyond sleek designs and a killer tequila program is a taqueria classic that cements Urban Taco’s rightful place as a purveyor of essential tacos: tacos al pastor -- slices of chile- and sour orange-marinated pork roasted on a vertical spit called a trompo, served on a corn tortilla and garnished with pineapple slices. But there’s more. Urban Taco’s corn tortillas are made from nixtamal, the ancient, pre-Hispanic method of preparing corn and tortillas to imbue the food with nutrients. Your average hole-in-wall joint doesn’t do that.

José R. Ralat

El Come TacoSesos (and chapulines)
East Dallas
It's been said that the sesos (veal brains) at this East Dallas newcomer look like cauliflower and taste like tofu. Requesting the filling is a rite of passage for taco newbs, especially the late-night sort where the added gray matter could be beneficial. If and when the grasshoppers make it back on the menu, you’ll never be so happy to have insect legs jammed between your molars and canines.

José R. Ralat

El Rincon de Villa: Carnitas
Lake Highlands
Carnitas, chunks of meat (the word translates to "little meats"), usually pork, are cooked in their own fat in bulky pots from which a soothsayer can predict the future. At this Upper Greenville Avenue restaurant, it’s a sweet, sweet future in handmade tortillas.

Entree: Dallas / Rich Vana

La Nueva Fresh & Hot Tortilleria: Guisado verde
North Dallas
Light an entire box of kitchen matches. Shove it in your mouth. That’s the heat emanated by the porcine gems in a salsa verde lattice presented in pillowy corn tortillas at La Nueva. And it’s a lovely way to go.

Revolver Taco Lounge

Revolver Taco Lounge: Everything
Fort Worth
Turning Fort Worthians’ concept of authentic Mexican food on its ear, mod Revolver Taco Lounge from Michoacán native and gun engraver Regino Rojas (and his family) trades in everything from smoking -- literally smoking -- ceviches and goat birria to limited taco specials, including saucy chilorio, applewood-grilled cobia, $50 4oz Wagyu beef, and standards like mellow carnitas, woodsy huitlacoche, and lobster folded in seconds-old handmade tortillas. Snag a seat at the bar framing the open kitchen and watch Rojas’ mother, Juanita, and aunt, Teresa, make zinging-fresh Mexican fare.

Entree: Dallas / Finny Philip

Velvet Taco: Fried paneer
Tacos pressed through the sieve of subcontinent foodways are a thing. Among the first and perhaps the best in DFW is found at this gourmet spot in the Knox-Henderson nightlife district. The just-familiar take on Indian cheese nuzzling tomato chutney, Thai basil, tikka sauce, and raita crema with a susurrant heat in a flour tortilla is a sterling example of fusion done honorably.

José R. Ralat

Fuel City: Picadillo
At some point a 24-hour gas station/car wash, (with a drained swimming pool and a Longhorn herd) serving bad elotes and barbacoa tacos -- so greasy one might as well shotgun a bottle of canola oil -- to folks who’ve made bail and club kids, became a tourists-and-suited-office-types-slumming-it kind of spot heralded by national media outlets that should know better. And yet, it remains a landmark essential to understanding the evolution of the Dallas taco scene.

José R. Ralat is the editor at The Taco Trail, co-founder of the North Texas Taco Festival and TacoCon (Cerveza), and the food writer at Cowboys & Indians magazine.

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1. Los Torres Taqueria 1322 W Clarendon Dr, Dallas, TX 75208 (Oak Cliff)

This Taqueria pays homage to the Mexican state of Sinaloa with its meaty selection of delicious tacos -- try the birria, a stewed goat meat taco with handmade flour tortillas characteristic of the region.

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2. Urban Taco Uptown 3411 McKinney Ave, Dallas, TX 75204 (Dallas)

This slick taqueria serves up modern Mexican fare in a buzzy, upscale eatery situated on a block of Uptown Dallas McKinney Ave prime real estate. Luxe ingredients and a clubby atmosphere add to Urban Taco's appeal. Nosh on the ceviche trio while you sip seasonal sangria on the "see and be seen" triple-tier patio complete with a bar made from melted-down blue vodka bottles.

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3. El Come Taco 2513 N Fitzhugh Ave, Dallas, TX 75204 (East Dallas)

El Come Taco focuses on simply prepared street tacos made with corn tortillas and filled with brisket, sirloin, or if you're craving a crunch, crispy grasshopper. The add-ons are minimal (most tacos are topped with nothing more than cilantro and chopped onion), letting the juiciness of the meat and the grainy texture of the tortillas speak for themselves.

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4. El Rincon De Villa 6867 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75231 (Lake Highlands)

Check out these taco slingers in Lake Highlands, they've got next-level carnitas tacos wrapped in sweet, handmade tortillas.

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5. La Nueva Fresh & Hot 9625 Webb Chapel Rd, Dallas, TX 75220 (North Dallas)

It's tough to go wrong at La Nueva. Try the lamb taco, the barbacoa, al pastor, or the guisado verde -- you won't regret a thing.

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6. Revolver Taco Lounge 2822 W 7th St, Fort Worth, TX 76107 (Fort Worth)

Operating out of Forth Worth's upper west side, Revolver Taco Lounge is a small, family-run joint serving up the highest quality Mexican way under the radar. Its humble signage won't be what draws you in, but the gorgeous, modern setup both inside and on the patio will. Dining here is not a typical Tex-Mex experience -- this place is far upscale of that. Although the breakfast menu is incredible (all-you-can-eat breakfast tacos), you really want to save Revolver for dinner because the tacos are gourmet gatherings of beef tongue, veal, pork shoulder, and duck breast.

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7. Fuel City 801 S Riverfront Blvd, Dallas, TX 75207 (Downtown)

If you need to wash your car, fill up on gas, buy some beer, and find some delicious street tacos, but you only have time to make one stop -- almost unbelievably, Fuel City has you covered.

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8. Velvet Taco 3012 N Henderson Ave, Dallas, TX 75206 (Knox Henderson)

This Henderson spot draws inspiration from across the globe to craft its delicious, if not eccentric, tacos. Marrying homemade tortillas with meat and vegetable fillings like fried paneer, Cuban-style roasted pork, and Creole blackened shrimp, Velvet Taco brings out the best of its Texan heritage by mixing it with other cuisines. Margaritas made with fresh squeezed juices help wash down the juicy tacos, and you can and should finish your meal with a slice of homemade red velvet cake that regulars can't get enough of.