Best tacos in Austin
While El Mesón on South Lamar has garnered some deserved attention through the years for its well-done interior Mexican fare, the restaurant actually started as a humble taqueria still located in Southeast Austin. Settle into one of the talavera-tiled wooden booths to enjoy some of the best tacos in town, including a few less common selections, like chicken pipian (made with a pumpkin seed mole) or chilorio (shredded pork cooked in ancho pepper sauce). But if we had to pick one favorite, it’s the cochinita pibil. Pork tenderloin is marinated in achiote then slow-roasted, folded into one of the paper-thin homemade corn tortillas and topped with punchy citrus-marinated red onions. Handheld perfection… no salsa needed!
Mi Trailita is living proof that sometimes good things come in small packages. The tiny little trailer is tucked alongside a gas station on far east Manor Road with several folding tables sheltered under a canopy for dining on the spot. And once you smell the aromas wafting from the little kitchen, you’re going to want to eat right away. There are many fan favorites here (like the barbacoa and al pastor) but the succulent, melt-in-your-mouth carnitas won us over. Be sure to order them on moist corn tortillas (which are pressed and griddled to order—and also run on the smaller side, so you might want to order a few extras), topped with onion and cilantro. Both the red and green salsas are excellent, and the former really packs a punch.
Migas can vary drastically depending on several important factors (namely, the types of tortilla strips used, the amount of cheese and the assembly process). Veracruz All Natural does it right, starting with handmade corn tortillas and crunchy chips, which are both griddled on the flat top. Next: chopped tomato, onion, jalapeño and cilantro are sauteed with the chips and joined by an egg. The entire scramble is topped with plenty of thinly grated white cheese, which melts upon contact and holds the entire tasty package together. And, in an essential finishing touch, each migas taco comes with a generous slice of creamy avocado. The salsa trio at Veracruz is also a thing of beauty: choose from an atomic habanero, a creamy salsa verde and a hearty roasted tomato filled with more chunks of fresh avocado. If you're looking for a more formal way to enjoy your migas, Veracruz recently opened up a brick-and-mortar off Burnet.
This South Austin taco truck’s name explains it all: Tex and Mex come together deliciously, thanks to a diptych style menu with two variations of each protein. (For example, the pulled chicken sandwich gets slaw, while the pulled pollo taco comes with guacamole and tomatillo habanero salsa.) But the smoked brisket taco harnesses the collective power of both Tex and Mex for a taste you’re unlikely to find anywhere outside the state. Brisket is slow-smoked for fifteen hours, then presented on a handmade flour tortilla, topped with a dollop of sea salt and lime guacamole and a dash of spicy tomato-serrano salsa.
The citrus- and garlic-marinated tilapia filet served at Tamale House East is so substantial, it requires a double corn tortilla to properly transport it from plate to mouth. (And, even at that, it’s not usually the neatest endeavor, though it’s so tasty you won’t even mind the mess.) After the fish is grilled on the plancha, it’s topped with chopped spinach and pickled purple onions, in lieu of typical slaw, plus creamy guacamole and a smokey chipotle remoulade. For added spice, fill up a cup of the mustardy salsa verde and order a Mexican iced coffee (made with horchata and soy milk) to cool the burn. If you’re lucky, you might be treated to live music while you dine.
You can’t miss this bright orange taco truck on the corner of Pleasant Valley and Cesar Chavez—and, once you taste the homestyle dishes Yolanda Guerrero is serving from within it, you’ll never want to pass by it without stopping again. Considering the many options she offers (and sells out of) on a daily basis, you’d never guess Guerrero is running a one-woman show. While you can’t go wrong with her bistek, carnitas, chicharrones or chorizo and egg tacos, the picadillo is something you don’t find on every taco trailer’s menu. Made from fresh ground beef and cubed potatoes, her version is fragrant, simple and comforting. Request a corn tortilla and she’ll press one while you wait. Then spice it up with a spoonful of salsa roja from the sizable molcajete on the counter.
It’s no surprise a Mexican meat market would make some of the best, no-frills barbacoa in town. First timers, take note: peruse the day’s selection of prepared foods (only available at certain locations so check ahead of time) before paying at the register and then ordering at the counter. The deli case contains pans of picadillo, al pastor, carnitas, chiles rellenos, rajas con queso and more—all of which can be served as plates, tacos or tortas. Barbacoa jalisciense—beef cheek meat slow-roasted with chiles and spices—is almost always on the menu here, and a hefty scoop is served on a double corn tortilla with a wedge of lime. Those in the know will also stop at the salsa bar for pickled jicama, onions, carrots and peppers.
There’s a reason this tiny trailer in Bouldin Creek usually has at least a handful of people gathered around it, even on weekday mornings. El Primo is known beyond South Austin for its delicious breakfast tacos and friendly customer service. Be sure to order the house-made chorizo and egg taco, which comes with a plentiful stream of melted cheese running through it. The tortillas aren’t house-made, but they are griddled to perfection on the seasoned plancha, and the fresh and spicy homemade salsas are the real deal.
The tender and delicious lengua served at Licha’s Cantina is bound to convert even those who’ve historically been leery about the notion of beef tongue. The fresh and flavorful meat is slightly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, tossed into a spicy-sweet guajillo peanut salsa and showered with a confetti of onions and escabeche. Each order is presented on a cast iron skillet with soft house-made corn tortillas for you to fold on your own and season with their next-level salsas to your liking. On a nice night, there might not be a better place in town to sip mezcal and enjoy tacos than under their majestic live oak tree.
There’s nothing fancy about either spacious location of Taco More—or about the cabrito taco featured on their menu. But the beauty is in the simplicity of the lean, shredded goat meat filling each thin house-made corn tortilla. A squeeze of lime and sprinkle of fresh onions and cilantro balances the gamey nature of the meat, and a salsa bar offers plenty of additional options, from escabeche and pico de gallo to a rainbow of various sauces.