Best tacos in San Francisco
La Santa Torta specializes in birria, made according to a recipe from one of the owner’s Jaliscan grandmother. Beef is marinated for 24 hours with spices that are hand carried from Mexico, then slowly cooked until tender then shredded. Corn tortillas are stuffed with the shredded beef, red onions, a sprinkle of cilantro and melted Oaxacan cheese. Griddled until crisp they are served with lime and salsa but add a cup of broth for dipping for the ultimate birria taco experience.
If you want to try unusual and incredibly delicious taco fillings like fried eggplant and fried jackfruit tacos, head to Chisme. This Tenderloin spot is bright with honey bear murals by acclaimed street artist fnnch. The tacos come in orders of two with terrific sauces and condiments including nori, sweet cabbage, peanut mole, pineapple habanero salsa, mint verde and even coconut ranch on their vegan and gluten-free fried plantain taco.
The smiling Elena Caballero or one of her friendly daughters will likely greet you from the window of their taco truck parked at the corner of 23rd and Treat in the Mission District. Their specialty is crispy carnitas and if you request hot sauce, be prepared for the burn. The tacos are some of the most affordable you’ll find in town and the filling is overflowing. Each order comes with a few crunchy vegetables and some pickled jalapeños. There’s a picnic table if you want to dine on the spot.
With a name like Tacolicious it’s clear that tacos are their thing. While you can go for classics like carne asada or Baja-style Pacific cod, the fan favorite here is the pastrami taco. It’s a taco version of a deli-style pastrami sandwich made with locally made pastrami, mustard manzano aioli, and caraway cabbage slaw on a soft flour tortilla. Dishes come with three kinds of salsa (the habanero with turmeric and rice vinegar may require one of the 100 specialty tequilas to cool you down).
Pancho Villa is a classic taqueria that’s been serving up tacos since the 1980s. There are a dozen filling choices including tofu rancheros, spicy chicken, carne asada, lengua, chorizo and chile verde pork. You choose the filling then the type of beans and freshly made salsa. Of particular note is the steak fajitas taco, cooked to order on the grill with fresh peppers and onions.
Nopalito serves several specialty tacos you won’t likely find elsewhere. A favorite are the tacos de pescado al pastor with seared fish in ancho chile adobo, chunks of juicy orange, onion, cilantro and salsa de morita and tomatillo. Another top pick are the crispy rolled tacos dorados, filled with potato, garlic, onions, queso fresco, crema and avocado salsa.
This family-owned Jaliscan-Californian restaurant features a lively atmosphere and whimsical Mexican decor. The food is anything but traditional but wonderful just the same. A must-order is the taco tropical, which comes two to an order. Panko- and spice-dusted fried shrimp are topped with a juicy tropical relish with melon and pineapple and spicy aioli and served on a round of paper thin jicama instead of a tortilla.
In the heart of the Bayview is this friendly taqueria with a long bar for cocktails, beer or wine to go with your meal. The menu ranges from classic to creative with al pastor, tinga and carnitas, and also Indian-spiced chickpea with kale, cucumber raita and mango black bean chutney and a roasted carrot taco with chipotle date yogurt, mole, and a crispy blend of sesame seeds, almonds and quinoa. One of the tastiest tacos is the classic Mexican style carne asada made from family recipes created in Mexico City.
“Welcome to Mexico City!” says Miguel Escobedo from his food truck, as he serves up the tacos al pastor that helped him win a 2019 readers award for best food truck from SF Weekly. Made with pork that is marinated in spices and cooked on a vertical spit, it’s a Mexican specialty with Lebanese roots. The large pile of sliced pork filling each taco is magically both crispy and tender. It’s served with fresh onion, cilantro and a bit of fresh pineapple, which adds juicy freshness to the taco.
Tucked behind Cala restaurant with an entrance in the alley, Tacos Cala offers a rotating menu of Mexico City-style tacos de guisado. The stewed fillings include everything from tender lengua in green sauce to sweet potatoes in salsa negra or pollo in achiote. The tacos include whole black beans and rice and are served on the most tender and fresh corn tortillas. It’s standing room only with one long communal table.