The 12 Absolute Best Tacos In Austin, Ranked

Austin, Texas is famous for having incredible tacos (though neighboring San Antonio gives it a run for its money). If you ask any Austinite where the best tacos are, prepare to stand around for half an hour while they list dozens of delicious options. From tiny food trailers to large chains, it's hard to find any corner of the city where you're more than a couple of blocks from a decent taco.

With so many types of tacos to choose from, it was hard to narrow down a list of the greatest tacos in town, but we gave it our best shot. We tried to capture the breadth and variety of Austin's taco scene on this list, from Tex-Mex to regional Mexican to left-field fusion options. Various price points are represented, but we stayed away from places that were too expensive. In a city with amazing food on every street corner, why would you pay 15 bucks for a pretentious taco from a fancy restaurant? Consider this list as a jumping-off point for further taco exploration in Austin. If you're lucky enough to spend a decent amount of time in the city, you'll be sure to find your own favorites. Here are some of the best tacos in Austin, ranked from excellent to life-changing.

12. Torchy's Tacos — Trailer Park (trashy)

Torchy's is quite the empire these days, with 90-plus locations in over a dozen states, but it all started as a little food truck in Austin. Its food isn't the most authentic, but it's not trying to be, and that's fine. The tacos here are massive — we eat three tacos from most taquerias, but two Torchy's tacos are enough to fill us up.

Since Torchy's makes isn't exactly real Mexican food, we like its more American-style options. And what's more American than chicken fingers? The Trailer Park features a strip of boneless fried chicken topped with green chiles, pico, and shredded cheese. It comes with shredded lettuce by default, but we prefer taking the restaurant's suggestion to "make it trashy" by removing the lettuce and adding queso. It's just amazingly rich and Texas-y. What other state would come up with breading and frying chicken, dousing it in cheese sauce, and wrapping the whole thing in a flour tortilla?

We also have to shout out the creamy poblano sauce that comes on the side, which tastes like Tex-Mex ranch. It's quite similar to the cult favorite creamy jalapeño dip served up by local Mexican chain Chuy's. We're putting this taco at the bottom of the list because, frankly, it's ridiculous, but it sure tastes great.

11. Tyson's Tacos — crispy duck taco

Tyson's is a 24-hour spot on Airport Boulevard that is a haven for service industry workers in the neighborhood. No matter how long it takes you to close down the kitchen at your job and throw down a couple of post-work beers, you can always count on Tyson's being there for you to fill your belly before you pass out.

We love getting the three-taco plate and ordering a selection of different tacos at Tyson's. Many of the lunch/dinner tacos are drool-worthy. The crunchy taco filled with picadillo is like the best Taco Bell hard shell taco you could ever imagine. The diablo shrimp sauteed in adobo sauce is another winner. However, we chose the crispy duck at Tyson's because it's unlike any other taco in Austin.

The crispy duck taco is like if a peking duck bao and a taco had a baby. The duck has super crispy skin (watch out for extra crunch, as that might be a stray bone). The savory, fatty duck is offest by sweet hoisin sauce and the crisp refreshing taste of cucumber. Although we often go with corn tortillas at Tyson's, this particular taco is better on flour — the soft flour tortilla is a better analogue for a Chinese steamed bun. Order this with some of Tyson's excellent queso on the side for the Mexi-Chinese fusion meal you never knew you needed.

10. Juan in a Million — machacado breakfast taco

Yes, Juan in a Million has a silly pun name, but don't hold that against it — this East Austin breakfast and lunch standby takes its food quite seriously. It's stuck around for over four decades and countless changes in the neighborhood, and we can say from personal experience that if you don't get there early, you'll likely encounter a line out the door.

This place has A-tier breakfast tacos of all kinds. Our choice is the machacado, which combines shredded dried beef, eggs, jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes. This is a common dish in Northern Mexico, but we haven't seen it at many other taquerias in Austin, so Juan in a Million's version feels special.

The dried beef is incredibly salty and savory. It has a lot more umami flavor than fresh beef does. Think beef jerky, but with less assertive seasoning and pounded into thin threads. It's so intensely beefy that it's nice to have the eggs and fresh veggies in the mix to dilute it a bit. This is a protein-packed way to start the day.

9. Joe's Bakery — breakfast taco with bacon

No list of the best tacos in Austin can be complete without a recommendation for a classic, no-frills breakfast taco. This place has been serving Mexican breakfast since the '60s, and it still sells breakfast all day. It's famous for its shatteringly crisp bacon, which is dredged in flour and dried in a fridge overnight before being cooked in the morning. The flour coating gives the bacon an almost fried chicken-like breaded crust that won't sog out even if it's combined with moist toppings. And you get nice thick strips of bacon here — not measly crumbled pieces like at some of the lesser breakfast taco spots.

You can get any type of breakfast taco you want at Joe's, but for the best experience, make sure it has bacon and order it on one of the restaurant's house-made flour tortillas. Bacon and egg are classic, of course, but we actually like to go eggless. Our breakfast order is bacon, refried beans, cheese, and potatoes. It's a whole breakfast platter in a tortilla wrap, and it's the most comforting thing you could possibly imagine. However, it's not as exciting as some of the tacos higher on this list.

8. Rosita's Al Pastor — al pastor

What else are you going to get at Rosita's Al Pastor besides an al pastor taco? This business operates both a brick-and-mortar restaurant and a food truck. Interestingly, the truck and the restaurant share the same parking lot. The restaurant makes fluffy, soft flour tortillas, but for us, we just think al pastor pork tastes better on corn. The pork is bright red, like pastor should be. The marinade ingredients are a secret, but it definitely has dry chiles and pineapple in it.

The meat is cooked the traditional way, in thin slices stacked on a giant rotating spit called a trompo. A slice of pineapple bastes the meat with juice as it grills on the trompo. This cooking method gives you moist, tender pieces of pork with crispy caramelized edges. It's easy to inhale a bunch of these tacos before you realize what you're doing. The meat is so flavorful that it barely needs salsa.

7. Taco More — goat

Texas may be beef country, but Austin is a great place to experiment with more interesting meats. We love a good goat taco — the meat is kind of like lamb but with even more gaminess to it. And if you're looking for the best goat taco in town, look no further than Taco More.

More's taco de chivo comes with slow-cooked, shredded meat that's just the right amount of goat flavor without becoming overpowering. It's fairly similar to barbacoa, the shredded, steam-cooked meat you'll find at most Austin taquerias (El Tacorrido's beef cheek barbacoa is a notably good example of this dish). It's topped, as all good tacos should be, with a shower of fresh cilantro and chopped onion. If you desire more condiments, the restaurant's salsa bar is extensive, with homemade salsas as well as picked escabeche and whole chiles for the real spice-heads. With all the topping options, even people who are a little hesitant to try goat may end up loving this taco. Nevertheless, it may prove to be too much for people who are very picky about what meats they enjoy.

6. Las Cazuelas — carne guisada

East Austin is a nightlife destination filled with fun bars and music venues, and all those hip partiers need something to soak up the booze after closing time. Las Cazuelas is the perfect spot to end your night at. It's open 24 hours on the weekend (and on thirsty Thursday), so you can still grub up even after a weird after-hours rave.

The menu is a mixture of Tex-Mex and more traditional Mexican favorites. Everything is executed competently, but the carne guisada sticks out as special. Carne guisada is a Tex-Mex comfort classic that can be made with any type of stewed meat. The one at Cazuelas goes with the most popular choice, beef, which has been cooked down until it's falling apart. Even better than the meat itself is the broth it's served in, which is a gravy thickened with flour and seasoned with cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and herbs. This soupy mixture is tenuously held in place by a flour tortilla. Your hands will get very dirty when you eat this, but who cares? You're probably drunk anyway if you're at Las Cazuelas. In all seriousness, this taco is excellent no matter what time of day it is and what your mental state happens to be while you consume it.

5. El Borrego de Oro — birria

El Borrego de Oro (which means the golden sheep) is a small sit-down restaurant tucked into a brick shoebox of a building across the street from St. Edwards University on South Congress Street. Apart from the groovy mural on the front door, there's nothing about the place to make you think it's any different from the innumerable other low-key taquerias in town. However, its name holds a clue as to what makes this restaurant so special.

We all know birria is hot on the internet. The saucy, meaty birria creations you see splashed across your "For You" page are often made with beef, which is typical for birria served in the U.S. Borrego de Oro, on the other hand, makes its birria with lamb, which adds gaminess and depth that you don't get with more neutral-tasting beef. You have to pay a dollar upcharge to get birria as the meat for your tacos, but it's well worth it. The lamb is soft, tender, and flavorful. Don't forget the cup of broth that comes on the side as well. The broth is incredibly meaty and savory, with tomatoes, onions, and chile peppers complementing the flavor of the lamb.

4. El Tacorrido — revuelta

One of the fun things about Austin's food scene is that some of the most amazing stuff comes from inauspicious locations. The little drive-through shack might serve better food than the expensive fine-dining restaurant next door. Our favorite place for drive-through tacos in town is El Tacorrido, particularly the one on South 1st and Oltorf. You're not going to find many bells and whistles on El Tacorrido's menu; it's mostly traditional, stripped-down street tacos, executed perfectly and served at a reasonable price.

Tacos are a great way to do nose-to-tail eating, and our favorite thing on El Tacorrido's menu combines parts of the pig you don't often find in American grocery stores. The revuelta is a mixture of carnitas (pork shoulder), cuerito (pork skin), and buche (pork stomach). It's a symphony of meaty flavors and textures. The carnitas is basically pulled pork, while the cuerito is smooth, silky, and almost creamy from its long cook. The buche adds a little bit more chewiness and savory funk. Together, they create a concentrated essence of pork flavor that you'd never get out of a standard piece of meat. Get this on a soft, fresh corn tortilla with roja salsa and you'll be in hog heaven. If you don't like variety meats, just the carnitas by itself is still amazing.

3. El Pollo Rico — chicken al carbon

This is a taco that requires some assembly. Yes, El Pollo Rico offers pre-made chicken tacos, but the meat isn't as moist and juicy as it is when you order a half or whole grilled chicken. If you just get a chicken meal and make the tacos yourself, your taste buds will thank you.

The chain doesn't tell you what the chicken is marinated in, but to us, it tastes like lime juice, achiote, herbs, chiles, and lots of other stuff we can't identify. It's complex and savory. The chicken is grilled slowly until it's smoky and magnificent. With a meal, you get some chicken, fresh corn tortillas, green and red salsas, a whole grilled onion, and two sides (we like to do porky charro beans and yellow rice).

Here's what you do. First, rip off a few bite-sized pieces of chicken, making sure to include some skin. Put them into a tortilla, then slice off a couple of chunks of the soft grilled onion to put on top. Pour on generous drizzles of both colors of salsa (the green is particularly excellent here) and you have the best chicken taco available within Austin city limits. Don't forget to squeeze some lime on top.

2. Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ — Real Deal Holyfield with brisket

Austin is known for great tacos and great barbecue, so it stands to reason that people would start putting barbecue into tacos. You can find barbecue tacos all over the city, but one restaurant does them better than any other: Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ.

Valentina's is one of Austin's best barbecue restaurants in general, whether you get tacos or not, but its tacos are unique and special. Our favorite is a ridiculously over-the-top breakfast taco. The Real Deal Holyfield comes with crispy potatoes, egg, creamy refried beans, bacon, and your choice of barbecue. We think you're wrong if you choose anything other than Valentina's intensely smoky, unctuously fatty, meltingly soft smoked brisket.

This taco's fillings are incredible enough that we'd recommend it even if it came on a supermarket Mission tortilla. Incredibly, Valentina's also serves the best flour tortillas we've had in Austin. They're incredibly fresh and fluffy, almost verging on pita bread levels of thickness. Make sure to get tortillas even if you're ordering barbecue by the pound instead of tacos. The Real Deal Holyfield came close to taking the top spot, but we decided to give that honor to a more traditional option.

1. Veracruz All Natural — grilled fish

This one was a challenging pick. It's not that we were debating whether to include Veracruz All Natural — there's no doubt this local micro-chain of food trucks and taquerias deserves the top spot on the best tacos of Austin list. It's just a matter of which taco to highlight when everything Veracruz does is so good. The migas poblanas taco could easily be singled out as worthy. The Doña Reyna is probably the best mole taco you'll find in Austin. But we had to select the taco we never leave Veracruz without: the grilled fish.

Part of the reason Veracruz's grilled fish is the winner for us is that it's so much better than the versions served by most other taquerias. Often fish tacos are lacking in flavor or feature a mushy filet that just makes the tortilla soggy. Not so with Veracruz's grilled fish — the tilapia is heavily seasoned and has a nice crispy sear on it. Finely-sliced cabbage slaw adds even more crunch, and the sweetness of mango pico sets off all the other flavors. Tilapia has basically no fat, and this taco makes up for that with a triple threat of creamy richness: Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, and a little cup of mayo-based chipotle salsa. That salsa packs a little bit of a kick in addition to being silky smooth and rich — you're going to want to use all of it on the taco.