Tacos are like a bouquet of flowers – they’re fresh and bursting with colour, you can hold them in your hand, and almost everyone’s got a favourite type. From the flame-grilled pork of tacos al pastor to Baja California’s tacos de camarones, this deceptively simple dish comes in thousands of combinations – best sampled on an epic taco trip through the dish’s homeland.
But leave the masters of Mexico and head north, and you’ll find that the USA has been bitten by the taco bug, hard. This cult following doesn’t always mean abiding by tradition – there are now spaghetti tacos, and sushi tacos, and even cauliflower beetroot tacos – but America’s taco obsession comes from a place of love (and respect) for one of greatest foods out there. Travel to some of these die-hard-taco-lovin’ havens, and you’ll have to agree.
Texas-style portions are dished out at a state fair
Austin is all about live music, keepin’ it weird, and eating tacos – so pretty much a dream destination if you’re a laidback music lover with a salsa addiction. Whether or not this is the birthplace of the breakfast taco (it seems likely that Mexico holds that title, except there it’s just called breakfast), Austinites certainly love their tacos slapped with plenty of fried eggs, cheese, and avocado.
Just east of downtown, you’ll find a bounty of taco trucks and family-run Mexican restaurants. The Heywood Hotel puts you in waddling distance – or cycling distance, if you opt for their free bike rental – of many of the best spots.
Dig into some late-night tacos from a food truck
New York, New York
It makes sense that a city as dynamic as New York has some of the world’s most boundary-pushing tacos. Food trucks dish out Japanese-Mexican tuna poke wonton tacos, while hole-in-the-walls draw the crowds for tortilla-croissant hybrids filled with lamb shoulder or roasted chickpeas. But NYC also does more traditional styles justice – from West Village bistros dishing out lobster on white linen, to Tijuana-style shacks serving spit-roasted pork on the countertop.
You can find incredible Mexican and fusion taco joints all around the city, but the area around Chelsea and Washington Square Park has a plethora of taquerias, with Los Tacos No.1 Chelsea Market Stall serving up (possibly) the very best. Chelsea Pines Inn, a cosy B&B in a townhouse less than five minutes’ walk away, is the perfect place to sleep it off.
Street vendors take the art of the taco seriously
San Antonio, Texas
Sights like the Alamo and the San Fernando Cathedral make San Antonio a historical tourism hotspot, while the buzzing Riverwalk and El Mercado bring a small-town charm. But what keeps people coming back is the taco scene. San Antonians often rate as the most obsessed in the country – and their Tex-Mex tacos are so finger-licking good (and affordable), that you’ll be wanting them for every meal.
To find favourites around town, ask a local – food trucks with names like ‘Pimp my Taco’ and family-run spots on El Mercado are frequently mentioned as the best in the city. Don’t forget to try the puffy taco, San Antonio’s flash-fried tortilla, often topped with shredded chicken and cabbage. As far as places to stay, the inviting Omni La Mansion del Rio is near many a tasty taco joint, and its Riverwalk location means you can walk it off post-feast.
Tacos de carnitas always hits the spot
Los Angeles, California
The City of Angels has more taquerias than you could visit in a lifetime. With stands and stalls scattered across every corner of this sun-baked sprawl, it’s a place where the food scene is always changing. Like New York, the many top chefs mean there’s a lot of experimentation – think Korean short-rib, North-African shakshuka, or duck with roasted pear and pistachios.
Head to the beach for crispy shrimp served with salsa roja and avocado, or food trucks around Silver Lake for battered fish with cabbage and pico de gallo. Yucatan-style restaurants serve tacos de cochinita pibil (marinated pork cooked in banana leaves), while celebrity chefs fry up flautas in top restaurants. The LA Hotel Downtown, is in an ideal central spot for taco-hunting, only a few blocks away from the Mexican-style market on Olvera Street.
Korean beef tacos are loaded with fried veggies and spicy sauce
Miami’s food scene is owed to the people from around the world that make the city so soulful and unique. Neighbourhoods like Little Haiti simmer with Caribbean comfort food, while Little Havana has a Cuban joint on every corner. But thankfully for taco-lovers, Miami has embraced the tortilla with open arms. Korean tacos are filled with caramelized pork ribs and kimchi-style slaw, while southern comfort food finds its home in a fried chicken taco, which is topped off with jalapeño cornbread croutons and ranch dressing.
Great Mexican is dotted around both Miami and Miami Beach, with the glitzy area around South Beach a haven for both tiny taquerias and sit-down establishments. A stay at trendy Cavalier South Beach positions you strategically between the beach and some of the best taquerias in the area – and its classic Art Deco architecture doesn’t hurt either.
**The above cities were endorsed by Booking.com travellers for ‘Mexican Food’. The hotels were chosen based on their locations in neighbourhoods with a high concentration of taquerias – all the better for shuffling home after a taco tasting.