I know, it's a hard job but this Taco Journalist had to do it! In our "research" for el book - The Tacos of Texas book - we ate over 500 tacos across 10 cities in Tejas and yes, we grew 3 taco sizes larger. We ate taco stands, trailers and trucks, mom & pop shops and fast food joints, with chefes & familias, in backyards and ranchos. All in the name of tacos! So when the Texas Standard asked us for the top list, we were happy to oblige. Listen to the story and check out the full lista below. Ladies and gentlemen, cowboys y vaqueros, these are the best tacos I ate in 2016. Enjoy!
Tacos included are based on taco book calendar year. ;) Photos by El Mero Mero Fotografero, Marco Torres.
Taco: The Real Deal Holyfield (Breakfast taco)
Place: Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ
Why it's the best: The Real Deal Holyfield is the best of the best. This taco is the one that separates the men from the boys, las chingonas from the niñas. It's the Mex and Tex wrapped up in a fresh flour tortilla with slow and low smoked brisket, beans, potatoes, thick cut bacon topped with a huevo estrellado (fried egg) and a mean tomato serrano salsa.
Why it's the best: This trompo from Trompo in Dallas had me at "do you want eat tacos in the back of my garage?" This pork masterpiece is sazonado con paprika, hails from Monterrey and is winning the hearts and bellies of the taco world.
City: El Paso
Why it's the best: The discada is one of the reasons men cook and drink together. And it was no different with Tacoholics' own, Jessie Peña - Disco Master. One of the ways we do this is with a disco, a pan developed somewhere between the farmlands of Mexico and Texas. Large tractor tills are welded together to form a concave pan used for outdoor cooking. El disco is more than a pan; it’s a way for Mexican men (mostly) to share the experience of cooking and bringing families together with food and culture. It's the process of cooking up the red meats, pork, sausages, weenies, bacon, chorizo, jalapeños, and cebollitas as the corn tortillas warm up on the edges of the pan and we converse about life, politics, food, family, beers, tequila, y más.
Taco: Puffy Taco
Place: Ray's Puffy Tacos
City: San Antonio
Why it's the best: There's nothing better than eating a light and fluffy masa that's fried & shaped to perfection. This taco filled with ground beef, lettuce and yellow cheese and even better, from an old school drive-inn!
Place: Estilo Tierra Caliente
Why it's the best: Maria Samano has been holding it down in Montrose and doubles down on why her barbacoa tacos are so good, "Because I make them myself and they.are.good!" I agree.
Place: Taco Palenque
Why it's the best: Ask anyone in Laredo and Jarod (it's one of his favorites) the taco they love to eat and they will happily respond with a Pirata from Taco Palenque. Take Mexican Mayonnaise (thin spread of refried beans), grilled fajitas and add yellow cheese and you've got something born out of the border. It's great in the morning, 2am or 9am.
Chicharron con huevos (breakfast taco)
Why it's the best: Fluffy handmade tortillas, just like abuelita used to make or like the ones that still work at Hi-Ho. I had the crunchiest, creamiest and pico-est taco I've ever had and I think Selena would agree.
Taco: Guisado de Puerco
Place: Manuel's Tortilla and Tamale Factory
Why it's the best: West Texas sabores are spicier and the chile sauces are earthier, all thanks to the influence of Mexico and New Mexico. We had the best undercover guisado de puerco tacos that side of Pecos. If you stop by, ask them by name cuz the only thing on the menu are tortillas and tamales.
Taco: Taco Callejeros/Street Tacos
Place: Ultimo Taco
Why it's the best: Your first stop in the Rio Grande Valley should be Ultimo Taco. The street tacos come in 6-packs and 8-packs with all kinds of meaty varieties: Bistec, Al Pastor, Barbacoa, Mollejas & Tripas. The place is so good they don't need any decorations on the walls. Yeah, that good.
Place: Vera's Backyard Bar-B-Que
Why it's the best: Armando Vera, pit master and barbacoa boss has been cooking cabezas since he was 11 years old. Not only is it one of the best in Texas, they still cook the beef heads in pozos (underground ovens). Get there at 4am to beat the crowds.