I've always enjoyed crispy tacos, but I've been obsessed since I devoured that trio of perfect specimens out on the patio at Luna Cocina. Since then, I've been chipping away at Tex-Mex menus all over Dallas, looking for crispy tacos with flavorful fillings and shells with a satisfying crunch.
My meals weren't always beautiful. Some taco shells had a tough, leathery quality while others were filled with oil. Many weren't printed on the menu, but I often found that if you ask, just about any Tex-Mex restaurant will prepare them if you call out the right name. Try old-fashioned tacos, fried tacos or tacos dorados: One of these should resonate with your server, and when it does you can get started on your own crispy taco adventure.
E-Bar (pictured above) There are crispy tacos on the menu at E-Bar, made with shells that are fried every morning and they're pretty good. But if you ask nicely the cooks in the back will fry your shells to order, with lightly seasoned ground beef tucked neatly inside. I like to eat mine with my left hand while using my right to grab forkfuls of lettuce, tomato and cheese along the way, but a long as everything ends up where it's supposed to, you're doing well.
Cliff's Bar and Grill After a long wait, some of my favorite crispy tacos have returned. When The Loon closed, I thought I might not see these guys ever again, but here they are, alive and well at Cliff's. This plate's an expensive one, considering you don't get rice and beans with your order, but you never eat those sides anyway. And besides, Cliff's is your best bet for crispy tacos in Uptown.
Luna's Cocina If you're in Fair Park and hungry, these tacos might be your best option outright. The shells are fried to order and they're served with well seasoned beef. Grab a seat on the open patio or eat these off the hood of your car.
Gonzalez These tacos stand on their shells alone. They are so light and crispy they might fly away if you don't eat them fast enough. Take one bite and they inevitably shatter, but cleaning the remains up with a fork is hardly a chore.
Avila's The tacos at Avila's might be worth it just for a chance to get at some of that seriously spicy salsa. They also demonstrate why you need to be specific when you order. I asked for crispy tacos and got the plate above. It was good, but those shells were fried long ago.
Because I'm a glutton I asked for one more, explaining that I had hoped my tacos were fried to order. "Oh, the taquitos," my waiter said. He dropped this off a few minutes later:
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The taco had a fresh sheen and the fillings were so hot I burnt my mouth but the taco was worth it.
There's another reason you should come to Avila's. Each of the restaurants on this list offered a choice of chicken or beef as a filling, and with the exception of Avila's, that pollo was dry and bland. Here it's rich and hearty, like a stew. It eclipses the beef it's so good.