I’m passionate about tacos: their history, their culture, their variety, their everything. I’ve explored and written about them from coast to coast, but it's here in Dallas, where I started Taco Trail at the Observer, that tacos continue to thrill me, be it at old favorites or new operations ranging from fast-casual concepts and family-friendly restaurants to food trucks and taqueria standbys. Many of them have excellent tacos hidden in plain sight, tacos that are overlooked for less “exotic-sounding” options. Here are the 10 DFW tacos that belong on your radar.
Barbacoa de Borrego at Barbacoa Agave & Seafood Restaurant #1
9515 CF Hawn Fwy.
Unlike it’s heralded neighbor, Barbacoa de Agave doesn't see long lines. What this cash-only joint does have is barbacoa de borrego (lamb) that is smoked inside clay containers. What comes to your table in a chafing dish is punchy like the best Texas barbecue. At times, the pinkish-brown meat is almost candy-like in the handmade corn tortilla, but the mouth-searing salsa crushes it right quick.
Cecina de Puerco at Mi Lindo Oaxaca
2535 Fort Worth Ave.
It’s amazing that Mi Lindo Oaxaca remains open. There's no signage bearing the restaurant’s name, payment is cash-only and the cooking is done by hand, beginning with the hand-shelling of cacao beans for the house-made chocolate that goes into the house-made mole. The mole at Mi Lindo Oaxaca, the only Oaxaqueño restaurant that I've found in Dallas, is exquisite. Among the handful of taco options, which include chapulines (roasted grasshoppers), my favorite is the Oaxacan cecina de puerco, grilled and chopped chile-marinated pork, served in fresh white or blue corn tortilla that are toasted with restraint. It sees the brittle, cracker-thin cliff and brakes just in the nick of time. Ask nicely and the kitchen might serve the taco with a salty flanken-cut rib or two.
Crispy Taco at C’Viche
1922 Greenville Ave.
Light as a paper airplane and not much thicker, C’Viche’s fried-to-order crispy taco shell, ridged from the frying form, gets layers of mouth-puckering beef and the Tex-Mex holy trinity of lettuce, tomato and cheese, this case a dusting of queso blanco. It’s a snappy treat, perfect next to the fierce aguachile.
Fried Tripe at Tacos La Banqueta Puro DF
1305 N. Carroll Ave.
When I was 9 years old I saw a goat butchered behind my grandmother’s house before the meal. It was the coolest thing. Fast-forward a few decades to Dallas and Tacos La Banqueta’s original, compact space across the street from the beloved taco joint’s current spot. It’s there that I witnessed taqueros cleaning the bovine intestinal tract for tripe tacos. I marveled as the kitchen worker ran water through the tube, dunking the intestine in a bucket of water again and again.
When fried, the tripe at Tacos La Banqueta is salty and crunchy, not funky. Cut in half-inch segments, the tripe sits crackled atop the diminutive street taco-style double-ply white corn tortillas. Heavy-handed doses of raw white onion and chopped cilantro and spritzes of lime contribute brightness and zing. All of it leads to one question: Why have I overlooked this taco for La Banqueta’s signature suadero and cabeza?
Mayan Tacos at Azucar Latin American Cuisine
Food truck; location varies
On the road for less than a year, this pan-Latino food truck offers fine tacos, but it’s what owners John Gallegos and Kenneth and Lillian Weaver call “Mayan tacos” that deserve your attention. The small noshes, served two to an order, start with the bready, puffed base of fry bread tacos, a regional specialty of the American Southwest.
“We started with the Navajo fry bread and asked ourselves, How can we put a Latin spin on the dish?” Gallegos says.
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Indeed, while fry bread tacos get whole chili beans, the Maya Tacos have a refried black bean base. Juicy, sweet chicken, fresh lettuce (not just iceberg), chopped onions and tomatoes, crumbled cheese and wild squiggles of crema are stacked atop the beans to create a dish that is lighter — but just as delightfully messy — as a fry bread taco. Thanks to their diminutive size, the fry bread tacos evoke sopes or salbutes, a puffy taco-like specialty of the Yucatan, part of the ancient Maya homeland. If I were strolling through a beach town market and came across a vendor hawking Mayan Tacos, I’d order them. In the meantime, I’ll satisfy myself by visiting Azucar at the Truck Yard.
Nutty Chick at Yim Yam Truck
Food truck; location varies
When it comes to Asian-style tacos, Thai isn’t the first cuisine that comes to mind, but that’s what you’ll encounter at Yim Yam Truck. The best of the three tacos on the menu is the Nutty Chick: white corn pouches of chicken coated in peanutty satay sauce and pickled veggies, including smile-inducing watermelon radish. Yim yam is Thai for “smile," after all. Look for them at the Truck Yard.
OMG at OMG Tacos
141 N. Plano Road, Richardson
Richardson is a cornucopia of international foods. Almost any cuisine is yours to be had, a lot of it in strip malls where myriad taquerias are tucked away slinging mean tacos. OMG Tacos is one such strip mall taqueria. A trompo bearing an inches-tall stack of crimson-hued pork al pastor stands near the front corner of the open kitchen. There’s a mellow taco de lengua, barbacoa makes an appearance and then there is the signature OMG, chopped steak and scallions with a sweet-and-sour sauce tightly lacing the meat. A lone slice of tomato tops the filling. I didn’t shout in LOLspeak but I do remember thinking, holy shit. More, please.
Taco al Pastor at Urban Taco
3411 McKinney Ave.
Perhaps the most underrated taco in Dallas is one of the most traditional: Urban Taco’s al pastor. Marinated, roasted pork sliced from a trompo is served on a fresh corn tortilla made from delivered-daily nixtamalized masa with onion, cilantro and pineapple as finishing touches. Served at a hole-in- the-wall, the taco might be heralded by foodies and food bloggers as “legit.” That char! Unfortunately, many remain unaware of it—mainly because of misperception. Urban Taco is modern, chic even, and its location in Uptown means it’s erroneously dismissed as “gringo.” Funny enough, though, if you were to pick up the building and drop it in Mexico City, you’d likely walk right past without nary a notice. But Urban Taco is in Dallas, and if you walk past it, you’ll be missing one of greatest tacos in the city.
Tako Tacos at Bbbop Seoul Kitchen R&D
828 W. Davis St.
K-Mex tacos have come a long way since rolling onto the scene in first decade of the 2000s. They’ve been popular enough for long enough that they've become established American taco. Remove “Korean” from K-Mex and the combination of brightly marinated meat and pickled vegetables in a taco is no-brainer Mexican. And so it is at BBbop’s popular Oak Cliff location. (Disclosure: owners Greg and Sandy Bussey’s son and my son are friends).
At Bbbop's latest outpost, corn tortillas envelope a shot of pork beneath tangy pickled carrots and cabbage, a neat tangle of bean sprouts and stripes of spicy mayo that’s easy on the heat. So next time you have the urge to order the addictive fried chicken, go for the takos — or at least order them as an entrée-sized side.
Taquitos Don Tavo at Avila’s Mexican Restaurant
4714 Maple Ave.
This Tex-Mex institution’s brisket tacos are lauded, but Avila’s Taquitos Don Tavo deserve equal praise. The platter of tacos dorados, two tacos filled with picadillo and two filled with chicken and deep-fried, are crispy parcels of classic Mexican snacking. Split them open to add the accompanying garnishes, cheese, lettuce and tomato for a decidedly more regionally familiar taco.