A tortilla, filling and a fold over: That’s all a taco is. Still, San Antonio loves its tacos, and locals like to eat them morning, noon and night. Fill a tortilla with fish, beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, eggplant, eggs, potatoes, beans, cheese or even chocolate sauce, and yes, it’s still a taco. So what’s the big deal? After sampling these five iconic Alamo City tacos, you’ll understand.
Owner and chef Johnny Hernandez loves to drive the back roads deep in the interior of rural Mexico in search of the best “Mexican street foods” to add to his menu at La Gloria, one of The Pearl’s most popular restaurants. “From tacos al pastor in Mexico City, to tlayudas in Oaxaca, to coctéles de mariscos from Veracruz, Mexico’s street foods are as unique and colorful as its traditions, people and culture,” says Johnny.
He believes a great taco begins with tortillas made from fresh ground yellow corn. The “Puerquito Tacos,” made from pork belly that’s been rubbed with aromatic spices of clove and cinnamon then served hot and crispy from the plancha (grill), are a crowd favorite at La Gloria. Chef Johnny also recently opened a new restaurant, El Machito, near the Alamo Quarry Market. “At El Machito our Cecina tacos rule; our thinly sliced, dry salted beef is a tradition from the Mexican states of Morelos and Puebla. It’s cooked over mesquite and served with Nopalito salad and guacamole,” says Chef Johnny.
Taco Taco Café
What do Rachel Ray, “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” and the magazines “Bon Appetit” and “Saveur” all have in common? Each has raved about Taco Taco Cafe, an insanely popular San Antonio taco joint.
Taco Taco’s specialty, “El Norteno,” is a large grilled soft taco filled with chunks of charred beef, but Taco Taco is perhaps best known for its big chorizo and egg breakfast tacos, Migas (strips of fried corn tortillas scrambled with eggs), or Chiliquillas (strips of fried corn tortillas simmered in salsa, and served with cheese, eggs or beans). Like most good SA Mexican restaurants, it makes its tortillas fresh, in-house, daily.
Rosario’s Mexican Cafe Y Cantina
Rosario’s has often been voted “Best Mexican Restaurant” in San Antonio by local food critics and patrons, and with two locations in SA it’s easy to find a good taco, whether you’re heading north or south.
We like to nosh on the spicy fish tacos made with pan-seared tilapia, chipotle mayonnaise, cabbage lime slaw, pickled red onion and avocado. The Griselda’s Tacos Callejeros are also great, featuring a thin layer of beans and choice of beef, chicken or pork, all topped with cabbage lime slaw, diced avocado and queso fresco.
Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia
Mi Tierra is a popular, 24-hour Tex-Mex restaurant, a much-loved downtown San Antonio institution and the perfect place for your first taste of San Antonio Tex-Mex tacos.
Order crispy or soft chicken or beef tacos with a side of refried beans and Spanish rice, or be adventuresome and try the Tacos del Mercado: two flour tortillas filled with your choice of Carnitas Michoacan (pork tips marinated in oranges and spices) or beef or chicken fajita meat, all served with guacamole, pico de gallo and frijoles a la charra (pinto beans).
La Fonda on Main
The setting, a Spanish colonial house that is home to a shady, multilevel decked patio built around a tree so large that ceiling fans hang from its branches, is only partly what makes the restaurant special.
But the main reason La Fonda on Main makes our top five is its tacos de pescado, made with a blackened Mahi Mahi. The tacos de bistec of finely diced beef on fat flour tortillas are also divine, but don’t discount the duck tacos. You might just become obsessed.