I grew up an Army brat moving every two or three years to a new state or a new country. I don't remember all the details about every place I lived, but I do have fragments that make for a really great childhood full of fond memories. Given my devout interest in all things food, it would probably not surprise you that a lot of my memories are associated with local cuisines.
When I was around 7, my family moved to El Paso. I remember how different the desert landscapes were compared to the tropical green and wet of Panama where we had lived previously. I remember my first experience with chihuahuas, as our next-door neighbors had a gang of them. I remember learning to write poetry in school and taking a shine to it. I remember cooking bologna in my Easy Bake oven. But most of all I remember crispy tacos and soft, warm sopapillas from Pancho Villas in El Paso.
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There may be other more famous taco cities in the country, but El Paso is OG. Its border location has heavily influenced the taco scene. Tacos are the gateway food for all Mexican cuisine. Generations of mamas, tías, and abuelas have honed their taco recipes in El Paso, adjusting spices, changing ingredients, and experimenting with the form factor, all to the benefit of locals and visitors alike.
Now that I'm living in the Southwest, El Paso is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. I've checked out all the best tacos in the city. I'll be visiting for Taco Tuesday, Taco Wednesday, and probably Taco Thursday, and I'll staying a few more days El Paso from which I'll be perfectly situated to try out what I think are the top tacos in Texas. There are a lot of restaurants to choose from, so you'll need to stay a couple of days to truly experience this great taco town!
No taco trip to El Paso is complete without a visit to the granddaddy of them all, Chico's Tacos. You've got to start with the classic that has been around since 1953. The much-beloved original spot on Alameda still serves three tacos for cheap with a closely guarded secret sauce and a mound of cheese. Given its tenure in the city, there is an intense debate surrounding this taco legend. You'll just have to try it out to see for yourself!
[Update: some locals have indicated they aren't a fan. The quality may have gone down since this post was originally written!]
There are four locations, but the original is at 4230 Alameda Ave.
Barbecue is king in Texas, and when it comes to tacos, that means barbacoa. This delicious taco filling is slow-roasted meat with lots of spices. Traditionally it's meat from a cow's head, but nowadays you can also find lamb and pork. One of the best in town is Tony's Barbacoa served with onions, cilantro, and salsa.
Tony's Barbacoa is located at 12370 Edgemere Boulevard.
I'm a big fan of double tacos, meaning tacos served with two shells, either two corn or sometimes one corn and one flour tortilla. The absolute best is when the tortillas are made fresh like they are at Tacos Chinampa. The chicken tacos are fantastic, and there's a great salsa bar. Don't mind the strange addition of a baked potato with your order!
Tacos Chinampa is located at 6110 Gateway East Boulevard.
Seafood tacos in Texas do exist, and you can find some of the best in El Paso at Kiki's Restaurant. It may sound strange, but the imitation crab-stuffed tacos with white and yellow cheeses and housemade spicy salsa is a combination you should definitely not miss.
Kiki's Restaurant is located at 2719 North Piedras Street.
H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop
Tacos for breakfast? You betcha! Breakfast tacos at a car wash? Right again! The potato and egg breakfast tacos were voted the best overall taco in El Paso by readers in a 2015 poll in Texas Monthly magazine. That says something, considering all the other types of tacos there are in the region. Go for the classic egg and potato, and you won't mind the fact that you are eating it in a car wash!
H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop is located at 701 East Yandell Drive.
You can't talk about tacos without mentioning taco trucks. There are a lot of them in El Paso. One of them, TacoHolics, is a very popular food truck that serves great tacos with classic meats, but I think you should try the pork adobo with Korean barbecue seasoning, as it's not to be missed. What happens when you roll a taco? You get a flauta, and TacoHolics serves some of the best in town with queso fresco, Oaxacan crema, and a spicy green sauce.
TacoHolics is usually located at 1613 North Zaragoza Road #201.
More Reader Favorites
As with most food items, everyone has an opinion and a favorite! It's the same thing when it comes to burgers – my Dad and I will argue until the ends of the Earth about his favorite versus mine! I decided to list some additional recommendations for readers who were kind enough to leave them. I haven't tried them, but on my next trip, I have to do Taco Tasting Round 2 (and maybe 3, 4…)!
From Dwight who wrote that he was born and raised in EP; I live in Garland, a suburb of Dallas. These are the places I try to get when I visit home:
- L&J Cafe—good tacos, good gorditas, good authentic Mexican food.
- Lucy’s—same as above
- Ernesto’s Cafe—same as above
- Carlos and Mickey’s—same as above
- McCorys—don’t know if it’s still open, good tacos
From Dori: Taconeta tacos are the best! Really recommend you try them. The suadero taco is my personal favorite but they are all so good even the vegetarian taco is to die for!
From Peter R: Good Luck Cafe!!!! A definite #1 in my book!!!
From Charles K: chicken tacos at Don Carbon hit the spot. (Kevin also recommended this spot!) He also let me know that I should have had the tacos al pastor at Tacos Chinampa instead of the chicken!
From Sebastien: Try Taconeta.
From Karen: I have only had tacos from Chicos Tacos. Very delicious, however, there are two other places where you can also get delicious rolled tacos Fat Bear & Fat Bun.
From Joshua: Gorditas from Delicious!
How's that for some top tacos? No visit to El Paso is complete without a visit to at least one of the spots I've listed, but you really can't go wrong anywhere in the taco capital of America. Of course, there are a lot of other things to do in El Paso, too. With sporting events, hiking in the Franklin Mountains, visiting museums, and getting a view of the whole city from the Wyler Aerial Tramway, you won't be bored between tacos.
How about you? Have you had tacos in El Paso? What was your favorite? Have I inspired you to visit El Paso to check them out?
For a visual summary of this post, check out my El Paso tacos web story!
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