If something as iconic and awesome as a taco can ever have a boom cycle, Philly is definitely going through one right now. A whole slew of new taquerias have opened since we last updated this list in 2015, and many kitchens in the city have added two or three (or 10) tacos to their menus. So just to keep everything straight, we’ve put together a list of the 32 (!) best tacos that you need to eat right now.
El Compadre, Italian Market
Taco to Try: Lamb barbacoa, obvi.
While you can only score El Compadre’s — nee South Philly Barbacoa’s — nationally recognized lamb tacos on weekends these days, the long lines and limited hours are worth the wait. (Sate your weekday craving with one of their excellent tortas.)
Blue Corn, Italian Market
Taco to Try: Chicken or pork pibil.
The cochinata pibil tacos here — Yucatán-style pork marinated in citrus and wrapped in banana leaves before being cooked low and slow — are our favorite.
Tacos California, Italian Market
Taco to Try: Pipian tacos, chicken smothered in a green mole sauce made from pumpkin seeds.
Our 2017 Best of Philly winner is the only spot in the city serving up tacos de canasta — tacos that are pre-assembled in a basket, often with a layer of onion and sprinkling of chili oil in between — and allowed to steam, then served with salsas.
Prima Pizza Taqueria Mexicana, Italian Market
Taco to Try: Pork carnitas taco.
This just-south-of-Washington spot serves up some of our favorite South Philly tacos alongside typical corner store fare like hoagies and wings, perfect for a late-night pit stop (they serve till 4 a.m.).
Mole Poblano, Italian Market
Taco to Try: Bistec con queso.
Yes, the place has a dedicated following based on the authentic mole and enchiladas (generally covered in mole). But if you’re looking for tacos, this simple beef-and-cheese option is kind of like a Mexican cheesesteak.
Taqueria Veracruzana, Italian Market
Taco to Try: Al pastor.
Simple, classic and exactly what you want in a neighborhood taqueria. Plus, it’s a South Philly Mexican BYOB with occasional wandering mariachis, so how can you beat that?
Tacos El Rodeo, Italian Market
Taco to Try: Classic al pastor taco.
There’s always a line at this truck, which posts up near 10th Street and Washington Avenue. Be sure to ask for your taco classic style for the traditional toppings of cilantro and onions, unless the Americanized option with sour cream, cheese, lettuce, and tomato is more your thing).
La Virgen de los Nieves, Pennsport
Taco to Try: Tacos dorados, which are stuffed, rolled, and deep-fried.
La Virgen’s slate of masa-based delicacies is expansive, with sopas, huaraches, tlacoyos, and more on the menu. But the fried tacos are our favorite.
Los Gallos, South Philly
Taco to Try: Huitlacoche (black corn mushroom) tacos.
Typically we’d avoid recommending the American-style tacos rancheros section of the menu, with its sour cream and cheese toppings, but their huitlacoche taco — a prized fungus that sometimes grows on ears of corn — is too good to pass up.
Pistola’s Del Sur, East Passyunk
Taco to Try: Catfish Po’boy.
The newest member of the Pistola’s family brings its tweaked taco recipes to South Philly. Try the catfish po’boy taco served with crispy white cabbage, pico de gallo, chipotle aioli and cilantro, for a bite of Mexico via New Orleans.
Quetzally, Bella Vista
Taco to Try:
Choose from a range of taco options here, from straightforward favorites like tilapia and shrimp to chicken bacon ranch. There’s even a Tex Mex section of the taco menu, serving up fillings in flour tortillas with gringo-friendly toppings like guac, lettuce, and cheese.
Los Quatro Soles, West Passyunk
Taco to Try: Gringas tacos, made with a flour tortilla stuffed with melted cheese as their base and filled with pineapple, marinated pork, onion, and cilantro.
When you’re west of Broad and craving tacos, this is the spot for classic tacos and variations like tacos gringas and tacos del sol — flour tortillas stuffed with melted cheese over slices of skirt steak.
Cafe Ynez, Graduate Hospital
Taco to Try: Tacos de piscado.
Their classic fish taco — made with pan-seared tilapia — gets dressed up with pineapple-habanero salsa, sliced avocado, lettuce, sour cream, and a crumble of cotija.
Taco Angeleno, Cedar Park
Taco to Try: Seitan taco
This warm-weather taco cart parked in a family-friendly West Philly green space serves up LA-style tacos — which means plenty of saucy, spicy braised meats but also West Coast touches like house-made seitan and a toppings bar featuring curtido, a Salvadoran cabbage slaw.
Distrito, University City
Taco to Try: Guajillo-glazed al pastor.
The first floor of this Garces mainstay has recently been remade as a taqueria, offering tacos in nine different varieties, from the traditional to the Americanized (like the Gringo, which is just plain old ground beef).
Dos Hermanos, University City
Taco to Try: Shrimp and fish
Why decide between shrimp and fish? This food truck that posts up on the Drexel campus near 34th and Market Streets puts both on a tortilla, and it is the bomb.
Honest Tom’s, University City
Taco to Try: Breakfast tacos.
More interesting than a soggy breakfast sandwich and just plain cooler than a breakfast burrito, Tom’s morning tacos are perfect, with their eggs, pico, guac, cheese and, of course, bacon.
Tacos Don Memo, University City
Taco to Try: Spicy pork carnitas taco.
The menu at Tacos Don Memo is so simple — steak, chicken pork, spicy pork, with a breakfast taco option for mornings — and yet the saucy, flavorful fillings need nothing but a garnish of onion, cilantro, and lime. Catch the cash-only truck weekday afternoons on 38th Street between Walnut and Spruce Streets or Saturdays at 43rd Street and Chester Avenue during the Clark Park Farmers’ Market.
Dos Tacos, Rittenhouse
Taco to Try: The New Yorker.
Dos Tacos loves to experiment on their menu, with staples like al pastor tacos served alongside more adventurous dishes like yucca fries and Oaxaca mac ‘n’ cheese. The New Yorker — filled with five chili-rubbed pastrami, Swiss cheese, and a chipotle cabbage slaw — flies in the face of tradition in a delicious way.
El Rey, Rittenhouse
Taco to Try: Duck tacos.
Each tortilla-swaddled stack of rich, shredded duck meat gets topped with a perfectly poppable (and Instagrammable) fried egg.
Mission Taqueria, Rittenhouse
Taco to Try: Hongos, grilled maitake mushroom topped with cotija cheese and avocado-jalapeno puree.
This light-filled upstairs joint from Oyster House owner Sam Mink and executive chef Brett Naylot puts a contemporary polish on favorite Mexican dishes. To go all out, try the tacos tasting menu, which comes with three tacos, salsas, ceviche, empanadas, and tres leches cake for $35.
Revolution Taco, Rittenhouse
Taco to Try: Fried curried cauliflower taco.
Score a trio of Revolution’s uniquely flavored tacos at their brick and mortar spot near 20th and Walnut Streets or follow them on Twitter to find out where their truck is popping up across the city.
Lolita, Midtown Village
Taco to Try: Cholula fried chicken tacos.
I mean, come on. FRIED CHICKEN TACOS. And they’re topped with perfectly smoky-spicy-salty-tangy Cholula, blue cheese dressing, celery, cilantro, smoked mayo, and cabbage. Go now. Thank us later.
Loco Pez, Fishtown
Taco to Try: Chorizo-potato tacos.
Come here any day for the awesome (and filling) chorizo and potato tacos. But the best possible use of Twitter in Philly remains following @locopeztacos to find out when the dollar taco nights are on.
Taco to Try: The Kraken.
The star of this Fishtown taco stand’s menu is the fried octopus taco, topped with tomato jam, chimichurri sauce, and queso fresco.
Sancho Pistola’s, Fishtown
Taco to Try: All of them, all the time.
No, seriously. There are few places in Philly that take tacos more seriously than Sancho Pistola’s, and if you can’t find something you like at a place that offers both brussels sprout leaf tacos and lobster tacos with black bean puree and chile de arbol sauce, maybe tacos aren’t really what you’re looking for.
Que Chula es Puebla, Kensington
Taco to Try: Shredded chicken
This spot on North 2nd Street serves up flavorful shredded chicken for sure, but the stellar ingredient here is definitely the salsa.
Wingo Taco Truck, Temple
Taco to Try: Korean tacos.
For our friends around Temple, this is the truck of choice for Korean-style street tacos with kimchi fried rice, cilantro, your choice of protein, and some Monterey jack cheese to top it off.
Buena Onda, Spring Garden
Taco to Try: 3 fried shrimp tacos, all lined up right in front of you.
Sure, there are other items on the menu. But you can safely ignore everything but the fried Atlantic mahi mahi and fried Pacific shrimp tacos, which represent the best expression of this beach-inspired taco shack. Even better, their fish is sustainably sourced according to Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guidelines.
La Calaca Feliz, Fairmount
Taco to Try: Baja fish tacos.
The tilapia in these tacos get their crisp thanks to a plantain crust and a hop in the fryer. Then they’re topped with cabbage, avocado and a zingy lemon vinaigrette.
Tired Hands Fermentaria, Ardmore
Taco to Try: Brussels sprout tacos (really).
Mondays at Tired Hands mean $2 off tacos and half off the delicious Hophands and Saisonhands beers. It’s the perfect time to take a chance on the Brussels sprouts tacos, which come with apple kohlrabi slaw, bacon jam, and sriracha ranch.
Jaco Juice & Taco Bar, West Chester
Taco to Try: Slow-cooked pulled pork taco.
This juice bar and taco shop may be health-oriented, but their tacos still taste great: The cotija cheese, tomatillo salsa, and roasted poblano crema offered on each taco sets theirs apart.