Look, I do not have to convince you to eat tacos. No one has to be convinced to eat tacos. Right now, at this moment in American culinary history (and for the past several years, really), the taco has been representative of all our chef-y yearnings toward the fusion of high- and low-brow eating. Casual, but thoughtful. Simple, but deep.
In Mexican culinary history? Well, the taco has been there forever. Indispensable. Cultural touchstone and sandwich analog all in one. Also, the best possible transportation vehicle for everything that’s excellent about Mexican food — protein and spice and heat and savor.
The taco is everything to all people. It is whatever you want it to be. It has been borrowed by a hundred different cooking traditions and used to carry everything from ice cream to Korean fried chicken. And here in Philly? Man, do we have some tacos. So, if you’re looking for a place to eat them, we are here to help — with this neighborhood-by-neighborhood list of all the best places to eat tacos in Philadelphia right now.
El Compadre, Italian Market
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.)
Honest Tom’s, University City
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.
Philly Tacos, Point Breeze
You’d think that with a handle like that, this joint would be slinging tortillas filled with chopped steak and Whiz. But don’t let the name fool you. The man behind this place is Juan Carlos Romero, Philly’s own master of al pastor. It’s perfect for those of you missing Los Taquitos de Puebla (Romero’s former restaurant), and an excellent place for tacos.
Blue Corn, Italian Market
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.
Cafe Ynez, Graduate Hospital
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.
Sancho Pistola’s, Fishtown
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.
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. 1030 South 8th Street
Prima Pizza Taqueria Mexicana
This just-south-of-Washington spot serves up some of the Philly restaurant industry’s favorite tacos. No wonder — they’re perfect for a late-night pit stop, with service till 4 a.m. 1104 South 9th Street
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. 1144 South 9th Street
Taqueria La Veracruzana
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? 908 Washington Avenue
Tacos El Rodeo
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). 1000 Washington Avenue
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. 1225 Fitzwater Street
La Virgen de los Nieves
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. And they will be yours, too. 1839 South 8th Street
Yes, they do some very authentic Mexican food (a long list of tacos included). But the cool thing about Tamalex is that it also offers Honduran food, and a couple different versions of chilaquiles on their breakfast menu. 1163 South 7th Street
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. 951 Wolf Street
Guisados Don Roman
This is a two-person operation — just Raquel and Roman. But the two of them manage to supply everyone who comes with guisados del dia (stews of the day, a rarity in Philly). For a slight upcharge, they’ll make your tortillas fresh. 1629 South 7th Street
Simple and straightforward street-style tacos on a menu already full of sopes, huaraches and excellent spicy shrimp burritos. 1138 South 13th Street
Pistola’s Del Sur
This Pistola’s 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 taste of Mexico via New Orleans. 1934 East Passyunk Avenue
Los Cuatro Soles
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. 1801 South Chadwick Street
Cantina Los Cabalitos
This place does great empanadas and big plates of nachos, but in terms of tacos, they’ve got a big list the covers everything from vegan beef to goat. 1651 East Passyunk Avenue
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). 3945 Chestnut Street
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 bomb.
Tacos Don Memo
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.
Each tortilla-swaddled stack of rich, shredded duck meat gets topped with a perfectly poppable (and Instagrammable) fried egg. 2013 Chestnut Street
This light-filled upstairs joint from Oyster House owner Sam Mink puts a contemporary polish on favorite Mexican dishes. To go all out, try the tasting menu, which comes with three tacos, salsas, ceviche, empanadas, and tres leches cake, all for $35. 1516 Sansom Street
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. 2015 Walnut Street
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. Take as an excellent example, the New Yorker — filled with five chili-rubbed pastrami, Swiss cheese, and a chipotle cabbage slaw — which flies in the face of tradition in a delicious way. 120 South 15th Street
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. 2401 East Norris Street
The star of this glorified Fishtown taco stand’s menu is the fried octopus taco, topped with tomato jam, chimichurri sauce, and queso fresco. But everything else on the menu is almost as good, just as messy and just as ideal for last-call taco bingeing. 1431 Frankford Avenue
Que Chula es Puebla
This spot on North 2nd Street serves up flavorful tacos for sure (particularly the shredded chicken), but the stellar ingredient here is definitely the salsa. 1356 North 2nd Street
Cantina Dos Segundos
This northern outpost of the Cantina Los Cabalitos family has more than a hundred kinds of tequila behind the bar, Mexican poutine on the menu, a kale caesar (if that’s your jam) and a whole taqueria portion of their menu offering tacos, bowls and burritos. 931 North 2nd Street
With five kinds of breakfast tacos and a list of regular tacos as long as your arm, this is THE place to check out when you’re looking for a taco in Fishtown. And maybe the only place if you’re looking for tacos de cabeza. 1301 North 5th Street
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. 1901 Callowhill Street
La Calaca Feliz
The tilapia in La Calaca’s fish tacos get their crisp thanks to a plantain crust and a hop in the fryer. Then they’re topped with cabbage, avocado and a lemon vinaigrette. 2321 Fairmount Avenue
Tired Hands Fermentaria
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 (no, really), which come with apple kohlrabi slaw, bacon jam, and sriracha ranch. 35 Cricket Terrace, Ardmore
Jaco Juice & Taco Bar
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 them apart. West Chester and Media locations
Looking for something a little more Hawaiian in your taco shop? Then Pipeline is the place for you. It’s got a surf theme, smoothies and tacos made of kalua pork, buffalo shrimp and mahi-mahi. 165 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne
They’ve got two locations (in Manayunk and Horsham), taco ingredients that run from brussels sprouts and cauliflower to carnitas and Carolina BBQ shrimp, plus (if you’re feeling frisky) a couple of specials involving fried chicken skin drenched in hot sauce or grasshoppers with guacamole. Manayunk and Horsham locations
Two words: Taco pints. Which are exactly what they sound like. You pick your ingredients, the kitchen layers them into something like a pint glass, and then you eat everything with a fork. 34 East State Street, Doylestown
El Primo Taqueria
Authentic Puebla-style Mexican food in the heart of Norristown. The elote is awesome, and the list of tacos is impressive. 1719 Markley Street, Norristown
This huge menu has something for everyone — including large entree plates full of everything good under the sun. But the taco list is impressive all on its own, offering relative rarities like lengua, tripe, birria, cecina and suadera (shredded, salted and steamed beef, respectively). 2600 Federal Street, Camden
Lumbrada Cocina Mexicana
Mexican breakfast all day? Yes, please. And the simple, fresh, street-style tacos are excellent, too. Wayne and Norristown locations