I haven’t counted lately, but there are probably well over 150 taquerias listed on my TACO PAGE and that is a LOT of information for all but the die-hard taco-freaks. I get emails, texts, DM’s almost daily, “HELP I’M IN _________ WHERE’S THE BEST TACOS??” Everyone wants a short-list. I’ve never made a TOP-10 or Top-ANYTHING taco list–my good friends KNOW where my loyalties lie–but this question comes up so often, I thought I might ATTEMPT condense the list into manageable chunks.
LILLY’S TACOS I’m making Lilly’s number one of the plethora in Santa Barbara because it is easy-to-find, consistent and VERY GOOD. Lots of seating, excellent salsas, fast service… all that. However, I am going to add another for the more adventurous:
MI FIESTA MARKET 4 in the back of a tiny grocería on Haley up towards Milpas. Not gringo-friendly, awkward seating, limited English and menu. Worth it.
TACOS EL TIZON of course. True rotisserie al pastor and a blistering range of salsas.
No, I’m not even going to give you a runner-up in this town. Florianos is bullshit for the rice-n-beans burrito crowd.
ANGELES DE PUEBLA is my current favorite in this ever-changing section of town–anything, say… below of the Inn I call south. Real rotisserie al pastor and the only down-side is it is a sit-down restaurant, which usually spells doom for decent tacos. But go with it and you will be blown away. Runner up? Ohhh boy. Probably have to go with:
VALLARTA SUPERMARKET because believe it or not, the tacos they crank out at these supermarkets are really REALLY good.
ROMO’S MARKET duh
EL OAXAQUENO has to win the toss right now in this area just PACKED with taquerias–every corner, every street, tucked down in neighborhoods, at the back of every store, I’ll bet there 40 taquerias in North SM and I have eaten at all of them. And, you’re gonna want a backup, which is going to be hard because there are so many almost equal. How about:
LAS BRISAS somewhat anchors the taco-scene on West Main in Santa Maria. Big, open, great salsa, true rotisserie al pastor and tacos ALWAYS over-stuffed (order one less than you normally would), OK, one more for the adventurous:
MERCADO Y CARNICERIA SU MESA way over in the dirt-lot and tractor-land of Blosser and West Main, where white people are as rare as current tags and there is an eatery LITERALLY every other door. Buckle-up, buttercup. Mercado is worth it.
LA PLACITA has to get the number one spot for the pure quality, consistency and convenience. And you know I ONLY order al pastor, but FYI the Chili Colorado at this place is to die for. Little known fact: This market is owned by Asians and there is a decent little Asian grocery section on one of the aisles.
LA TAPATIA absolute no brainer, no contest, do not pass Go, end of conversation. And NO, this is NOT the one on 13th street: that one SUCKS. This is the one down at the corner of Hwy 1 proper. And no, you are not getting an Oceano back-up: Chacho’s and Efrens are far, far, FAR distant seconds.
TAQUERIA GUERRERO does a decent job. Good quality, consistent, great salsas, easy location. There are no other tacos worth eating in Grover City.
There are no tacos worth eating in Arroyo Grande.
There are no tacos worth eating in Pismo Beach.
There are no tacos worth eating in Avila Beach.
SAN LUIS OBISPO:
There are no tacos worth eating in San Luis Obispo. OH WAIT!!! That recently changed!!!
TACOS EL TIZON now reigns supreme in what has long been the biggest waste-land of appropriate tacos on the Central Coast. If you’re absolutely in a pinch and downtown:
TONITA’S MEXICAN FOOD can do handily, but it is a FAR second.
There are no tacos worth eating in Los Osos. OK, I suppose LOS OSOS MEXICAN MARKET can get a mention because there ARE 5 or 6 places to get tacos in town and you are way out there in the middle of nowhere and it wins by default.
MORRO DELI inside the Sinclair gas station is literally the only thing even vaguely palatable in this town of at least 8 or 9 Mexican spots.
TAQUERIA DON JOSE has to get the nod among a field of mediocrity. Easily stands out among Atascadero’s also-rans. Second choice? Oh boy. It gets pretty sad after Don Jose. How about a tie between:
GARCIA’S MEXICAN and DANIELS RESTAURANT? Garcia’s is good, but it reminds me of Chacho’s in Oceano: full of white people all the time and the restaurant clearly caters to their palate. Salsas are dumb. Daniels is a new addition to the town–and my list, and definitely a hidden gem.
LA REYNA MARKET hands down easy choice. Yes, there are a lot of Taco-joints in Paso. Yes, you will hear several trotted out every time white-dude wants to talk about tacos. Don’t be fooled. I’d rather eat my shorts than Los Robles again, and Orale suffers from demographic. Need a back-up in Paso:
JALAPENO CITY is a far far cry from La Reyna, but it’s not HORRID.
CAYUCOS GAS MINI MART DELI The gas station, duh. If you know, you know. And now everybody knows.
There are no tacos worth eating in Cambria.
LOS GRULLENSES Big place, busy, lots of seating, practically UNDER the 101 and 99% of the queries I get for Salinas is from travelers-thru. OK, but there’s another a block away:
RESTAURANTE EL OAXAQUENO for the more adventurous, not very gringo-friendly, seating is rough, literally NO English spoken, and it gets a little rowdy during fútbol. They make their own sauce in a squeeze-bottle ONLY USE ONE DROP.
There’s 200 miles of tacos. Obviously, there are a few more in this area–and I’ve been to most of them. This is just a hot-list of the majors and the FULL LIST can always be referenced.
I don’t wanna taco bout it anymore.
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