Roughly North-to-South from Salinas to Santa Barbara–with heavier population Paso to Santa Maria. Please note this is not a “Best Mexican Food” list. It is STRICTLY taquerias, and I only order ONE thing. Scroll to the bottom of this list for a rough outline of my parameters for “Tacos”.
◊◊ No No
EL COMPADRE Atascadero ♦
TAQUERIA DON JOSE Atascadero ♦♦♦
DON PEDRO’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT Atascadero ◊◊
GARCIA’S MEXICAN Atascadero ♦
LA MEXICANA Atascadero ◊
TACO DE MEXICO Atascadero ◊
MARINAS COCINA Atascadero ◊
ORTEGA’S MEXICAN CUISINE Atascadero ◊◊
LA PARRILLA Atascadero ♦♦♦
TIA JUANITA’S Atascadero ◊
THE TACO STAND Atascadero ⬧⬧
CHAPALA MEXICAN GRILL Morro Bay ◊
MORRO DELI Morro Bay ♦♦
TACOS DE MEXICO Morro Bay ◊
CHILI PEPPERS FOOTHILL San Luis Obispo ♦
TORTILLA TOWN San Luis Obispo ◊
EFREN’S #5 San Luis Obispo ◊
LA ESQUINA TAQUERIA San Luis Obispo ♦
TACO KING San Luis Obispo ◊
LUNA RED San Luis Obispo ♦
TAQUERIA SAN MIGUEL San Luis Obispo ⬧
TACOS DE MEXICO San Luis Obispo ♦
MI TIERRA San Luis Obispo ⬨
TACO RICO San Luis Obispo ♦
SAN LUIS TAQUERIA San Luis Obispo ♦♦
TAQUERIA SANTA CRUZ San Luis Obispo ⬨
SANTA CRUZ EXPRESS #2* SLO ♦♦
TACO TEMPLE San Luis Obispo ◊◊
TACOS EL TIZON* San Luis Obispo ♦♦♦
TONITA’S MEXICAN FOOD San Luis Obispo ♦♦
LA CASITA Grover Beach ◊◊
EL TACO DEL MAR Grover Beach ◊
EL TACO DE MEXICO Grover Beach ♦
TACOS DE ACAPULCO Grover Beach ♦
TAQUERIA GUERRERO* Grover Beach ♦♦♦
EL GUERO TAQUERIA Grover Beach ⬧⬧
JALAPENO’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT Grover Beach ◊◊
LA TAPATIA (13th St) Grover Beach ♦♦♦
VILLA DEL MAR Grover Beach ⬨⬨
AGAVE GRILL Nipomo ♦
LAS BRISAS* Santa Maria (N) ♦♦♦
LA CHIQUITA Santa Maria (N) ♦♦
LOS COMADRES SALVADOREAN (papusas) ♦♦
TAQUERIA GUERRERO* Santa Maria (N) ♦♦
LE MEJOR DE JALISCO Santa Maria (N) ◊
MARISCOS EL PICOSITO Santa Maria (N) ♦♦
LA PICOSITA Santa Maria (N) ◊
POLLO ASADOS CULIACAN Santa Maria (N) ⬧⬧
LA PRINCESA MARKET Santa Maria (N) ♦♦
EL PUEBLITO RESTAURANT Santa Maria (N) ◊
TACO RANCHERO Santa Maria (N) ◊
MERCADO Y CARNICERIA SU MESA Santa Maria (N) ♦♦
TAQUERIA SALSA BRAVA* Santa Maria (N) ⬨
TACOS EL TIZON* Santa Maria (N) ♦♦♦
TORTILLERIA MEXICO Santa Maria (N) ◊
LA SUPER-RICA TAQUERIA Santa Barbara ♦
DO YOU WANT A CHEAT-SHEET OF JUST THE IMPORTANT ONES IN EACH TOWN?
Of course you do.
HERE IT IS: 200 MILES OF TACOS
I have created this separate TAQUERIA LIST because people constantly ask me to recommend tacos and Central Coast taquerias get somewhat lost in the general list and also ratings comparative to casual or fine dining are not fair for numerous reasons. First of all, I have ordered ONE ITEM at each of the preceding restaurants. “Tacos al Pastor”, “Pastor Tacos”, “Tacos Adobada”, or “Marinated Pork Tacos”, depending on the location and individual Mexican provenance of the proprietors. I have not had the gringo burritos, the refried beans, the tostadas, the taquitos, the tamales, the side salads, the ceviche, NOTHING ELSE on the menu but Tacos al Pastor.
This is what I eat at a taqueria and it makes the playing field very level. Frequently, this grouping of taquerias is confused as a “Best Mexican Food” list. It is NOT a ‘Best Mexican Food’ list. It is a TACO LIST, period. Secondly, NOTHING BUT THE FOOD is reflected in the score–this is quite the opposite of my regular restaurant scoring. Cleanliness, Ambiance, Service, Price, Presentation, Communication, ALL ARE IGNORED in the judging of a taqueria. I don’t care if cockroaches are falling off the ceiling, has blaring music or TVs or has 10,000 bad YELPs about how rude they are or how sick you got or how there’s nothing vegetarian on the menu. The only things considered are Marinade, Preparation of Meat, Tortilla Quality, Salsa, and Meat Quality. Nothing else matters. I should add there are three basic methods of preparing “Tacos al Pastor” in a restaurant environment, and which method is used will play hard into the rating:
Like the ‘General Restaurant List’, this list will be edited as additions or changes are made. Because of the La, Le, Los El and Taqueria prefixes and the issues involved with alphabetizing, I have sorted by TOWN, North-to-South. Santa Maria is further divided into (North) and (South) for convenience. All links are from YELP because these types of places do not have web-sites. I used yelp for mapping convenience and continuity. I am not using YELP so you can read the reviews. Please do not. Just because some Barbie saw a cockroach is no reason to avoid a taqueria, in fact: go ahead, read the reviews. I guarantee the WORSE the reviews run, the better the tacos.
◊◊ A complete Gringo dining experience, absolutely NOTHING on the menu resembles or comes close to an authentic taco. Large soggy supermarket tortillas typically piled high with iceberg lettuce or cabbage, and topped with sour cream and grated cheese, portioned MASSIVELY and always with dry, bland, horrid meat. To be avoided at all costs.
◊ Unpleasant off-flavors; “dog-food” smell to meat; bad seasoning, large tortillas, *stuff* in the tacos besides Onion, Cilantro, Salsa and Meat. Will never return.
♦ Mediocre seasoning and preparation, Pico de Gallo or similar faulty salsa, slight “dog-food” smell to meat but completely edible. These taquerias ‘do in a pinch’.
♦♦ Excellent marinade of correct seasonings. Good-textured meat with plenty of fat. Good size, quality tortillas. Provided salsa or choices of salsa excellent. This is a taqueria I will return to over and over.
♦♦♦ An outstanding taco and one worth going quite out-of-one’s-way to experience. When you taste and feel it you know it.
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