Taste Test: We Found the Best Breakfast Taco in the Loop

We tasted breakfast tacos from 16 spots around Houston to find the best.EXPAND
We tasted breakfast tacos from 16 spots around Houston to find the best.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Let’s talk breakfast tacos. Putting aside the controversy surrounding the origin of the breakfast taco, I think we can all agree on the inherent satisfaction that comes from consuming the Tex-Mex creation. While breakfast tacos generally follow the same formula (tortilla, egg, filling, salsa), the quality of the taco can greatly vary owing to the pliability and freshness of the tortilla, the fluffiness or sogginess of the egg, the spice level of the salsa, and a hundred other factors. Today we’re getting down into the nitty-gritty mechanics of Houston breakfast tacos — a task so serious that we formed teams to carry out a bracket-style tasting to find the best in Houston.

Tacos were judged in four head-to-head elimination rounds.EXPAND
Tacos were judged in four head-to-head elimination rounds.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Methodology

This tasting was conducted with eight teams of three to four people who collectively visited 16 breakfast taco locations inside the Loop to sample each locale’s “best” breakfast taco (both on flour and on corn). Each location's "best” breakfast taco was determined by a recommendation from the establishment. While admittedly not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, this was the fairest way to judge each locale's strongest offering. Locations were selected by word-of-mouth recommendations, online reviews and online research (many thanks to special input from Tacos of Texas contributor Marco Torres).

In the initial round of judging, each team sampled two taco locations, which were paired up based on proximity. Whichever taco received the most votes moved onto the next round until we reached a consensus on the final winner. (Click here to see the bracket.)

In order to make the tasting feasible to execute within a single morning, we limited the locations to only those inside the Loop. For purposes of a functional bracket, we limited the number of locations to 16. Notable and regrettable exclusions due to these limitations include Tacos La Bala, El Ultimo Taco Truck, Sunrise Taquitos, Velvet Taco, El Rey and many, many taco trucks. We recommend going to visit those and drawing your own conclusions.

Breakfast tacos at Tacos Tierra Caliente are just $1 each.EXPAND
Breakfast tacos at Tacos Tierra Caliente are just $1 each.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Locations

Alamo Tamale & Taco 310 Navigation
Brothers Taco House 1604 Dowling
Chilosos Taco House 701 East 20th Street
Dona Maria 2601 Navigation Boulevard
La Calle Tacos 909 Franklin Street
La Guadalupana 2109 Dunlavy
La Reynera 4120 McKinney
Laredo Taqueria 915 Snover
Luna Y Sol 2808 Milam
Tacodeli 1902 Washington
Tacos a Go Go 3704 Main (multiple locations)
Tacos Tierra Caliente 2003 West Alabama
Texas Taco and BBQ 1000 Telephone
Torchy's 350 West 19th Street (multiple locations)
Unos Pinches Tacos 1402 Northwood
Villa Arcos 3009 Navigation

First Round Results

In the first round, Torchy's Wrangler taco (left) was beat out by the Chapel Hill sausage and egg taco at Chilosos (right)EXPAND
In the first round, Torchy's Wrangler taco (left) was beat out by the Chapel Hill sausage and egg taco at Chilosos (right)
Photo by Erika Kwee

In the Heights (A) bracket, Torchy’s faced off against Chilosos Taco House. The recommended Wrangler taco from Torchy’s (eggs, potatoes, smoked beef brisket and jack cheese with tomatillo salsa) was undeniably tasty, but lost to Chilosos’ tasty Chapel Hill sausage and egg taco because of the use of generic tortillas and an overall lack of authenticity.

The homemade tortillas at Unos Pinches Tacos beat out the homemade tortillas from Taqueria Laredo.EXPAND
The homemade tortillas at Unos Pinches Tacos beat out the homemade tortillas from Taqueria Laredo.
Photo by Eden Bass

The Heights (B) bracket found a loss of taco empire Taqueria Laredo to newcomer Unos Pinches Tacos' picadillo taco on homemade flour tortillas. Although Laredo won points for taking drink orders while customers were waiting in the lengthy line and for the visual appeal of watching tortillas being freshly made in-house, the tortillas didn't quite measure up to the ones at Unos Pinches. Laredo's barbacoa taco with pico, as described by one taster, was just "fine" and the rather bland salsas weren't able to elevate the tacos. The salsa at Unos Pinches attained a good level of spice, and ultimately Unos Pinches's picadillo with eggs taco went on to score a spot in the next round.

Default chorizo and egg breakfast tacos at La Calle (left) vs. the migas taco at Tacodeli (right).EXPAND
Default chorizo and egg breakfast tacos at La Calle (left) vs. the migas taco at Tacodeli (right).
Photos by Andy Ho and Erika Kwee

In the Washington/Downtown bracket, the recommended migas taco from Tacodeli faced off against La Calle Tacos, where the default breakfast taco is chorizo and egg. Despite good textural contrast between a smear of refried beans, a fluffy egg and chorizo mixture, crunchy raw onions, and feathery cilantro, the chorizo flavor was mostly undetectable save for hits of salt, and the salsa verde was nearly flavorless and was underwhelming. Given the price point of $2.77 for smaller-sized tacos on non-homemade tortillas (pro tip: Get the flour tortillas for more volume), Tacodeli beat La Calle on nearly every front and La Calle was eliminated from this round.

The chorizo and egg tacos from Brothers are likely popular due to the fact that they are enormous, filling and cheap.EXPAND
The chorizo and egg tacos from Brothers are likely popular due to the fact that they are enormous, filling and cheap.
Photo by Andy Ho

In the Eado bracket, the generously sized egg and chorizo taco from Brothers Taco House triumphed over the bacon and egg taco from Alamo Tamale & Taco. Although the corn tortillas at Brothers were store-bought and of average quality, the homemade flour tortillas (made with vegetable shortening) were light and fluffy. Both had great value for money (less than $2 per taco) and though the salsa was pronounced superior at Alamo over Brothers, the taco wasn't anything special. "I would return if in the area, but I wouldn't make a special trip," said one taster. The high egg-to-tortilla ratio at Brothers, paired with good chorizo flavor and excellent value for money, carried the Brothers taco to the next round.

Tacos Especial from La Guadalupana (left) faced off against the chorizo and egg tacos from Tacos Tierra Caliente (right).EXPAND
Tacos Especial from La Guadalupana (left) faced off against the chorizo and egg tacos from Tacos Tierra Caliente (right).
Photo by Erika Kwee

The Montrose bracket saw a very close tasting in which the Taco Especial at La Guadalupana just edged out the chorizo and egg tacos at Tacos Tierra Caliente thanks to a tasty migas-like filling. The palm-sized Especial tacos flecked with not-too-greasy chorizo were dubbed "excellent hangover tacos" and were served up with some of the friendliest service we encountered. Although Tierra Caliente scored points for definitively authentic street taco flavors as well as an excellent vegetarian potato and egg option, the tasty simplicity of its chorizo taco underwhelmed slightly in comparison to the explosive mix of egg, potato, chorizo, onion, peppers and cheese wrapped up in La Guadalupana's fluffy flour tortillas. Slightly rubbery corn tortillas were the final nail in the coffin and, ultimately, Tierra Caliente was eliminated.

Chorizo and egg tacos at Tacos a Go Go stumbled against the chorizo taco at Luna Y Sol.EXPAND
Chorizo and egg tacos at Tacos a Go Go stumbled against the chorizo taco at Luna Y Sol.
Photos by Isabel Protomartir and Erika Kwee

Late-night Midtown powerhouse Tacos a Go Go stumbled with a chorizo and egg taco that was lacking in flavor and uninspiring tortillas compared to Luna Y Sol’s chorizo, egg and bean taco, which wowed with both texture and flavor in the filling as well as in the authentic corn and flour tortillas, which powered them through to the next round. A few vegetarians also sampled the rajas con queso y crema taco, which one taster dubbed her favorite of all the tacos sampled.

Left: Bacon Super taco at Villa Arcos. Right: the chilaquiles taco plate at Dona Maria.EXPAND
Left: Bacon Super taco at Villa Arcos. Right: the chilaquiles taco plate at Dona Maria.
Photos by Cristina Torres and Julie Julez

Confusion reigned in the Second Ward bracket, where both the Bacon Super and potato and egg on flour from Villa Arcos (which doesn't have corn tortillas) were pitted against the chilaquiles taco at Dona Maria. Confusingly, the chilaquiles taco at Dona Maria is served as a breakfast plate with tortillas on the side, but this was the establishment's recommendation for its best taco. Villa Arcos's Bacon Super served up an excellent flour tortilla with so much filling that it was almost reminiscent of a burrito rather than a taco. However, the overall taco was a little too salty for one taster and the potato and egg taco was slightly bland. Despite a crushingly long wait at Dona Maria and non-traditional-style tacos, the chilaquiles eventually arrived to triumph over Villa Arcos.

The potato and egg taco from Texas Taco & BBQ (left) vs. the chorizo and egg taco from La Reynera.EXPAND
The potato and egg taco from Texas Taco & BBQ (left) vs. the chorizo and egg taco from La Reynera.
Photos by Erika Kwee and Julie Julez

A slight mix-up with the Eastwood bracket brought up the question: Do breakfast tacos without eggs count as breakfast tacos? In the end, we decided to stick with judging egg-based tacos for consistency. Though the recommended beef fajita taco in fluffy, toothsome homemade flour tortillas at La Reynera was a formidable competitor, the chorizo and egg breakfast taco was less impressive and ultimately the potato and egg taco from Texas Taco & BBQ advanced to the next round.

Second Round Results

Chilosos consistently impressed with uber-puffy homemade flour tortillas and flavorful sausage.EXPAND
Chilosos consistently impressed with uber-puffy homemade flour tortillas and flavorful sausage.
Photo by Andy Ho

Heights A vs. Heights B: Chilosos vs. Unos Pinches Tacos

Both the corn and the flour tortillas are homemade at Chilosos, as were the tortillas at Unos Pinches, but ultimately Chilosos's thick flour tortillas were preferred. The picadillo and egg taco at Unos Pinches featured ground beef with chopped carrots, green beans and tomato sauce, which “tasted a lot like homemade stew,” according to one taster. Votes were split because of the flavorful authenticity of the picadillo taco, with its extremely fresh-tasting salsa verde and great value for money, but ultimately the Chapell Hill and egg taco from Chilosos reigned supreme thanks to the impressively fluffy tortillas, game-changing sausage and well-cooked egg.

Washington/Downtown vs. EaDo: Tacodeli vs. Brothers

When pitted against the soft, homemade tortillas at Tacodeli, Brothers’ storebought tortillas fell short and fell apart when the tasters were eating the taco. Although the authentic vibe of Brothers was a mark in its favor, the migas taco at Tacodeli was described by one taster as “exactly what I think about when I want a breakfast taco.” The Brothers chorizo taco was found by a few tasters to be a bit too greasy, with slightly watery salsa —competing against Tacodeli’s award-winning salsas, tender tortillas and satisfying filling, Tacodeli ended up advancing to the next round.



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