Okay taco fiends: it's time to talk VEGETABLES. Traditional Mexican tacos—the kind you'll find on the streets for dirt-cheap deliciousness—are simply chopped meat on tortillas, maybe with some cilantro or onion. But the rise of fusion and Tex-Mex taco spots in town means the number of creative, vegetable-based tacos has multiplied. From meat substitutes to tofu to grilled or fried vegetable options, Houston offers a wide array of delectable vegetarian-friendly tacos. So let's get to it.
10. Vegetarian taco at Tacos Tierra Caliente, 2003 W Alabama
A pile of lettuce, tomato and squiggles of Mexican cheese in a flour tortilla may not sound the most exciting or appealing, but here's the key: free avocado. The vegetarian tacos at the popular taco truck across from West Alabama Ice House will only run you $2.50 apiece and a generous slice of avocado on top is free—just remember to ask for it. Somehow, with a generous squeeze of a lime over the top, these simple tacos transform into more than the sum of their parts.
9. Tacos chelo at Cuchara, 214 Fairview
Those who prefer a little spice with their tacos will love the crunchy taquitos at Cuchara that are stuffed with potato, covered in a spicy green salsa and decorated with raw onion and cojita cheese. For an upgrade, come for brunch where huevos chelo ($15) serves up the same tacquitos topped with fried eggs and black beans on the side. Or try the tacos crujientes de Jamaica ($10): hibsicus flower and cream cheese crunchy tacos with homemade flour tortillas.
8. Tofu tacos at Skinny Rita's, 4002 Main
I mourned the recent closing of the West Gray location for the thin chips, the oddly intriguing tres leches, and the convenient proximity of these tacos. Luckily, you can still find the tofu tacos at the Main Street location—these tacos eschew the more typical choice of firm tofu for soft, well-seasoned tofu that is gently caramelized and almost melts in your mouth. Topped with avocado, pico de gallo, grilled onions, peppers, and a roasted garlic yogurt sauce, you can choose between corn, wheat or nopal tortillas (sub butter lettuce wraps for a dollar extra). Accompanying beans and rice (either Spanish or cilantro rice) tend to be mediocre, so fill up on the tacos instead.
7. Papa con queso taco at Luna y Sol, 2808 Milam
I appreciate that not everyone is a carb-monster like me, but who could resist the perfect, tiny emoji-like taco appearance of the potato taco at Luna y Sol? The golden, slightly oily corn shell wraps softly around a cheesy, fluffy mashed potato filling. Aside from being a delicious bite, it's just so cute and perfectly sized according to traditional Mexican tacos. Dress it up with salsa, or even better, with a side of the other vegetarian taco on the menu, the rajas con queso which is roasted poblano peppers with onion, tomatoes, corn and panela cheese covered in crema (highly recommend upgrading to the larger flour tortilla for 50 cents). The milder flavor of the papas tacos will balance the raucous flavor of the rajas perfectly. On Taco Tuesdays, all tacos on the menu are only $2.
6. Tator taco at Tacos a Go Go, 3704 Main
If you've ever dreamed about eating tator tots in taco form, Tacos a Go Go is here to bring your dreams to life. Your choice of tortilla (flour, corn or whole wheat) houses a large handful of crispy tater tots, black beans, queso, salsa, tomatoes and sour cream. The taco normally comes with bacon, but just ask to leave it off for an immensely satisfying vegetarian taco. The renowned breakfast tacos with customizable fillings are another delicious vegetarian offering.
5. Goldie Hawn at Dizzy Kaktus, 301 Main
The new Tex-Mex taco place that took over the old Nit Noi location across from Honeymoon Cafe features plentiful vegetarian options on the menu. There's the signature Dizzy Kaktus taco, which features fried cactus strips, Buffalo Tofu — seasoned, fried tofu in a flour tortilla along with roasted cauliflower, onion and cabbage — or the Fun Guy, a blend of marinated and grilled mushrooms. However, for those partial to cauliflower, the Goldie Hawn tucks battered, fried cauliflower into a flour tortilla along with Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, cabbage and queso fresco in sriracha mayo. Enjoy your tacos alongside a $4 margarita or sangria swirl during happy hour (Monday-Friday, 4-7pm).
4. The Independent at Torchy's, various locations
Many gravitate towards the fried avocado taco at this taco powerhouse, but the portabello taco holds my heart. Where I feel battered and fried avocado can turn excessively heavy and murky-flavored, fried portobello strips are simply a crispy, toothsome vehicle for flavor. And with a bed of refried black beans, roasted corn, shredded carrots, queso fresco, cilantro and avocado, the flavor is there even if you leave off the ancho aioli. For tasty, crowd-pleasing tacos, it's hard to beat Torchy's.
3. Brussels sprout taco at 8 Row Flint, 1039 Yale
There are plentiful meatless (and meat-ful) options at this spacious Heights-based whiskey bar. You should make a beeline for 1) the frozen gin and tonics (or any of their frozen cocktails) and 2) the Brussels sprouts tacos, which feature deeply roasted, caramelized sprouts on a corn tortilla under charred onion, crema, radish, queso fresco and cilantro for just $4. Come during happy hour (Monday-Friday, 2-6pm) for $3 tacos.
2. Cremini queso taco at Fusion Taco, 801 Congress
Fusion Taco excels in the vegetarian-friendly taco arena. My favorite is the cremini queso taco, where a pile of garlicky sauteed mushrooms languish under a sea of burnished cheese (the flour tortillas are on the doughy side, which can be a plus or minus to some). Other strong options include the agedashi tofu, falafel or Brussels sprout tacos. Brunch options include the shakshuka or the fried avocado for just $3 each. Bonus: at the new Heights location, you can enjoy $3 tacos, margaritas and beer during happy hour (Monday-Friday, 4-7pm) through April 30.
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1. Vegan chorizo tacos from Boombox Tacos
I hear Boombox does a great traditional-style pastor taco, but I wouldn't know since I've been brainwashed by Boombox's solo vegetarian option to the point of no return. A pile of saucy if-no-one-told-you-you'd-never-know vegan chorizo sprawls across two oily, well-sized corn tortillas. Topped with cilantro, chopped onion and lime, they are hearty and very tasty, well worth the $3.25 price tag. Boombox can be found at Axelrad on Tuesdays and Arlo's Ballroom on Saturdays (which is convenient since they are best enjoyed inebriated for maximum fake meat effect).