Picking the ten best tacos in Houston is something akin to picking the most beautiful women in Texas. There are far too many options to do any justice by limiting the list to just ten.
Instead of trying to pack the list with an arbitrary top ten, I spent the past three weeks pilfering other taco lists, talking to Houston's taco experts, driving the streets of Houston and generally gorging myself on tacos all over town in an effort to bring diversity and some sort of dignity to what may be Houston's most impossible list.
Another problem I found building this list for Eating...Our Words is that despite staying stationary a lot of the time -- some for upwards of years -- taco trucks are still mobile food units. Trucks I wanted to visit for this list -- like La Chona on the Northwest side and Tacambaro at Canino Farmers Market -- were nowhere to be found.
What follows are the very best taco varieties -- yes, I tried almost every version at each stop -- at some of Houston's very best taco trucks and taco stands.
10. Taqueria Taconmadre 905 Edgebrook
The big green bus still serves a gigantic menu of favorites -- their burritos made our Top 10 Food Truck Items last year -- but my pick is their small taco stand down on Edgebrook. The fajita gringa taco is the way to go but the traditional tacos are exceptional as well.
9. Taco Keto 1401 Cullen at Clay
Squatting in the parking lot of an auto repair shop across from the Kroger on Cullen, Tacoketo splatters its tacos --and its gorditas -- in bright red salsa before tossing the tortillas on the griddle. The result is a crispy spicy mess of a taco that is one of my very favorites in Houston. Go with the deshebrada, the shredded roast beef debris is juicy and meaty and pairs well with the crispy tortillas.
8. Taqueria Mora Irvington at Collingsworth
I'm a sucker for grilled onions on a taco. Taqueria Mora tosses its fajita meat on the griddle with plump onions for a taco that fans of fajita served on sizzling comals will be sure to appreciate. This new truck has been up and running for less than four months but it can hang with even the most established taco slingers in the city.
7. Dona Maria 2601 Navigation
My go-to hangover cure is this small mom-and-pop shop just down the street from my house on Navigation, which is run by a retired Houston firefighter and his family. Since it's open for breakfast and lunch only, get here early if you want a table during the weekend morning rush. The flour tortillas here are outstanding and I am partial to the chorizo even outside of its typical breakfast taco setting.
6. Tacos Leticia 2520 Airline (behind Canino's in the parking lot)
The salsa....oh, the salsa. The bright red mole laced salsa here should be on every taco you order but it's best on the pastor tacos. Parked in the back of the always-busy Canino's Market, you can enjoy a taco here and for dessert finish it off with a papaya chile en polvo-style from one of the many vendors in the market.
5. La Macro 1822 North Main
The Monterrey-style gringa and pirata tacos are the best bet here and the Trompo simply cannot be beat even by much-loved Tacos del Julio. The tacos here are bigger, and simply tastier than anywhere else in town. If you don't feel like tacos, the signature "trompiburger" is like the Mexican version of a bacon cheeseburger.
4. Tacos Tierra Caliente 1919 West Alabama (in the parking lot of the convenience store next to West Alabama Ice House)
Tacos Tierra Calienta is another truck from my food truck list. I keep waiting for a subpar taco here that never comes. Pastor here is excellent but the lengua continues to be a favorite. Grab your tacos and go pull up a picnic table and a beer across the street at West Alabama Ice House.
3. Gerardo's 609 Patton
Hit this small corner store/meat market on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, as those are the only days it sells barbacoa. Be warned, though: Once you have had "real" barbacoa de cabeza here, the dry shredded roast beef-style elsewhere simply won't suffice any longer. You can pick up a beer or tamarind soda in its coolers to go along with your tacos and pull up a seat at the tables scattered in the middle of the store. While the rest of the list I will let you choose between tortillas de harina or maiz on your own, go with flour tortillas here -- trust me.
2. El Ultimo 1740 Jacquelyn at Long Point
If you are truly looking for El Ultimo, the true "last" taco you will ever need, it may very well be here. While many trucks specialize in one or two styles, there isn't much El Ultimo doesn't do well. Its massive tacos are draped in grilled onions, cilantro and queso fresco and still come in at under $2. Pastor is my favorite here but that's almost like admitting you have a favorite child -- it's all that good.
1. Karanchos 620 Sheldon, Channelview
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Serving a full menu out of what may be the fanciest "real" food truck in town, the stand is anchored by a great patio space, a waitstaff and big screen TVs -- oh the joys of being outside of the City of Houston's draconian grasp. The bright red, sticky pork de trompo is a can't-miss but with a full menu of favorites, you will have trouble choosing.
While this list certainly doesn't begin to cover all the fantastic tacos we have here in Houston, it does highlight some of the most consistent tacos in the city. That said, I know I have done you all a great dishonor by excluding your favorite taco, so please commence with Inigo Montoya style threats in the comments.