Barbacoa and tripas tacos at Tacos Chiwas | Photo by Eric Cox
Phoenix is basically the Ivy League of everyone’s favorite hand-borne Mexican food staple – the taco. From cilantro-flecked street tacos to $10 pork belly masterpieces to vegetarian versions, there’s a taco for everyone in this town. Here are seven spots to find your fave.
The humble Baja-style fish taco goes upscale at Gallo Blanco, where chef-owner Doug Robson first merged the street taco with the Valley’s fine-dining consciousness more than a decade ago. His lightly battered fish – maybe halibut, rockfish, grouper or Corvina seabass – is invariably clean-tasting and flaky, and served “open-face” on a house-made blue corn tortilla, which lends a hint of sweetness and earthiness. It’s a crunchy mouthful of fish, cabbage, onion and tomato, jacked up with creamy chile aioli.
928 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602-327-0880, galloblancocafe.com
Everyone touts a personal favorite at this popular Chihuahuan-style taco shop, but it’s hard to beat crispy, feather-light and faintly chewy tripas – beefy-tasting small intestines that eloquently prove offal ain’t awful. Chiwas also boasts an elite barbacoa, beef cheek cooked low and slow in a smoker with onions, tomatoes and chiles until the meat falls apart and its juices drip from the rustic, house-made tortilla.
1923 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 602-358-8830, tacoschiwas.com
The king of nouveau tacos. From its award-winning Korean fried chicken taco to the seared shrimp that chef Richard Hinojosa creatively pairs with Thai green curry and pickled veggies, no purveyor of haute hand-food pushes the envelope more skillfully.
3961 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-687-7777, crutacos.com
Silvana Salcido Esparza does so many spectacular renditions of so many old-school Mexican staples, her tacos sometimes fly under the radar. They’re indisputably great, including a superlative vegetarian taco: goat cheese smothered with roasted poblanos.
2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602-636-0240, barriocafe.com
In fall 2019, the Downtown taco scene completely upended when Taco Boy’s opened on Roosevelt Row. Everybody seemed to be gushing about that charcoal-grilled carne asada. But the truth is this: Their cabeza is better. Stewed until it melts, the decadent head-meat pools and jiggles on its warm tortilla, and dissolves like pudding on the tongue.
620 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 602-675-3962, aztacoboys.com
Head straight to the tacos section for seasonal vegetable, fish, carnitas, carne asada and beef barbacoa street tacos, all served with grilled onions, cucumbers, lime and salsa on the side. Like all street tacos, they’re small, but one or two will hit the spot if you’ve already primed your panza with botanas.
501 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, 602-368-5316, tacochelo.com
By now, Valley veggie lovers have sampled their fair share of plant-based tacos around town, from the instantly forgettable to the totally indelible. If you’re ready to make some daydream-worthy memories, try the roasted heirloom carrot tacos at Saguaro Scottsdale’s La Señora.
4000 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-970-4444, thesaguaro.com