For the past six years, my annual compendium of the Best Places to Eat in Orange County has featured everything from tacos to French haute cuisine. And every year I’ve come away questioning, “Should I have included more tacos?”
Well, I finally cracked. Since 2021 was not a normal year, neither is this edition of the guide. Allow me to present the (long overdue) 50 Best Places to Eat Tacos. It’s a wide-ranging list that weaves a trail from smoke-filled parking lots in Anaheim to the hushed, serene confines of luxury stalwart Taco María in Costa Mesa. It’s an exploration of tacos al carbon, barbacoa, birria, buche, carne asada, carnitas, cecina, chicharrones, lengua, suadero and more.
And I still find myself thinking, “Should I have included more tacos?” Even 50 seems like too small of a number for a county that sprawls across 948 square miles and presumably has more taquerias than gas stations. On the bright side, some of these restaurants have extra locations or multiple trucks, so the truer tally is more like 70. Meanwhile, stay tuned: My traditional guide to the 75 Best Places to Eat returns next spring.
1. Lola Gaspar
During that innocent summer prior to the pandemic, Lola Gaspar closed for a short break while chef/owner Luis Perez took a sabbatical in Mexico City. He came back freshly inspired and completely revamped the menu (previously influenced by Spain) to focus on a very limited selection of tacos and quesadillas (called quekas) stuffed with tender, sultry lamb birria, spicy jerk-marinated chicken and chorizo negro, a blood sausage made by nearby Electric City Butcher that Perez combines with pinto beans, all of which are stuffed into some of the finest tortillas available in Orange County (flour for the tacos, corn for the quekas). On Tuesday nights only, Perez and crew fire up a charcoal grill on the edge of the patio, filling the neighborhood with smoke for an even more limited menu of outstanding carne asada, grilled chicken and shrimp tacos. The micheladas and cocktails are best in class, especially a mezcal drink called El Viento. 211 W. 2nd St., Santa Ana, 714-972-1172, lolagaspar.com
>The Best Places to Eat in OC
- Brad A. Johnson’s Best Places to Eat, 2020 Pandemic Edition
- Brad A. Johnson’s 75 Best Places to Eat in Orange County, 2019
- Brad A. Johnson’s 75 Best Places to Eat in Orange County, 2018
- Brad A. Johnson’s 75 Best Places to Eat in Orange County, 2017
2. Chato’s Bar & Grill
Chef Sergio Ortega, the chef who originally launched Descanso in Costa Mesa, has taken over the space in downtown Santa Ana that previously housed Irenia, flipping into a Mexican bar and grill with black walls, red neon and an undercurrent of debauchery. The menu features a half dozen extremely sophisticated tacos, each a work of art. The real showstopper is the chile guero: a charred, hot yellow pepper stuffed with shrimp and layered with lychee-infused cabbage, a smattering of baby herbs, more sliced peppers and creamy chile-ash aoili on a terrific guajillo-infused corn tortilla. Slightly less cerebral yet equally impressive is the pork al pastor with roasted pineapple and velvety avocado salsa. While the flavors might be immediately familiar, these are not your average tacos. 400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, 714-852-3256, chatosbarandgrill.com
3. Fonda Moderna
If everybody’s cecina tasted like the incredible salt-cured, air-dried flank steak served at Fonda Moderna, cecina tacos would be the most popular tacos in the world. The same might be said of the pork ribs in salsa roja. Or the pollo à las brasas, which is a marinated and grilled chicken breast slathered with chile adobo and paired with borracho beans. This bustling taqueria inside Tustin’s Mess Hall market is a spinoff of chef Daniel Godinez’s Anepalco restaurants in Orange, giving the chef a chance to focus almost exclusively on tacos: barbacoa, birria, ancho-rubbed wagyu steak, chicken tinga, chorizo, cochinita pibil, pork al pastor, beef stewed with ancho chiles … all served on handmade, oddly shaped, irresistible flour tortillas. Bonus: The Anepalco crew also operates the adjacent Drink Bar inside Mess Hall, which means easy access to excellent margaritas. 1705 Flight Way, Tustin, 714-941-5418, ext. 100, fondamoderna.com
4. Tacos Los Cholos
What began as a pop-up for mesquite-grilled tacos al carbon in the parking lot of a seafood restaurant has morphed into a duo of wildly popular brick-and-mortar taquerias. At both locations, a large mesquite grill smolders with beef ribs, arrachera and ribeye steaks, all of which make their way into four-inch corn tortillas with standard garnishes of onion and cilantro. The caliber of beef here is excellent, some of it even USDA Prime. The best of the lot might be the costilla de res, those Flintstones-style beef ribs which are first grilled on the bone then chopped and finished on the griddle until crispy and dripping with fat. While the newer Fullerton branch offers indoor dining only, the original Anaheim location features a sprawling patio with outdoor speakers blaring the likes of Los Tigrillos and Los Ángeles Azules. 821 S. State College Blvd., Anaheim, 657-201-3043, instagram.com/tacosloscholosanaheim; additional location in Fullerton.
5. La Súper Birria
La Súper Birria has come a long way from its humble beginnings since Edgar Navarrete Gomez, a self proclaimed “cooker,” opened an out-of-place food stall inside his Mexican candy store in Santa Ana. Week by week, the business roles reversed until the candy store eventually disappeared, making way for a full-fledged birrieria. Two years later, there’s hardly a time or day when the queue for tacos doesn’t stretch through the parking lot. As the space has evolved, so has the kitchen. And while the tortillas have gone through multiple iterations and upgrades, one thing has remained constant: Gomez’s spicy beef birria is as good as it gets. Pray for a miracle because parking is next to impossible. 1041 W. First St., Santa Ana, 657-245-3810, instagram.com/super_birria
6. Taco María
The only reason Taco María doesn’t rank higher on this list is because, despite the name, this place doesn’t always serve tacos. In fact, in the beginning chef/owner Carlos Salgado didn’t serve tacos at all. But over the years as he has inched this place closer and closer to fine-dining perfection, his kitchen has produced some truly iconic tacos, like the smoked sturgeon taco that is slowly, patiently griddled until the thick, heirloom-blue-corn tortilla is crisp and the fish inside is thoroughly heated, ready to be paired with an extraordinarily spicy salsa negra. The latest incarnation of the menu doesn’t yet include a taco but the carne asada comes with all the elements required for making one yourself: wood-grilled steak, those same blue-gray tortillas, grilled onions and jalapeños, plus a vase of foraged herbs, including epazote, huacatay (sour mint), cilantro, papalo (looks like watercress, tastes more like tarragon) and “Mexican tarragon” (wild marigold). 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 714-538-8444, tacomaria.com
Chef Ernie Alvarado’s dark and moody Mexican cafe (and mezcal bar) offers more than a dozen types of tacos, including arrachera, carnitas, chicken mole and even orange-glazed pork belly. But look beyond the “tacos” section of the menu and find the appetizer called “dorados” and that’s where you’ll discover the crispy potato tacos, stacked like Jenga blocks and showered with shredded cabbage, pickled onions and crumbled cotija cheese. And if you enjoy mezcal, this is the place to indulge that passion. Packing House, 440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, 714-502-0255, urbanaanaheim.com
With longtime chef Gabbi Patrick at the helm, Chaak has quickly become one of the most talked-about Mexican restaurants in Southern California. The taco options are extremely limited, but when you see something that looks or sounds like a taco, order it. At weekend brunch, look for the cochinita pibil (Yucatán-style roasted pork) — the best of its genre in OC. At dinnertime, turn to the salbute pato ahumado. The “pato ahumado” refers to smoked duck. A “salbute” is a Yucatán-style taco made with puffy, slightly crisp tortillas that are literally unlike anything else for several hundred miles. Sometimes they top the salbutes with fire-roasted turkey, and those are even better. 215 El Camino Real, Tustin, 657-699-3019, chaakkitchen.com
9. Pour Vida
Chef Jimmy Martinez recently closed his tiny gourmet taco shop on Center Street Promenade in Anaheim and opened a bigger version at the end of the same block. The new location seats a whopping 50 people max — more than double the size of the original. And just like the original, most of it is outdoors. Martinez still focuses primarily on tacos. The hamburger taco — ground beef, cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, special sauce — is a tongue-in-cheek ode to In-N-Out. But don’t think too hard about that. Just order it and get lost in the joy of a truly enjoyable taco. Also notable: mango-infused pork, vanilla-scented beef short rib and pineapple-marinated skirt steak. 215 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, 714-215-4415, pvtandt.com
10. Tito’s La Especial
Even in the limited realm of tacos al vapor, Tito’s operates in a league of its own. There’s just no one else doing Mexico City style tacos al vapor (or steamed tacos, also known as tacos de canasta) remotely like these. If you haven’t tried steamed tacos before, they will be a revelation. Corn tortillas get stuffed with a choice of potato or shredded red-chile-tinged beef. The latter is succulent and tender and deeply soulful. After the tacos are assembled, they’re folded, put through a steamer and utterly transformed. They emerge wet and gloriously greasy, garnished with iceberg lettuce. They look sort of like enchiladas, and they smell and taste almost like tamales. Fair warning: Do not wear white when eating these tacos. 503 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, 714-543-2900; additional location on Harbor Blvd.
11. Tortas Ahogadas La Guera
This new food truck specializes in the world’s messiest sandwiches, but that’s a story for another day. They also make gloriously messy tacos. Ask for the “trompo tacos,” which in this case translates to corn tortillas stuffed with pork al pastor and deep-fried until thoroughly crunchy. They are extravagantly garnished with a slurry of extra-spicy tomatillo salsa, guacamole and requeson, which is like a cross between ricotta and sour cream. Bring hand wipes. 1205 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, 714-376-1460, instagram.com/tortasahogadaslaguera
12. Los Reyes del Elote Asado
This taco trailer that parks on a residential street in Santa Ana staked its name on grilled corn in a cup, and you’ll want to get some of that for sure. But you’d be a fool not to focus on tacos first. Lengua, chicharron, chorizo, tripe, cabeza, cecina, carne asada. … This place makes some of the best tacos available on the street. The tripe is extra crispy. The chicharrones are deeply infused with charred tomato salsa. And the chorizo, outstanding. Corner of Chestnut Avenue at Main Street, Santa Ana, 949-610-4226, instagram.com/losreyesdeleloteasadooficial
13. Jugos Vallarta
This 10-seat tropical juice cafe makes some of the best tacos dorados around. Focus on the version loaded with potatoes. They fill the tortillas with semi-mashed potatoes, then dunk them in a vat of hot oil, pulling them out only when the tortillas have turned golden and brittle. They’re garnished with shredded lettuce, a slice of tomato and a hunk of avocado, and crumbled Mexican cheese. Blow on it, or burn your tongue. 1312 W. 1st St., Santa Ana, 714-953-7462 instagram.com/jugos_vallarta
14. Tacos Los Reyes
For years this place was known as Carnitas Los Reyes. But then it burned down, and the owners rebuilt it and changed the name to Tacos Los Reyes. Same cooks, same menu, same repetitive whack-whack-whack-whack coming from the cutting board where the cooks are constantly chopping slow-roasted pork butt (carnitas) with a giant cleaver, barely keeping pace with a never-ending demand for tacos. 273 S. Tustin St., Orange, 714-363-3730
15. Carmelitas Taqueria
The name probably rings a bell. This 20-seat taqueria is a next-gen offshoot the long-running Carmelita’s in Laguna Beach. The kitchen mines the same family recipes as the parent company — carnitas, carne asada, tortilla soup, grilled corn — but with a counter-service, limited-menu concept. Notice the achiote-and-chile-marinated pork al pastor slowly pirouetting and caramelizing on its vertical spit behind the counter, capped with a pineapple that drips and glistens in the heat. That’s the prize. 34255 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, 949-503-4107, carmelitastaqueria.com
16. El Mercado Modern Cuisine
The Mexico City vibes are strong at El Mercado, where chef Fernando Franco makes a fascinating vegan taco with sauteed hibiscus flowers, charred jicama, fresh pea puree and sliced avocado on a blue-corn tortilla. Not vegan? Even better. Consider the taco with stewed pork belly, roasted potato and Fresno chiles. Lots of expert tequila and mezcal cocktails, too. 301 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana, 714-338-2446, mercadomodern.com
17. Lindo Michoacan 2
The kitchen here might be best known for menudo. But this is a prime spot for tacos, too. Carnitas, carne asada, al pastor, barbacoa. … It’s impossible to make a bad choice. The tortillas are made to order, and they don’t skimp on the meat. 327 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, 714-535-0265, instagram.com/lindomichoacananaheim
Puesto got its start as a modest taco stand in La Jolla before morphing into a sprawling indoor/outdoor cafe in San Diego, followed by a string of similar cafes stretching from Irvine to Santa Clara. Puesto’s tacos are unique. The chefs take a handful of cheese and plop it on the griddle. After the cheese melts into a blob, the taco fillings get piled on top. The whole thing is then rolled up like a crepe and stuffed into a tortilla. The chicken asado taco is one of the best chicken tacos you’ll eat this year. Bonus: Outstanding margaritas and Mexican craft beers. 7821 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-316-0151, eatpuesto.com; Additional locations in Irvine and Anaheim.
19. Xclusive Taqueria Moderna
Chefs Manny Velasco and Eddie Rivera recently transitioned their Ladera Ranch taqueria from counter-service to full-service. The menu remains mostly the same. Head straight for the chile rojo. This is a comforting guisado-style taco made with beef short rib that’s been simmering slowly in a savory red chile stew. (Vegetarians beware: The menu makes no reference to beef when listing the chile rojo, but that’s what it is.) There’s also a stellar chile relleno taco: corn tortilla topped with a battered-and-fried chile guero and garnished with cabbage, queso fresco and pico de gallo. You also can’t go wrong with the carne asada. Plus: fantastic micheladas. 1701 Corporate Drive, Ladera Ranch, 949-339-3545, xclusiverestaurants.com
20. The Taco Stand
The carved-to-order pork al pastor is very, very good. But what’s even better is the spicy shrimp taco, a contemporary riff on the gobernador in which a house-made tortilla is lined with white cheese that’s been fried just to the edge of burntness, giving it an incredibly nutty, smoky, crispy character. It’s loaded with perfectly griddled shrimp and a flurry of chopped cabbage, thick chunks of avocado and a generous dollop of chipotle crema. A perfect taco by any measure. 240 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, 714-941-9164, letstaco.com
21. Taquiero Taco Patio
You can’t miss the gigantic trompos piled with what must be at least 40 pounds of marinated chicken and pork al pastor, charring and blistering as they slowly rotate at these Tijuana-style taquerias. All the tacos, whether al pastor, carne asada or chicken asada are mopped with salsa and slathered with drippy guacamole before each cooked-to-order tortilla is folded and wrapped in a piece of paper like an ice cream cone. 4517 Campus Drive, Irvine, 949-333-1671, taquierotaco.com; additional locations in Irvine and Aliso Viejo.
22. Tacos La Calle
Suadero deserves more respect. This cut of beef is far more appreciated in Mexico than in the U.S. Cut from the upper breast area of the steer, somewhere between the brisket and the leg, it’s more like fat than muscle, although the taste is indeed very meaty. La Calle makes the best suadero tacos in OC. Period. 8600 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 714-236-5211, tacoslacalle.com; additional location in Orange.
23. Roman’s Taqueria
Two things to focus on: barbacoa de res and carnitas. Both are superb. The barbacoa is tender and deeply infused with charred red chiles. The carnitas are dizzyingly fatty and flavorful. The tacos here are large. A grown man could have a hard time eating more than two. Warning: Roman’s salsas are radioactive, namely the darkest red one (chiles japones) and the bright green one (pure serrano). 2400 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, 949-548-5534, instagram.com/romans_taqueria
24. Taco Rigoberto’s Bros.
The window of this taco trailer opens at 3:45 p.m., and by 4 the queue has already swelled to 20 people deep. These are old-school street tacos at their finest: chicharrones in salsa verde, lengua, crispy tripe, carne asada, chicken asada, chorizo … You’ll be asked, “You want everything?” Say yes, and no matter what type of tacos you order they’ll come topped with chopped cabbage, onions, cilantro and both red and green salsas. Bonus: There are picnic tables directly in front of the trailer. 201 S. Mountain View St., Santa Ana, 714-401-4871, instagram.com/tacosrigobertosbros
25. Taqueria el Zamorano
Nobody makes better Baja-style shrimp tacos than El Zamorano. The shrimp are beer-battered and fried to a crisp and paired with shredded cabbage and a generous glug of dressing that tastes like thousand island but with a kick. Also noteworthy: pork al pastor, carne asada and tacos dorados. 925 W. Warner Ave., Santa Ana, 714-884-4073, taqueriaelzamorano.com
26. Tacos Manuel
This is the brick-and-mortar culmination of a company that operates tacos trucks under the same Manuel banner. And the kitchen here isn’t much bigger than that of a truck. They serve everything here just as they would on the street corner: on reusable plastic plates covered with tinfoil. The invigorating scent of sizzling carnitas and carne asada permeates every inch of the tiny dining room. Everything here is good: carnitas, carne asada, al pastor, birria … 1612 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, 714-643-0592; additional locations in Anaheim and Santa Ana.
27. Tacos y Birria el Guero
The goat birria is good, but the pork al pastor might be even better. Taquieros carve the barbecue pork to order from one of OC’s largest trompos, which sometimes measures more than two feet wide. Go easy on the smoky salsa negra. It is dangerously HOT. 2330 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana, 714-241-8226, instagram.com/tacosybirria_elguero; plus two trucks in Santa Ana.
28. Sol Agave
This is a success story of a taco truck that went on to become a mini chain of full-service restaurants. The atmosphere might be dramatically different, but the tacos are as satisfying as ever, the chicken tacos dorados especially. The carnitas are an event all their own, almost enough for two people to share. 111 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, 949-312-2210, solagave.com; additional locations in San Juan Capistrano and Mission Viejo.
29. Erick el Taquero
First one truck. Then two. Now three. Same great tacos at all. Ultra-tender suadero is seared in its own fat until it turns crisp around the edges. On weekends, they sometimes set up a trompo outside the truck and carve excellent pork al pastor. Warning: Don’t light a match near the salsas — the entire block might blow. 100 Goetz Ave., Santa Ana, 714-795-4066, instagram.com/erick_el_taquero; plus two additional trucks, also in Santa Ana.
30. Taqueria Don Victor 2
Their surtido is legend. Surtido is essentially “loaded carnitas,” an assorted mix of all the bits and pieces of the pig that are cooked together with the pork butt when making carnitas. Also, check out the chorizo, which is deep-fried by the link and then transformed into tacos. And one more thing: Ask for the not-so-secret, off-menu Mexico City-style quesadilla, which is like a giant taco made with a freshly pressed 10-inch corn tortilla that’s stuffed with chicharrón prensado (compressed chicharrones), garnished with shredded lettuce and queso fresco. 1225 S. Euclid St., Anaheim, 714-535-6018, instagram.com/taqueria_don_victor_anaheim
31. Tacos TJ Style
This Tijuana-style taco brand has grown to three trucks, all of which feature a revolving trompo of the same excellent pork al pastor in the side window, which acts like a powerful bat signal after sundown. Also great: the lengua. In typical TJ style, everything gets slathered with guacamole. 13912 Enterprise Drive, Garden Grove, 714-334-6358, instagram.com/tacostjstyle; additional trucks in Santa Ana and Costa Mesa.
The best crispy tacos require an appreciation for grease because the perfect shell isn’t fried until hard and dry but rather still semiflexible and only crisped around the edges. That’s how they do it here before stuffing those perfect shells with finely chopped chicken still hot from the griddle, plus shredded lettuce, tomato and grated cheese. On weekends only, they fire up the trompo with al pastor. 31401 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, 949-542-4052; additional location in Mission Viejo.
33. Cobian’s Restaurant
The best thing on the menu isn’t actually on the menu. Pull your server aside and ask for the off-menu “street taco special” and you’ll receive a trio of absolutely beautiful carne asada tacos: classic, uncomplicated, finely chopped skirt steak served on palm-sized tortillas that have been lightly griddled in oil and topped with onions and cilantro. Incidentally, this is the same crew that previously operated Cafe del Sol in Los Alamitos. 4959 Katella Ave., Cypress, 657-214-2426, instagram.com/cobiansrestaurants
Lupe’s signature tacos are huge, almost like open-face burritos. The fantastic Sonora taco involves a really nice flour tortilla, skirt steak, nopales, pinto beans, pico de gallo and guacamole. The pork al pastor is excellent, and they don’t skimp on meat. Bonus: The coconut margarita is absolutely brilliant. Just know that the Dana Point location is the only outpost of this concept that serves alcohol. 33621 Del Obispo St., Dana Point, 949-558-5430, eatlupes.com; additional locations in Huntington Beach and Lake Forest.
35. El Campeon
This old Mexican butcher shop, bakery and taqueria has been around almost as long as the nearby historic mission, serving the best workman’s tacos in south Orange County. They have a 20-foot-long steam table filled with every imaginable filling: beef barbacoa, pork al pastor, chile verde, goat birria, tripe, cow’s tongue, pig’s ears, you name it. The al pastor is always superb. So, too, the barbacoa. 31921 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, 949-489-4078, elcampeon.com
That constant “thwack thwack thwack thwack” causing the walls to vibrate at this 24-seat taqueria is the chef frantically chopping carne asada for tacos. It never slows down. These tacos are case studies in restraint: quality steak, onion and cilantro on basic corn tortillas, served hot and fast. And delicious. Bonus: old-school, hand-made micheladas. 12841 W, Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, 714-750-9254.
Opened last summer, Caló is one of the hottest Mexican restaurants in the county right now. Although not a taqueria, the kitchen makes fantastic grilled fish tacos with halibut, cabbage, avocado and fresh flour tortillas. Get there early because they don’t take reservations and the waiting list fills up fast. Bonus: outstanding margaritas. 28141 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel, 949-409-7380, calokitchen.com
38. Carnitas Don Alberto
From the Tacos Manuel family comes this new taco shop dedicated to carnitas, plus pork ribs cooked in that same style, named after the family patriarch whose recipe has been closely guarded for years. The carnitas and ribs are both excellent. For now, the pork is all they serve, but I’m told plans are in the works to add additional meats in the future — although that’s probably not even necessary. 12572 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, 714-640-0151, instagram.com/carnitas_don_alberto
39. El Coyotito
El Coyotito is a tiny cantina with a squeaky screen door and minimal A/C. The dining room consists of six or seven tables, plus a few stools that surround the kitchen counter where a cook and a waitress take turns pressing tortillas with an antique wooden press. The jukebox plays a mix of ’70s rock, tuba-heavy banda and crossover Mexican pop like Julio Iglesias. The carne asada tacos are excellent. So, too, the adobada (shredded beef) and cabeza (cow’s head, but mostly the cheeks). 32141 Alipaz St., San Juan Capistrano, 949-496-9439, instagram.com/elcoyotitomexicanrestaurant
40. Heritage Barbecue
Everybody knows by now that pitmaster Daniel Castillo makes the finest Texas-style barbecue for a hundred miles or more. But some people might not realize that his crew also makes one extraordinary Tex-Mex taco. It’s a decadent creation: a flour tortilla (from Burritos La Palma) topped with a hefty slice of barbecue brisket, queso fresco, salsa verde, salsa roja, pico de gallo and a smattering of herbs. Hell, yeah. 31721 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, heritagecraftbbq.com
41. Sal’s Tacos a la Mexicana
When this place opened a few years back, it was called Tacos del Chino. The owners recently changed the name to Sal’s Tacos a la Mexicana. Nothing else changed. They still serve the same great tacos de cabeza and al pastor. And you won’t find a better mulita anywhere. 2431 N. Tustin Ave., Santa Ana, 657-247-5427, salstacosalamexicana.com
42. Bandito Taqueria
The crew behind Bandito are building a food truck. Until that’s ready to roll, you can find their Tijuana-style tacos in a parking lot on Main Street and sometimes they pop up in bars like Vacation Bar in downtown Santa Ana. Just look for smoke billowing from a large, portable mesquite grill. The grilled meats are excellent. And the tortillas are pink. 2202 S. Main St., Santa Ana, 949-315-6505, instagram.com/banditotaqueria
43. Gloria’s Mexican Food
Gloria’s doesn’t have indoor seating. There’s barely enough room inside for more than one customer at a time. But they usually have a couple of tables on the sidewalk. If you show up on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll find a glorious trompo loaded with pork al pastor. On other nights and weekdays, the pork is cooked on a flattop griddle. Either way, it’s delicious. The meat is thickly sliced and heavily charred, infused with a red-chile marinade that seeps into its core. 731 W. 19th St. Costa Mesa, 949-646-9420, gloriasmexicanfood.com
44. El Cabrito
The sign above the door says “cabrito,” and the goat birria is unrivaled. But what this old taqueria with the sprawling patio does better than anyone else is chorizo. The sausage is finely crumbled and cooked well beyond the point where most other taqueiros would have stuffed it into a tortilla and been done with it. They let it sizzle and sputter in a pool of its own fat until it turns black and crispy. When you take a bite, the chorizo snaps and pops between your teeth, exploding with vibrant red chiles and cumin and charred pork fat. Perfection. 1604 W. 1st St., Santa Ana, 714-543-8461
45. Navarro’s Taqueria
The tortillas are made to order by hand at this shoebox-sized taqueria across the street from Madison Park. And after a solid dunking into a vat of perfectly greasy beef birria consommé, the tortillas are stuffed with shredded meat from that same vat and set atop the griddle and left there until they start to puff and turn crisp around the edges. These are some of the best “red tacos” around. Insider tip: Ask for the secret bright-orange salsa made with chiles de arbol, which isn’t available on the salsa bar. It’s a serious contender for hottest salsa in Santa Ana. 1535 S. Standard Ave., Santa Ana, 714-486-1068, instagram.com/navarros_taqueria_
46. Los Chilangos
Think of it as the ultimate Taco Grande, but don’t ask for that. This is another one of those Mexico City-style quesadillas. It starts with a large, freshly pressed tortilla almost big enough for a burrito. While the tortilla cooks on the griddle, it gets topped with anything from squash blossoms to carne asada. Once it starts to crisp, it gets loaded with shredded lettuce and queso fresco and folded in half. Looks like a taco. Tastes like a taco. Way bigger. Lots of great guisados here, too. 1830 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, 714-999-5515, instagram.com/loschilangosrestaurant
47. Chihuahua Cerveza
Craft beer company Chihuahua Cerveza opened this taqueria on the Balboa Peninsula (next door to a Chipotle, funny enough) to showcase its Mexican-style lagers. The beer is high-caliber, but the tacos steal the show, especially the delinquently fatty carnitas, some of the best food of any brewery tasting room in OC. 3107 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 949-771-8226, chihuahuacerveza.com
If you have ever wondered how many tacos can be made from a whole two-pound lobster, Perla has the answer: Three. They are gigantic. They are not cheap. And they are absolutely delightful. The spiny lobsters are grilled whole, then their tails are chopped and divided among three incredibly fluffy flour tortillas layered with fried cheese and garnished with roasted poblanos, purple cabbage, pico de gallo and spicy chipotle aioli. To drink: Get the La Niña. 400 W. 4th St., Santa Ana, 714-316-5421, perladtsa.com
>More dining guides from critic Brad A. Johnson
- Where to find the best Japanese ramen in Orange County
- Where to find the best Chinese food in Orange County
- Where to find the best fried chicken in Orange County
- The ultimate guide to eating Vietnamese food in OC’s Little Saigon
- The absolute best cheap eats in OC for $15 or less
49. Wild Taco
Here’s a great combo: craft beer, serious tacos and a strong Ensenada vibe. Wild Taco serves excellent fish tacos, notably the line-caught red snapper. All the tortillas, both corn and flour, are made fresh daily in-house. The carne asada comes from grass-fed beef. And the carnitas drip with luscious pork fat. 407 31st St. Newport Beach, 949-673-9453; additional location in Laguna Beach
50. El Yaqui Tacos y Mariscos
For more than a decade, Mariscos El Yaqui drove around Orange County selling Sonora-style fish tacos from a food truck. But now they have a brick and mortar restaurant in Santa Ana. The menu is strictly fish and seafood, and the signature taco is called el perron. It’s made with boiled shrimp and shredded cabbage and crema plus wonderfully crunchy, salty marlin chicharrones. Note: The pastel-colored creamy habanero salsa looks harmless, but it is savage. 1935 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, 714-617-4880, elyaquitacosmariscos.comh2 data-curated-ids="" data-relation-type="automatic-primary-tag"">
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Editor's note: This story has been updated the current staffing at Chaak.
Source : https://www.ocregister.com/2021/10/22/the-50-best-places-to-eat-tacos-in-orange-county/14327