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What is the superlative taco and where to find it in the Boston area?

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[NOTE: We've moved this discussion from the thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/831386 -- The Chowhound Team]

Yeah, I feel that tacos are one of those things like bagels that some people can get extremely regional with. I didn't grow up in Southern California (although I have eaten from LA taco trucks and recommended hole-in-the walls in Southern California) so I guess it's lost on me, but although my Texas or So Cal friends belabor how bad our tacos are in Boston, even they can't tangibly describe why tacos are just so much better back home.

Obviously regional food is often best in its region (although they may exist, I haven't been to any fantastic New-England style seafood shacks in California) so I do feel like a little slack has to be cut to restaurants making great food who are "attempting" authenticity (whatever that extremely vague term means). I tend to compare these places to other places in Boston, rather than to the "genuine" article.

My question for you hounds who grew up eating tacos is what is the holy grail of tacos? What is the superlative taco? I know price obviously factors in and clearly double tortillas (hopefully house made), but what else makes a taco great? And where should I go in Boston for tacos?

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  1. Carnitas taco at Taqueria Jalisco, East Boston. Other tacos there are pretty good and a good value (birria, lengua) but the meats are often on the dry side.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Luther

      Love their birria in anything.

    2. I would nominate Dorado Tacos. I think the Ensenada & Dorito tacos are addicting.

      http://doradotacos.com/

      9 Replies
      1. re: ItalyFan

        I love Dorado! They are my go-to taco place and I think their tacos are great. The selection of drinks is a plus (Mexican coke, Bohemia beer, and their Jamaica tea is my favorite). I've always thought they were great but past threads have been critical. I also like Felipes in Harvard Square and their condiment bar.

        I'll make the trek to Taqueria Jalisco and report back.

        1. re: Klunco

          One more vote for Dorado. I went for the first time this weekend, and enjoyed the Dorado (fried fish), chorizo, and beef tacos. All served with two tortillas, and better, cheaper, and more substantial than Lone Star Taco bar.

          1. re: kimfair1

            The wife and I get Dorado's every thursday, love, love, LOVE their tacos and cemitas!!!

        2. re: ItalyFan

          disagree, worst taco's I've ever had, though I've yet to try Anna's, but that's because worst "Mexican" ever.

          1. re: Nechushtan

            What about Dorado's tacos make them the worst ever? Also where do recommend for good tacos?

            1. re: Nechushtan

              Anna's tacos are Mission-style burrito fillings inside steamed corn tortillas. It's not really any traditional taco configuration. Not especially good, either.

              1. re: Luther

                As far as Anna's, that makes sense to me, thanks Luther.

                But I was actually asking about Dorado which I thought is who Nechushtan is referring to as "worst taco's I've ever had."

                1. re: Klunco

                  .

              2. re: Nechushtan

                gee, that seems harsh. i don't find them the best, but they're certainly good. What made them the worst?

            2. Current Mex faves include Taqueria El Amigo in Waltham and Jalisco in Eastie. For Salvadoran, many options, but Pupuseria Mama Blanca in Eastie is reliable. Also like the tacos arabes at Angela's Cafe (a Poblana specialist) in Eastie.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              5 Replies
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                What are the differences between Mexican and El Salvadoran tacos? Clearly, I'll have to hit Pupuseria Mama Blanca for a taste test.

                1. re: Klunco

                  As much about what's on the rest of the menu, as tacos are a Mexican dish. Many of our ostensibly Mexican restaurants have Salvadoran or Guatemalan owners and chefs; Mexican dishes are offered because they're popular (and perhaps because Mexican cuisine is more familiar to Anglos), not because they're part of their traditional cuisine.

                  Might be some subtle differences in / adaptations to seasoning, types of dairy products used, etc. But I'd say it's mainly about what else you can get there. If they also serve pupusas, it's likely not a Mexican chef or owner. El Amigo, Jalisco, and Angela's are among the rare examples of Mexican-owned restaurants around. There's just not a big Mexican ex-pat population here compared to our Caribbean, Central and South American communities, notably folks from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, and maybe Puerto Rico.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I'll second the tacos at El Amigo in Waltham.. mmmgawa!

                2. re: MC Slim JB

                  I started going to Angela's when it first opened--basically a hole in the wall place with DELICIOUS and CHEAPLY authentic mexican food. I went back once about 3 years ago and the prices were higher and it was more "restauranty." How is it these days? Thinking about taking my out of state boyfriend there, but don't want to hype it up incredibly if it's changed.

                  1. re: crosel23

                    It has definitely gotten a decor upgrade. It added a beer/wine license. The prices have crept up, though I think that's true of places up and down the restaurant spectrum. I find the food is pretty much what it has always been. The moles and tingas are delicious, and they still overcook the chicken breast.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                3. tacos de cabeza at taqueria el amigo in waltham
                  tacos de cabeza, lengua, and birria at taqueria jalisco in east boston
                  tacos de tripas at mexico lindo in lynn
                  tacos de campechanos at romano's pizzeria and taqueria in roslindale

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: galangatron

                    Thanks galangatron because I had no idea that Mexico Lindo had tacos de tripas which I will travel for, its a regular item on the menu? Good non-taco offerings? (In fairness I currently travel for just about any taco offering, but I do have a standard of a tripas taco on the west coast.)

                    1. re: itaunas

                      they're on the regular menu. the handmade corn tortillas are a little thick but, overall, it's a good taco

                    2. re: galangatron

                      Thanks galangatron! Would you say that offal tacos are a distinguishing factor of a great taqueria or is that just personal preference? I've enjoyed lengua tacos before but never tried cabeza which sounds sort of like head cheese.

                      1. re: Klunco

                        The tacos de cabeza at El Amigo aren't scary at all: "beef cheek" might be a better translation than the literal "head"; it's essentially skull-adjacent muscle tissue, without the organ meat like tongue that head cheese typically includes. It sort of reminds me of short ribs or brisket in texture, with a richer flavor.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    3. Speaking of the judging of tacos and East Coast spots:

                      http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/03/ta...

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Klunco

                        I heard that Rosticeria Cancun had a serious fire a few weeks ago; does anyone know if they're still in business?

                        Haven't been to El Potro, though it's been on my list forever. And La Verdad gets a mention: hmmm. Those are Kenji's contributions, no doubt.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          I once ordered the chicken tacos at El Potro and received fajita strips in a tortilla.

                          1. re: chickendhansak

                            I always bite my tongue before saying, "That place didn't look promising to me", because many times when I judge the book by its cover, I turn out to be wrongedty-wrong-wrong. But I have to admit, I've had chances to eat at El Potro and have opted for something else nearby instead.

                            When Kenji reviewed it for the Phoenix a few years ago, he called the Mexican dishes mediocre and praised the Salvadoran dishes: yucca frita con chicharrones, pupusas with chicharron and cheese (raved about them) and the plato montaƱero. I wonder if the Serious Eats inclusion is some kind of mistake.

                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I do remember having pupusas there that I enjoyed. It's a few years ago now. But they were as good as my only other pupusa reference point, (the former) Tacos Lupita up the road.

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                Huh. I haven't been to Potro in years but enjoyed the pupusas well enough--had better in Eastie though. The tacos I saw going by didn't inspire confidence. Of course things may have changed.

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  I lived in Union during the first two years it opened and found it pretty good but nothing to get excited about. Guess I'm just adding to this chorus. I considered myself lucky to be able to get nearly great tamales from Taqueria La Mexicana, really good pupusas from El Potro and good enough tacos from both, a few blocks from home. Always liked the tostadas from T La M as well.

                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                MC -

                                The RC right in Maverick Square is being worked on - I didn't realize that there had been a fire, but they are clearly trying to rebuild.

                              3. re: Klunco

                                Kenji is usually as on-point as MC, but I got to disagree with him (or whoever from SE put this together) here. Amigo and Jalisco are the best around. And I think the best in a slightly more upscale setting is probably Lone Star. Beats La Verdad, in my opinion.

                                That being said, you'll probably still find me and my friends at La Verdad on a Tuesday, cuz, hey, they're only a dollar.

                              4. i JUST had the tacos de cabeza (cheek) and the lengua (tongue) at Taqueria Amigo in Waltham.

                                FTW. Really superb. Got the 4 taco (with an extra order to go) plate that had avocado as well. Think it was $5. Portions were great. Meats succulent.

                                Flavor alone was so much better than Lone Star.

                                At 1/4 the cost per taco, for a bigger taco...

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  you paid $5 for 4 tacos? did I read that right?

                                  1. re: Beachowolfe

                                    I think it's more like $5.50 for three special (with avocado) beef cheek tacos. My favorite tacos in Greater Boston.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      i've never had beef cheek tacos; would you help me understand what the meat is like? does it taste and have the texture somewhat like braised shortribs? thx.

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                        There is a lot of similarity because they are both rich. The mouthfeel and taste are different enough, that you wouldn't mistake one for the other. Cheek tends to have a bit more collagen and when braised, you don't get that melted intermusuclar fat when you bite possibly as much because of cooking techniques and time. In general with tacos a lot of places stew the meat (actually cooked in a pressure cooker) rather than doing a pan braise, so the taco filling can have a lot of water and often its not defatted, so the fillings can be oily. Cheek overall I think has a stronger beef flavor, so for some folks that is an offal flavor, although its not liver-like as hanger and other beefy steak cuts can be.

                                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                                        Correction: $5.50 for four tacos. They disappear pretty fast.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          A photo of Taqueria El Amigo's tacos especiales de cabeza. Also available in pollo, carne asada, lengua, carnitas, and al pastor.

                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                           
                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            The lengua and al pastor tacos at el Amigo are particularly sublime, and the popular prices ($5.50 would also get you the burrito plus one taco special, or a torta and a side of excellent refritos) are a plus, as is its proximity to Russo's and BJs.

                                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                                            WOW. That's like c-town cheap. Is there a limit after which they "disappear"?

                                            1. re: Beachowolfe

                                              I meant they disappear down my gullet, not that there's a daily limit to them a la Craigie burgers.

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        2. re: Beachowolfe

                                          Just to circle back, I hit this place AGAIN for an early lunch last week and had the Cabeza and the Carne Al Pastor.

                                          Them dang tacos are just blow your mind good.

                                          I am always stunned that with the $5.50 taco plate they also give you chips and Sala. I actually like the pico de gallo a little more then the chile sauce they serve with the tacos.

                                          Gosh and a little squeeze of the very fresh lime they usually provide, Amazing chow.

                                          Those tacos are as good as I have had anywhere in the USA, including my favorite places in the Mission in SF.

                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            As long as I can remember to tell them not to put lettuce in the burrito al pastor, the burrito/taco combo special (also $5.50) can't be beat either. As fond as I am of various Mexican places around the city, El Amigo is always the one that reminds me the most of home.

                                      3. I really love the various beef variety tacos at Taqueria Jalisco in East Boston.

                                        For fish tacos, I still like El Pelon the best.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: lipoff

                                          Glad to hear El Pelon is still serving good fish tacos. I am overdue.

                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            I had em this past weekend at the Fenway outpost, Stripes - I used to live essentially across the street and easily consumed at least fifty fish tacos, I can say that the whole experience was exactly as I remember. Glad to see them rally back after the fire.

                                            1. re: Nab

                                              Most succulent. Glad to hear it.

                                              I tried the El Dorado ones once and was not impressed. With El Pelon back open no reason to go elsewhere.

                                        2. You will find as many taco opinions as pizza and burger opinions. For years we have tried fish tacos, carne asada tacos and pork tacos all over Boston. There is absolutely no place where we have had the first two as good as at La Verdad, and we are regulars there. I am being very specific about what is great at La Verdad ,imo- fish tacos, carne asado tacos,(and torta), refried beans, corn w/ queso fresca etc, and guac. The tortillas are handmade there (you can watch her making them until 5pm most wkdays) and the sauces are just the best. And the fish they use is haddock, not flavorless tilapia or pollock. And it is fried, not grilled or baked.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            OC - do you find La Verdad to be sticky? The last two times I was there (which will be the last two times), we found the floors and table tops to be unrelentingly sticky. Unfortunately that is a deal breaker for me, as if you're not willing to keep the tables and floors clean, then I don't want to know what's up in the kitchen. I love the corn, but the last time we went my fish taco was very "fishy" in flavor, which when using haddock tells me it's not very fresh. Dorado is our new go-to taco place (also much closer to me geographically).

                                            1. re: kimfair1

                                              I had almost the exact same experience Kimfair1 (fishy tacos), they actually were quite smelly. La Verdad to me (and my wife) was a huge dissapointment. And much like you, Dorado is now my goto spot, in fact, kind of got in a little tif with the wife last night due to missing her phone call, and consequently not picking up tacos and cemitas for dinner.....and we both got a little cranky about it!

                                              1. re: devilham

                                                Oops, wrong thread. Please disregard.

                                                1. re: devilham

                                                  I also had a very bad experience at La Verdad; still scratching my head as to how Bon Appetit gave them a 'best Mexican food in America' award. My vote is split between Dorado and El Pelon, even though the latter almost killed me with their extra hot sauce. (I didn't know they had two strengths of hot sauce.) Was so good I'm tempted to subject myself to it again.

                                                2. re: kimfair1

                                                  kim, we only eat in the taqueria, never the restnt, and we haven't had the sticky experience. am very perturbed that they take away cafe seating during the winter months so we only go when the sox are in season and there's seating. In the many many times we have had fish tacos there, i have only had one solitary fishy taco, so it makes me sad to hear of your and devil's experience. I am also concerned that their excellent 'new' chef, daryll, has left. Don't know what that's about ,but it concerns me. Ken Oringer seems to be such a focused type A guy that the only thing that I can figure is that he has his fingers in so many pies that he had to disengage from something, and maybe that something is La Verdad. I'll report back when we next visit. I miss those fish tacos something fierce! (If Dorado would change from a tartar sauce to a chipotle mayo and lime crema, i'd surely go back for their fish tacos.)

                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                    Ah, see I avoid the whole area like the plague when the Sox are in town (unless going to a game), and have only ever eaten in the restaurant proper. This policy will be sorely tested now that The Hawthorne has become my favorite bar. I guess I'll need to restrict my drinking this summer to Sox road trips! By the way, I just checked the Dorado website (as I didn't remember getting tartar sauce on my taco, and here are their listings for fish tacos. I had the Dorado, which was great.

                                                    Ensenada 2.59
                                                    beer battered Atlantic whitefish | cabbage | salsa fresca | pickled onions | Baja crema
                                                    Dorado 2.59
                                                    beer battered Atlantic whitefish | cabbage | salsa fresca | radishes | spicy chipotle crema
                                                    Grilled Fish (Seasonal Catch) 2.99
                                                    grilled seasonal fish | cabbage | tomatillo & avocado salsa | Baja crema
                                                    Shrimp 2.99
                                                    chipotle marinated & beer battered shrimp | jicama | pineapple salsa | Baja crema

                                                    1. re: kimfair1

                                                      yes kim, they call it chipotle crema but it is tartar sauce w/ some chipotle in it. sorry, just not my cuppa chipotle.

                                                      btw, we also never go near La V when the sox are playing at home.

                                              2. monte christo mexican grill in brigham circle, the chirizo taco's are solid. i like the tacos at maya de sol in east somerville.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Neely08

                                                  I second this. I've had some pretty Mexican food in Boston but Monte Christo has good, authentic tacos. I like the lengua (beef tongue) tacos. Their enchiladas mexicanas are pretty decent too. It's just a hole in the wall kind of place but that's what you're looking for.

                                                2. Taqueria El Amigo gets my vote too. They keep it very simple but superb.