America's Best Taco Spots

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America's Best Taco Spots
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America's Best Taco Spots

First it was burgers. Then pizza. Now, American chefs are obsessed with tacos, perfecting classics and even creating Asian versions. F&W offers an extraordinary taco tasting, from hot spots like a California fish market with great seafood tacos to a self-proclaimed "hillbilly dive" in Chicago.

Image Credit: Con Poulos

Austin, TX: La Condesa

Native Texan Rene Ortiz looks to Mexico for both La Condesa’s design (a collage of vibrantly colored Mexican billboards adorn one wall) and its menu. Ambitious tacos and taquitos hew both authentic, such as the Tecate-style fish taco piled with rustic charred corn-chipotle slaw, and inspired, like the Arábicos, a bacon-fat crisped tortilla layered with seared venison, pickled cucumber, chipotle harissa and fennel pollen yogurt. lacondesaaustin.com

Image Credit: Jody Horton

Newport Beach, CA: Bear Flag Fish Co.

Newport native Thomas Carson grew up working on fishing boats; now he runs this fish market renowned for its fresh seafood and stellar fish tacos. Diners have a choice between the signature panko-crusted Basa (an Asian catfish) and a selection from the fish counter, including scallops and wahoo from Baja. For heat seekers, Sriracha and Indonesian sambal complement the mayo-based house sauce. newport.bearflagfishco.com

Image Credit: Matthew Lam

Chicago: Big Star

“Tacos, whiskey, hillbilly music” is how star chef Paul Kahan describes the ultra-casual Mexican spot he opened in Chicago’s Wicker Park in 2009. Though he calls the place a dive (it’s not), the classic tacos—excellent spit-roasted pork and beer-battered fish—are impressively fresh, and the beer list is one of the city’s best. One way to battle the seemingly endless crowds: head over to the takeout window. bigstarchicago.com

Image Credit: Grant Kessler 2009

New York City: Empellón Taqueria

Alex Stupak cut his teeth as a pastry chef at landmark avant-garde restaurants WD-50 in New York City and Alinea in Chicago, but he’s shifted directions and traded the hydrocolloids and xanthan gum for the more time-honored Mexican techniques at Empellón. Yet he doesn’t shy away from pushing limits—after all, empellón translates to “push” in Spanish. Among Stupak’s adventurous taco combinations: sweetbreads with maitake mushrooms, and beer-braised tongue with arbol chile salsa. empellon.com

Image Credit: Daniel Krieger

Miami: Jefe's Original Fish Taco and Burgers

The best fish tacos in Miami come by way of another coast. Jefe’s bright orange truck serves classic California-style tacos: lightly fried beer-battered fish is topped with crisp shaved cabbage, fresh pico de gallo and house-made Mexican crema, all bundled in two corn tortillas. Jefe’s changing Miami locations are constantly updated on Twitter. jefesoriginal.com

Image Credit: Jack Garabedian

Santa Barbara, CA: La Super-Rica Taqueria

Julia Child was famously a fan of this cash-only ’50s-style aqua-colored taqueria. The house-made tortillas are a specialty: Masa dough is rolled into a ball, pressed, then grilled just moments before it’s filled with simple, straightforward toppings like chorizo, tri-tip and sautéed strips of chile pasilla. Locals know to go on Mondays, when the lines are shortest. 805-963-4940

Image Credit: Ryan Windsor

Boston: La Verdad

Star chef Ken Oringer’s talents range from traditional Japanese at Uni to Barcelona-style tapas at Toro. At La Verdad, he skillfully takes on Mexican, with a menu of plates like braised pork belly with red mole, along with stellar tacos like the Benny Lengua (tender cubes of braised beef tongue with salsa arbol, cilantro and red onion). laverdadtaqueria.com

Image Credit: Jared Razzano

Columbus, OH: Los Gauchos

When Los Gauchos upgraded from a swamped truck to an actual storefront in 2011, it did more than add seating: The menu expanded to burritos and quesadilla-like sincronizadas. But the undisputed favorite is still the Al Pastor taco: soft corn tortillas filled with tender slices of pork and a sliver of pineapple—grilled before 4 pm and sliced from a rotating spit after. 614-538-0211.

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First it was burgers. Then pizza. Now, American chefs are obsessed with tacos, perfecting classics and even creating Asian versions. F&W offers an extraordinary taco tasting, from hot spots like a California fish market with great seafood tacos to a self-proclaimed "hillbilly dive" in Chicago.

Check out our slideshow above to discover nine of America's best taco spots.

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