By: Malcolm Mayhew
When hunger strikes, there is no better satisfaction than the all-out, almost primal inhalation of tacos. They’re handheld, neatly packaged by nature and can be easily devoured in around three to five bites. But some tacos deserve to be savored a little more. Fort Worth has no shortage of taquerias, taco joints and Tex-Mex venues where tacos can be found, and the list keeps growing. When searching for Fort Worth’s best, we tried both back-street dives and be-seen hot spots. Tacos are now diverse, daring and even epicurean, but they’re also classic, simple and traditional. Listed here are some of the top in town, with varieties ranging from puffy to pork and Korean to octopus. Let your taco adventure begin.
Tacos El Barrio (shown above)
Long before trendy food trucks were a thing, there was Tacos El Barrio. Mexico City native Jose Luis Ponce opened his unadorned truck in north Fort Worth nearly 15 years ago serving street tacos stuffed with mouthwatering meats like fajita, roasted pork and lengua. We’d put his tacos up against any in town, especially the barbacoa. Savory and moist, the shredded beef has crispy fried edges and is not overly fatty, unlike a lot of barbacoa. Served in hot, freshly grilled double-stacked corn tortillas and covered only in chopped cilantro and white onions, the perfect tacos only need a squeeze of fresh lime and maybe a splash of green salsa before devouring. In taco truck fashion, they come in a Styrofoam container, and folks can enjoy them at nearby covered picnic tables. (Don’t miss the fajita quesadilla either.)
950 N. University Drive
Fort Worth (Pequeno Mexico
Mariposa’s Latin Kitchen
The quality of ingredients and attention to cooking technique are evident in every dish at Mariposa’s Latin Kitchen, owned and operated by mother-daughter duo Irma and Crystal Padilla, who use Mexican, Cuban and tropical influences in their cuisine. There’s a lengthy list of taco varieties here, including blackened chipotle salmon, shrimp with a ginger-pineapple slaw, and even a guacamole taco topped with pico de gallo. But the garlic-infused shredded pork shines for its aromatic flavor instantly noticeable with the first bite. Piled onto an open-face corn tortilla and crowned with white and purple cabbage, chopped tomatoes, spicy chipotle sauce and lime, the taco comes regular-sized or in a street taco-sized mini version, which is just as satisfying.
5724 Locke Ave.
Co-founded by Rosalia Ramirez and her brother Milo, both natives of Oaxaca, Mexico, Salsa Limón first opened in 2006 inside La Gran Plaza mall before adding taco trucks to their arsenal and hitting the streets. Now there are three locations – one currently on the move from Morton Street to White Settlement Road – and a fourth set to open on the ground floor of the Tower downtown. A longstanding fan favorite is El Capitan, a hefty taco in a buttered flour tortilla that’s grilled like a quesadilla. Melted Oaxaca-Jack cheese oozes with every bite while pickled cabbage, chopped onion and cilantro add texture and flavor. The taco comes with choice of meat filling, but go for the tender carne asada steak for a taste of char-grilled excellence.
4200 South Freeway
Fort Worth (inside La Gran Plaza)
3005 S. University Drive
Pulido’s Mexican Restaurant
A signature item at this 50-year-old, Fort Worth-based institution, which now has 10 locations and a tortilla factory, Pulido’s puffy tacos are one of the few, if not the last, left in Fort Worth. Resembling crisp, puffed bowls more than actual handheld tacos, they’re easily inhaled thanks to a light-as-air, paper-thin, fried corn shell. Two come to a plate, each stuffed with a simple compilation of seasoned ground beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, grated yellow cheese and a sprinkling of chopped tomatoes. Using both hands, lift like a tostada and expect a crumbly bite well worth the resulting mess.
2900 Pulido St.
817.732.7571 (original location)
Revolver Taco Lounge
Now open in a new location on Forest Park Boulevard, Revolver Taco Lounge continues to draw crowds and acclaim for its diverse roundup of authentic Mexican dishes that pay homage to owner Regino Rojas’ native Michoacán, Mexico. While standout tacos include calabacita (squash and zucchini), arrachera (skirt steak), pato (duck breast), and tiburon (shark), the pulpo (octopus) is a runaway favorite. Sliced in circles and resembling scallops, the tender white flesh is made spicy with a generous dousing of creamy jalapeño salsa. Crispy threads of pan-fried leeks add mouth-pleasing crunch. Even more, the soft corn tortillas are handmade by Regino’s mother Juanita.
2418 Forest Park Blvd.
The Fairmount Taco
Named for the nearby historic neighborhood, the Fairmount Taco at Tina’s Cocina is almost addicting. Maybe it’s the combination of fresh sliced avocado and yummy garnish of sour cream with crunchy spicy cabbage and carrot slaw. Or it could be the double-stacked, lightly fried corn tortillas that are still warm upon arrival. Customers can choose from several meat options, but we like the carnitas – pork shoulder roasted with bay leaves, oranges and fresh peppers. While the taco is substantial in size, we were left wanting more.
961 W. Magnolia Ave.
Original Tempura Fish Taco
Yucatan Taco Stand
The late Paul Willis, respected chef and restaurateur whose empire included Cabo Grande, Pedro’s Trailer Park, H3 Ranch and others, is credited with bringing the fish taco craze to Fort Worth when he founded Fuzzy’s Taco Shop in 2001. Folks flocked for tempura-battered fish garnished with cilantro, feta cheese and garlic sauce between corn tortillas. Willis was bought out in 2003 and later opened Yucatan Taco Stand in 2008, bringing back a version of his original tempura fish taco. This one is bigger, made with tilapia, and crispier, thanks to crushed corn flakes in the batter. Smothered with shredded lettuce, purple cabbage, savory garlic sauce and a dusting of mild white Mexican cheese, the filling dish is still a signature menu item today.
909 West Magnolia Ave.
The no frills, order-at-the-window, cash-only Melis Taqueria maintains a steady stream of customers for its tortas, gorditas and burritos as well as its $2 tacos, including breakfast. Carnitas, barbacoa and al pastor are all popular, but for slightly more adventurous palates, lengua (beef tongue) is a good choice. Often shredded elsewhere, the dark meat is cubed here – tender and plentifully stuffed between two corn tortillas, garnished with roughly chopped cilantro and white onion. A piquant green sauce adds big spice, so be careful.
4304 West Vickery Blvd.
Charred Avo and Roasted Corn
Veggie taco fillings, it seems, don’t often venture far from the expected: grilled peppers, onions and maybe a bit of diced zucchini. Not at Taco Heads. While there are multiple veggie offerings at this taco truck-turned-trendy restaurant, the standout is the charred avo (short for avocado) and roasted corn. It’s the tiny, crispy fried white mushrooms that pack a savory punch of smoky, earthy umami. A tangy citrus slaw made from crunchy purple cabbage tops grilled corn kernels and slightly blackened chunks of avocado. The result is a taco in which the meat is not missed.
1812 Montgomery St.
Cozumel Shrimp Taco
First opened in Dallas in 1986, Uncle Julio’s, without a doubt, has a massive following in Fort Worth as evidenced by its continually packed parking lot visible from Interstate 30. (A new north Fort Worth location opened in August near Alliance Town Center.) And for taco lovers looking for bold flavors and big portions, the chain doesn’t skimp, especially on the Cozumel Shrimp Tacos. It’s hard not to stare upon their arrival. Three to a plate, they’re as colorful as they are both sweet and spicy. Chunky diced mango, pineapple and red bell peppers top toothsome pink-hued shrimp over a base of shredded jicama slaw stuffed into corn tortillas. A spicy mango-habanero sauce adds heat.
5301 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Bulgogi Beef Taco
In an example of cultural food fusion, a Texas chef takes a time-honored Korean dish and, using his grilling skills, turns it into a taco. The Bulgogi Beef Tacos at Woodshed Smokehouse are not traditional, but they are definitely among the top in town. (The spacious patio and riverfront view don’t hurt either.) Thinly sliced, spicy and sweet marinated beef tenderloin grilled over mesquite fire is served with house-made kimchi – spicy pickled cabbage – and soft, hot-from-the-griddle, corn-and-flour hybrid tortillas. Tim Love’s plating is rustic as the ensemble is simply piled onto a cast iron plate, leaving guests to compile on their own.
3201 Riverfront Drive
By: Malcolm Mayhew