Last Updated on September 19, 2023 by Jeremy
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If we made a list of all of the foods we could eat day in, day out and not get sick of, tacos would be high on our list. In fact, when we spent about four weeks in Mexico I ate well over 100 Mexican tacos on my own in addition to a plethora of other delicious and local foods- much to my stomach's delight.
If I saw a street cart serving tacos I would order at least one, if not three, even if I had just ate a meal. It was kind of like that.
In Pittsburgh, the topic of authentic Mexican fare is a hotly contested debate. Some will tell you our Mexican cuisine is terrible. Others will argue we have great Mexican but will pull out many examples that are, sadly, not Mexican. We have mixed thoughts on the topic, but generally think that you can find good Mexican fare in the city if you look hard enough.
Our quest for the best tacos in Pittsburgh is not that. While we will say that most all of the best tacos are authentic Mexican, we do recognize that you can make a stellar taco without it being traditional in the slightest.
In this quest, we want to find some of the city's best. Are they good because they're authentic? Are they good because they're unusual? Are they so cheap they command attention? Or are they simply good and we need not say anything else? All of these are on our radar and can be called a “good taco.”
The following are some of the spots we've tried on our quest to find Pittsburgh's best tacos. We'll start with the baseline that all are compared to (i.e. average), then give below average, above average, and the very best of all the tacos we've tried so far in Pittsburgh!
As with all posts on this site, this post is not a complete list of all taco places in Pittsburgh. This list is a collection of all of the ones we’ve tried to date. So if your favorite restaurant is not featured, odds are good we haven’t visited- so let us know about it in the comments.
To read more about each spot, click the name in the description (when available) to be taken to our full review!
The Baseline Average Taco
As with all of our quests, we like to establish a baseline to give you a sense of what we're talking about when we rate subsequent establishments higher or lower. A baseline is not the best, but more simply what we consider to be perfectly average to start the discussion.
A baseline taco is roughly equated with what you can make at home. I think everyone has a taco that they make which is in their ideal style. It may go out of the way to be a bit unique, but is straight-up comfort food independent of all others thoughts.
Although we have been making more traditional Mexican-style tacos at home in recent years, for a long time we would make tacos in a similar style to Condado Tacos.
This downtown establishment (and Ohio transplant) allows you to mix and match ingredients to build your own perfect taco. Ingredients range from the standard proteins (chicken, steak, and barbacoa) to more unusual (grilled jackfruit) and have any number of toppings- resulting in more combinations than you can ever try.
The flavors of these tacos aren't elevated much from what you could prepare at home, but your ability to order many different styles at a reasonable price is a great setup for downtown Pittsburgh regardless of any shortcomings. For this, we would call Condado Tacos a good baseline for an average taco.
Condado Tacos is located at 971 Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, one at 4300 Butler Street in Lawrenceville, and one at 301 South Hills Village #2400 in the South Hills.
Below Average Tacos
So, what does it take for a taco to be below our baseline?
There isn't one independent factor as a taco could be sub-par because it was made poorly, didn't have a great flavor combination, or was too expensive for what you get. Generally speaking, things that are below average we would probably consider from an overall perspective as being simply not worth the effort to go after. They include the below.
We had high hopes for Doce Taqueria in South Side, as they operate on short order preparations and run on a limited menu of just a few options.
The portions and pricing of the tacos themselves were about what you'd expect; however, the flavor was sadly lacking in both our carnitas and vegetarian options. Part of this could have been remedied by simply adding more of everything, but we have to be honest in saying that the flavors simply weren't there.
Doce Taqueria is located at 1302 E Carson Street in South Side and 4826 McKnight Road in the North Hills.
202 Hometown Tacos
202 Hometown Tacos in Bellevue serves up fine short order tacos that are loaded with meat and toppings all for a fairly reasonable price. There are several options with different protein bases like steak, carnitas, chicken, ground beef, shrimp, and more with a plethora of toppings that ends up being a fairly nice spread for an order overall.
Where this one is a bit below average to me is that it is all somewhat conventional. Think ground beef, sour cream, cheese, onion, and tomato or pulled pork, tomato salsa, beans, onion, and avocado. While fine on their own right, the tacos here could offer a lot more. This is highlighted perfectly in the restaurant's Bellevue Bowl- a huge bowl featuring pork, chicken, and shrimp plus an array of toppings that ended up offering relatively intense flavors in every bite.
So while I think this one nailed it in the bowl, I was hoping for a bit more in the tacos as they didn't quite add up despite having similar ingredients.
202 Hometown Tacos is located at 407 Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA.
SLO Coast Tacos
SLO Coast Tacos is a food truck found at a permanent location on an empty lot in the heart of Millvale. This one channels excellent Southern California vibes with the ambiance as well as in the offering of tacos, burritos, stuffed avocado, and more.
Unfortunately, the tacos we had were a bit of a let down if only because the toppings were so sparse that they did not complement the meats to a noticeable degree at all. Had they been in appreciable portions, the flavors of the tacos would've been much more enjoyable (like that of the burrito which did not suffer the same problem). As such, we found ourselves adding our side of queso onto the tacos for an added flavor boost!
While this one could very much have been a fluke for our visit, we were ultimately a little disappointed overall.
SLO Coast Tacos is a food truck with a permanent location at 205 North Avenue in Millvale.
Viva Los Tacos
Viva Los Tacos opened in the former space of The O in Oakland and is a trendy taco shop with reasonable prices (catering to the college student crowd).
The taco menu here includes a mix of traditional street tacos as well as more out-there options like southern chicken, Korean BBQ, and more. On my first visit, I opted for the Korean BBQ chicken tacos to try something a bit more on the trendy side and was fairly let down on whether or not this was Korean at all. Barbecue chicken? Sure. Korean? No.
While the portion sizes were quite generous for the price point, perhaps an even bigger regret was that the shop does not allow you to mix-and-match tacos (although virtually everyone who ordered after me asked if they could- the answer was no). Had this been a feature, even if at an extra fee, I would have been more interested in the concept overall.
As it stands right now, this one just isn't for me- although college students on a budget may flock to this one just like at The O.
Viva Los Tacos is located at 3901 Forbes Avenue in Oakland.
The layout of El Burro's North Side location is very similar to Doce Taqueria. It is small and prepares a moderately Americanized taco in short order style.
The options here are a bit more expansive, and we have to say that we do truly enjoy their chilaquiles and a loaded chorizo burrito, but the tacos here fall a bit flat for similar reasons as above. So while we do encourage you to visit this one either at the North Side location (where we eat at) or their second shop in Regent Square, we have to be honest and say skip the tacos.
You have much better options to go for.
El Burro has two locations- one at 1108 Federal Street in the North Side and one at 1113 S Braddock Street in Regent Square.
Above Average Tacos
For a taco to be above average, it has to exceed our baseline taco above in a few of the categories we look for. These tacos are generally quite good and are places we'd order from again, but may have a few misgivings here or there that do not put them in the very top.
In any case, you should give these tacos a try!
Bull River Taco
Bull River Taco has two locations in Pittsburgh, one in Squirrel Hill and another in the South Hills. This one offers up no frill tacos that are loaded up on classic meats (beef, chicken, pork) with conventional toppings.
The standouts here are the sauces, a cholula cream as well as a spicy bullseye sauce that should be put on just about everything, as well as their tortilla shells that are grilled just a bit longer than most. If you are looking for tacos that are heavy on the meat compared to other spots, definitely give this one a try for their $3 per taco creations.
Bull River Taco is located at 1707 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill as well as 4849 Clairton Blvd and 698 Washington Road in the South Hills. We visited the Squirrel Hill location for our review.
El Pariente Taco Shop
El Pariente Taco Shop is perhaps the most unassuming place for tacos in the entire city. The reason for this is that the taco stand is found, quite literally, in the back of the BP gas station's convenience store at 40th and Liberty.
Yes, you read that right. It sounded like our kind of place.
This small stand inside the shop serves up a modest menu of short order tacos, burritos, and select other dishes like soup and quesadillas.
The tacos and burritos here came jam packed with meats like chorizo, carne asada, and more- amply giving our money's worth many times over for the meat alone. The toppings game here felt quite lacking with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream being found over more traditional options like diced onions and cilantro (to make matters worse, our order also didn't come with any of them despite asking).
That said, we're in this one for the meat, and if loaded tacos for a reasonable price are what you seek, don't skip over this one that is, quite literally, inside the gas station.
El Pariente Taco Shop is located at 4006 Liberty Avenue inside the BP gas station.
Brassero Grill was a popular food truck turned restaurant in Braddock, PA, that offers a fairly straightforward menu with creations such as tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. All you have to do is pick your style, your meat, and off you go!
During our first visit we tried the chorizo tacos which had the right amount of spice in the meat and was topped with a cheese, spinach, sour cream, salsa, and a generous spoonful of guacamole to top it all off (a stellar flavor combination all around). Although, we do have to admit in future visits we've gravitated to their burritos even more!
Brassero Grill was formerly a food truck and is now a brick and mortar restaurant at 532 Braddock Avenue in Braddock.
Vagabond Taco Truck
If you see an RV parked outside a local bar or brewery that looks like it belongs in Breaking Bad, odds are good it is Vagabond Food Truck. But if the contents of said truck are reason to worry in the Breaking Bad universe, in Pittsburgh all you have to worry about is ordering up addictive tacos and other Mexican fare!
During our first visit to Vagabond Taco Truck we tried the pastor tacos, which ended up being more like a carnitas taco with a pineapple and pastor slaw on top- a unique take on this style of taco. Authenticity questions aside, these tacos were quite delicious all the same and for just about $10 for three loaded tacos we will happily return for more soon!
Vagabond Taco Truck periodically shares their locations on their Facebook page.
La Palapa (the Food Cart and Restaurant)
La Palapa is another local business that has a full service restaurant (in the South Side) as well as a mobile taco cart. The restaurant has a full Mexican menu that will take you on a trip to Mexico, with tortas, soups, tamales, chiles rellenos, and many other traditional Mexican entrees making the list.
While we thought most of the other dishes sampled fell flat, where La Palapa shines is their tacos, and we will always be more than happy to grab some of their perfect little creations at the restaurant or from their food cart when we see it.
La Palapa has a taco cart as well as a brick and mortar restaurant at 1925 E Carson Street in South Side.
California Taco Shop
Whenever we would drive up Route 8, we would always see California Taco Shop in Shaler Plaza and never stop. This unassuming spot in the North Hills didn't strike us to be the kind of place we'd find authentic Mexican tacos so we always would forget about it shortly thereafter. But after stopping on a whim one day when doing errands, I am so happy to say that I was wrong- the tacos here are delicious!
During my first visit, I was only able to sample three- a pastor, carnitas, and chorizo. Each taco came out with a double corn shell, overflowing with meat, and topped with cilantro and onion just as a solid Mexican taco should be. The flavors of the meat and the char on the pastor and carnitas worked out incredibly well and the volume made me fairly stuffed on three despite their modest size.
My only regret here was that the pastor was missing pineapple on top and the tacos were not served with any lime, but the hot sauce provided for the table helped offset this as well. Now I intend to stop at this one regularly whenever driving up Route 8 to try more from their menu (tacos and otherwise!).
California Taco Shop has two locations in Pittsburgh- one at 890 Butler Street in Shaler Plaza (not Lawrenceville) and one at 11000 Perry Highway in Wexford. We visited the Shaler location for this review.
PGH Taco Truck
PGH Taco Truck likes to take a twist on the taco and offer unusual creations like the General Tso's taco, spicy jerk chicken, Thai peanut chicken, or the vegan curried potato (to name a few), and does a great job at making the flavors work.
Are they the most authentic? Not really- but we'll go for tasty any time and this is precisely what you'll get at this popular food truck.
PGH Taco Truck is a food truck with multiple locations throughout the week.
Taquitos Food Truck
Taquitos is a popular Mexican food truck that serves up an array of wonderful Mexican dishes ranging from tacos, tostadas, to nachos, and more.
What we love about this one is you start off with a traditional Mexican taco including your choice of meat, onions, and cilantro. From there can opt to load it up with extra ingredients like cheese or sour cream as you wish, but we kept our order simple to enjoy their wonderfully cooked meats.
My only minor complaint about this particular truck is that the tacos are on the smaller side for their price, and for a more fulfilling order I found myself drawn to the tostada which was served with an ample amount of meat that was quite literally overflowing off the shell. This discrepancy aside, this is one you simply should not miss!
Taquitos is a food truck that can be found throughout Pittsburgh.
If you find yourself south of Pittsburgh in Washington, PA, and are craving no-frills, authentic Mexican tacos, a trip to Tacos Mexico is a must.
This small restaurant has a fairly straight forward menu of tacos and tortas. For their tacos, all you have to do is pick your tortilla base (flour or corn), meat, toppings (cilantro and onion are classic), and hot sauce (mild or hot) and off you go. These tacos are admittedly on the smaller side for their price but come loaded up with meat- just the way we like them.
Tacos Mexico is located at 1054 Jefferson Avenue in Washington, PA.
Los Mayas in Harmony is one of those Mexican restaurants that does everything under the sun- enchiladas, flautas, tacos, and more. But of course, when we visit new restaurants, we always have to go for the tacos.
Here, the street tacos run in an order of four at a respectable price point and you are able to pick and choose your protein per taco (chicken, steak, pastor, chorizo, and carnitas are available). These are served with a double corn shell and topped with a liberal amount of onion and cilantro plus hot sauces on the side- about as traditional as you can get.
What I loved about these is that they were quite generous in all the portions, and four tacos is sure to fill up even the biggest eater. A really well-executed taco all around, but at a restaurant with such a strong Mexican menu, we may mix up our orders in future visits simply to try a bit of everything else available!
Los Mayas is located at 100 Perry Highway Suite 105 in Harmony, PA.
Los Gallitos is a popular food truck for all things Mexican tacos and burritos and offers a wonderful spread of build-your-own tacos with traditional proteins, an on-site toppings bar, and more.
We adore this one partly for its generous portions of meats but also for the intense flavors in the traditional package. Go for the chorizo or campechanos at this one (the latter especially if you opt for a burrito over a taco) and don't forget a side of plantains as they truly round out a meal at this one!
Los Gallitos is a food truck that appears at area breweries and events.
El Rincon Oaxaqueno
As far as street tacos are concerned, it is hard to beat El Rincon Oaxaqueno. This food truck has an array of options available beyond just tacos (including enchiladas, burritos, huaraches, and more), but on the taco front they have a wealth of options available including roughly six proteins as well as three or so vegetarian options. Naturally, we went with a mix of steak, adobado pork, chorizo, and rajas in our order here.
While these perhaps are not the biggest of tacos on this list (nor are they the smallest), what stuck out to us about these were how wonderfully seasoned the meats were here- especially the chorizo and the adobado pork. Think intense flavors that highlight the protein perfectly which make them the kind of tacos where we'd be happy having the meat in it and nothing else- it is that good.
But if we had to be biased and pick a couple for return tacos, it would most certainly be the adobado pork and the chorizo. Hard to beat the flavors this team gets in those meats!
El Rincon Oaxaqueno posts their location on their Facebook page and is often in the Strip on 21st Street between Penn and Smallman.
What do you get when you combine the amazing flavors of New Mexico with traditional tacos? Taqueria Acosta, that is what.
Taqueria Acosta is a food popup that nails the chile-forward New Mexican dishes perfectly with some of the most flavorful tacos you can ask for. Although we have to admit we were blown away by the tostada above all others (it is simply perfection), loading up a taco with perfectly cooked New Mexican food is something we will never, ever say no to.
Taqueria Acosta's locations are often posted on their Instagram page.
Excellent Tacos in Pittsburgh
When you get to what we would call excellent tacos in Pittsburgh, they have to make you say “wow”.
On the authentic side of the spectrum, they have to be about as perfect as you'd expect to find on the streets of Mexico. On the more Americanized side of the spectrum they have to grab you by the taste buds at the very first bite and command your full attention.
Only a few in Pittsburgh get this distinction from us, but the ones that do should be on your radar to consider very, very soon.
Duo's Taqueria is a full service restaurant in East Liberty operated by the language learning company Duolingo. The tacos here feature homemade tortillas and classic fillers like suadero, pastor, cachete, lengua, nopales, and more that will have you transported to Mexico in an instant.
All around, these are some of the finest tacos we've had in Pittsburgh. The ingredients and flavors here are truly some of the very best we've had, in East Liberty or otherwise, and the cachete (beef cheek) may top the list outright.
Duo's Taqueria is located at 5906 Penn Avenue in East Liberty.
La Poblanita is a small Mexican market located in the heart of Coraopolis just west of Pittsburgh (with additional locations in Ambridge and New Brighton). The shop operates a taco stand located outside which sells an assortment of authentic Mexican tacos where your filling of choice (about eight to choose from) is generously packed into a double layer of corn tortillas and topped with hot sauces, salsas, and other items from their nearby condiment bar.
As the tacos here are also reasonably priced, you are sure to get a massive and delicious meal for cheap too! So if you're craving a delicious Mexican taco, you will be rewarded if you make the drive to check them out.
La Poblanita is located at 801 4th Avenue in Coraopolis. They have additional locations at 517 Merchant Street in Ambridge and 303 Fifth Street in New Brighton; however, we have not visited these locations to confirm taco availability or quality.
Bea Taco Town
Bea Taco Town is located in downtown Pittsburgh and focuses on authentic Mexican tacos and has creations available as build-your-own (“regular tacos”) by the taco or premium specials (“ala carta”) with a minimum order of two.
We opted for a mix of both and ordered two regular tacos with pork (cochinita pibil and al pastor style) and an order of the OMG tacos.
The regular tacos were topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions and were lacking in a bit of flavor that more sour cream or cheese would've assisted with. (This is said to be included but we did not see any.) The cochinita pibil and al pastor meat was remarkably identical which was great for the cochinita but a bit lackluster to pass off as al pastor.
What really won us over here was the premium, OMG Taco which offered a packed steak taco with sauteed cactus, pico de gallo, avocado, cilantro, and a cut of pineapple on top for good measure. If the regular tacos were lacking these surely made up for it and were some of the most flavorful, loaded tacos we've had so far. So if you hit up Bea Taco Town, do your self a favor and go for the ala carta tacos- they're worth the price increase!
Bea Taco Town is located at 110 Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh. We visited a former location on Banksville Road for this review.
Las Velas is a hidden gem in downtown Pittsburgh as it is hiding in plain sight in Market Square thanks to its unique second-floor location.
During my first visit, I went with my standard taco order, tacos al pastor, and was quite surprised with what came out.
First, the full entree portion included three generously sized tacos and two large sides for $13 (two at lunch with rice and beans runs $10- go for the meal size). Second, the tacos were quite flavorful and had a wonderful balance of pork with pastor, onions, cilantro, and pineapple that sent me back to my favorite meals in Mexico.
Would I have liked corn tortillas stacked double shell? Yes. Would I have done better to pick other sides? Definitely. But as far as tacos are concerned, the ones at Las Velas are quite good and, considering its location and price, I can't ask for much more- aside from another order the next time we visit!
Las Velas is located at 21 Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh.
Totopo is perfectly situated in the heart of Mt. Lebanon on Washington Road and offers up an array of Mexican dishes (great for combo platters) as well as tacos.
During our first visit we were only able to try one set of tacos, their tacos al pastor, and what a choice it was. Normally most places in Pittsburgh don't compare to the beautiful creations we enjoyed while in Mexico, but at Totopo they shine. They're monstrous, flavorful, packed full of meat and toppings, and really do tacos al pastor proud.
Totopo is located at 660 Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon.
If you like the tacos at Totopo, odds are good you're also going to enjoy the options at their sister restaurant, Tocayo, in Shadyside!
This gem serves up refreshing takes on traditional taco styles (think pineapple salsa on top of pastor in addition to slices) and loads them on a tortilla that includes a bit of blue corn flour for an extra pop both in color and flavor. And, much like Totopo, the portion sizes did not leave us wanting more- they are quite large.
One of the best parts about Tocayo's taco menu is that, while they only come in two to an order, you are able to mix and match proteins and also get a salad or soup as a side as well. As such, while you may be visiting this one simply for a couple of tacos, you really are going to have a robust meal all the same!
Tocayo is located at 810 Ivy Street in Shadyside.
The high-end downtown restaurant tako just barely makes it into our list of excellent tacos as our one reservation would be the price. At $12-$22 dollars for two the price point is among the highest in the city by far, but what you get certainly justifies the cost.
One taco here stands out above the rest, and that is the namesake tako taco. The word tako is Japanese for octopus, and at this particular restaurant they first sous vide it before grilling it and placing it on top of the taco. In the process tako creates a texture that is simply out of this world.
Yes, you have to like octopus to go for this one- even when considering it is the most expensive. But it is one you won't regret trying in the slightest. For that, we hand down the excellent rating. (Our horrible photos excluded due to low lighting, naturally.)
tako is located at 214 6th Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
Baby Loves Tacos
I didn't know what to expect before visiting Baby Loves Tacos– it is such an odd name for a restaurant, after all. But all of my concerns were alleviated within a few minutes for the fact that the menu is quite unique and the owner, Zach, is one of the nicest people we have met in our explorations of Pittsburgh to date.
So, what makes Baby Loves Tacos special? I'm going with quality ingredients first and foremost as their tacos can be filled with traditional components like chicken or chorizo as well as more unusual fillers like grilled mushrooms or buffalo caulfilower. Put that all together with traditional double shells, crumbly cheese, and salsas and you have what could be Pittsburgh's perfect taco.
Yes, they're that good, and you'll want to plan on multiple visits to try them all.
Baby Loves Tacos is located at 4508 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield.
Edgar's Tacos was a former taco cart turned brick and mortar shop (now at the Pennsylvania Market in the Strip District) and is the kind of place we'd make a special trip for just to enjoy. The reason for this is that their tacos are about as authentic as they come.
Double shell, fresh ingredients piled generously on top, and an array of toppings make for a wonderful order all around. The price point doesn't hurt either, and anyone can expect to get a massive plate of tacos for about $10.
Just be sure to try the beef tongue if they have it!
Edgar's Tacos is located at the Pennsylvania Market at 108 19th Street in the Strip District.
Taqueria el Pastorcito
For years we have been dreaming of a true tacos al pastor food truck in the city, but it wasn't until Taqueria el Pastorcito came out onto the scene in 2021 that our cravings were finally satisfied.
While this one features an array of protein choices including steak, carnitas, chorizo, and more, the real gem of this food truck is their pastor meat grilled on a vertical rotisserie (gyro style). Between the delicious pork smothered in achiote paste, cooked with crispy edges on every piece, and topped with cooked pineapple transports us back to Mexico with every bite.
It should be no surprise, considering our love affair with this style, that we ate 12 on a recent visit!
Taqueria el Pastorcito periodically posts their location on their Instagram. Be sure to watch local breweries for when they'll be on-site! In 2022, the food truck also opened a permanent brick and mortar restaurant in New Kensington and in 2023 can be found at Strange Roots' Gibsonia location, too!
Las Palmas Pittsburgh
The Mexican grocery stores, Las Palmas, makes our list of excellent tacos for very similar reasons as Edgar's tacos. But while Edgar's is a mobile truck, Las Palmas is simply a grill and toppings cart located right outside of each grocery store.
Although Las Palmas has four locations around the city, we frequent the Beechview location and often load up a plate of four tacos for $10 and top it ourselves with the numerous toppings at the available bar (which have no shortage of heat for those who like it hot).
While we do enjoy this one and have been known to drive across town for it on a number of occasions, we would be doing you a disservice if we don't point out that they have had a few health code violations in recent years at some locations which may be a turn-off to some.
But in the quest for authentic tacos, I'm willing to take my chances.
Las Palmas has four locations throughout Pittsburgh. We visit their location in Beechview at 1616 Broadway Ave most frequently.
Know of any good tacos in Pittsburgh we haven't tried yet? Comment below to let us know about it! We'll check them out and add them to our ever expanding guide!
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