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, 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 Taco All Others Are Compared
As with all of our quests, we like to establish a baseline in order to give you a sense of what we're talking about when we rate subsequent establishments.
A baseline taco is roughly equated with what you can make at home. I think everyone has a taco that they make that is 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 similar style to Condado Tacos.
This downtown establishment (and Ohio transplant) is a Chiptole-esque taco joint where you can mix and match ingredients to build your own perfect taco. Ingredients range from the standard (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 around $3 a taco is a great deal for downtown Pittsburgh regardless of any shortcomings. For this, we would call Condado Tacos a good baseline.
Condado Tacos is located at 971 Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh and has a second location at 4300 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
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.
Mendoza Express is a cute little Mexican restaurant in East Carnegie that serves up a mix of traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex flavors. During our visit we tried the iconic tacos al pastor, a personal favorite from our time in Mexico.
The tacos themselves were relatively decent, and the price point of three tacos for $7 is hard to beat. However, as an iteration of tacos al pastor we felt they simply do not do the dish justice over what could have been and we'd rather opt for other items on the menu when visiting.
Mendoza Express is located at 812 Mansfield Avenue in East Carnegie.
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 1220 E Carson Street in South Side.
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.
Casa Reyna (the Restaurant)
So when they launched a restaurant of the same name we were eagerly awaiting its launch (especially due to the fact that we very much enjoy their taco cart located outside the restaurant).
Sadly, this one fell flat as the entrees just didn't really come together despite the traditional ingredients, use of the double shell of their house made tortillas (which are the best we've had), and more. They do a great job in attempting to provide authentic flavors, but it didn't really come together with the tacos.
Casa Reyna is located at 2031 Penn Avenue in the Strip District.
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 and 4849 Clairton Blvd in the South Hills. We visited the Squirrel Hill location for our review.
Casa Reyna (the Food Cart)
In an ironic twist, we will give Casa Reyna props when they are due as their taco cart outside the grocery store does still make great tacos. It could be that the tacos seemed larger. It could be that they are more generous with the toppings. Or maybe it is that the street vendor vibe gives a completely different ambiance to the meal.
I'm going to argue that it is all of these things that can make a strikingly similar taco be that much better, and is why we have to rank Casa Reyna's street tacos just a bit higher. One day we'll have to do a side-by-side test to see how true this is.
Casa Reyna's Taco Cart is also located at 2031 Penn Avenue in the Strip District.
Brassero Grill is a popular food truck 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).
We look forward to checking out their future brick and mortar restaurant in Braddock when it opens!
Brassero Grill is a food truck with multiple stops every week. They are said to be opening a brick and mortar store in Braddock in the future.
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.
Pulled pork tacos? Brisket tacos? Think of the flavors of traditional barbecue and slap it on a flour tortilla, and this is what you're going to get.
Smoke Taqueria is located at 4115 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
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.
La Poblanita is a small Mexican market located in the heart of Coraopolis just west of Pittsburgh. 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.
At $2.50 per taco, or $3.00 for lengua (tongue), you are sure to get a massive and delicious meal for cheap here.
But as much as I enjoyed these tacos, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that the tongue and pork seemed a bit soggy that the condiments bar is a bit smaller than other comparable establishments in the city. That being said, the tacos are on point for virtually everything else, and those craving a delicious Mexican taco will be rewarded if they make the drive to Coraopolis to enjoy these beauties.
La Poblanita is located at 801 4th Avenue in Coraopolis.
El Lugar at Federal Galley offers a chef-driven take on authentic Mexican cuisine.
With ingredients like duck carnitas and chicken tinga on top of thick house made tortillas, you get the traditional flavors you know and love with a unique twist. Some combinations are better than others, and the tortillas bring it all together for this solid offering.
When visiting this one, keep in mind that the taco plate (three tacos plus beans) is the same price as four tacos. If you're getting the beans with another entree, do yourself a favor and go for the fourth taco.
El Lugar is located at Federal Galley at 200 Children's Way in the North Side.
Bea Taco Town
Bea Taco Town has three location in Pittsburgh- two downtown and ironically on either end of Smithfield Street and one on Banksville Road. This one 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 has two locations on Smithfield Street downtown and one at 2957 Banksville Road in the South Hills. We visited the South Hills location for our review.
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.
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 taco truck is the kind of place you see along the side of the road and immediately slam on your blanks to pull a U-turn. The reason for this is that their tacos are about as authentic as they come.
Double shell, fresh ingredients piled generously on top, with a cart side toppings bar are all we need to say. 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!
Edgar's Taco Truck stops at various locations throughout the week. They have a brick and mortar store in the Strip District at 2627 Penn Avenue.
The Mexican grocery store Las Palmas also 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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