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Dec 31 2013

A New Wave Of Authentic Taquerias & Roving Trucks Make Philly A Bona Fide Taco Town

South Philly Leads The City’s Taco Craze

Little by little, Philly’s turned into a bona fide taco town. Between the mom-and-pop taquerias of South Philly, tried-and-true tequila bars, a roving pack of lunch trucks and the newest crop of gringo-owned joints, there’s truly a taco for everyone and their hermano. Here’s where the hungry masses can get their tacos on:

New-Wave Mexican:

  • Fishtown’s divey Loco Pez found its inspiration in L.A.’s fusion-y taco trucks, and the result is a mix-and-match menu of fun and sometimes unexpected flavors. There’s the Gabacho (ground beef in a crispy shell), for instance, or a seitan-and-spinach combo for the vegan crowd. 2401 E. Norris Street, (267) 886-8061, locopez.com
  • Sibling to Ft. Washington’s Cantina Feliz and Fairmount’s La Calaca Feliz, the recently opened Taqueria Feliz in Manayunk mixes up traditional tacos (al pastor, al suadero) with new-school ones (cauliflower and nopales), as well as a short list of funky organ meat and insect varieties. 4410 Main Street, (267) 331-5874, taqueriafeliz.com
  • Honest Tom’s Taco Shop started as a popular food truck that evolved into a bricks-and-mortar restaurant serving up Mexican fare in a casual eat-in cafe. Breakfast tacos overflowing with bacon, potatoes, tomatoes and fresh guacamole draw crowds from all over the city. 261 S. 44th Street, (215) 620-1851
  • There’s no beer at the hipster takeaway Shifty’s Taco, but a sixer is all one needs to complete a meal of the delicious Towner (fried chicken with cheese sauce and ranch dressing) or the Fixy (sweet potato and rajas). 2730 Girard Avenue, (215) 232-1413, shiftysta.co
  • Union Taco serves up flour tortillas stuffed with chef-ly fillings. Options include pork carnitas with chipotle barbeque sauce and mahone cheese, plus a “cheesesteak taco” with short ribs and house-made cheese sauce. 712 W. Girard Avenue, (267) 455-0445, uniontaco.com

Auténtico Tacos:

  • Taqueria Los Taquitos de Puebla specializes in small tacos, and there’s a gigantic menu of tacos of all textures and regional styles here—grilled smoked pork chop, steak with Chihuahua cheese and al pastor. For the daring, beef eye and tripe make up some of the more bizarre taco options. 1149 S. 9th Street, (215) 334-0664, lostaquitosdepuebla.com
  • Should taco cravings take a turn for the burrito, or even, say, the sizzling fajita salad, El Zarape delivers. In addition to reputable fried fish and chorizo tacos, the restaurant offers a full menu of Tex-Mex classics. 1648 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 336-1293
  • Everyone has a favorite neighborhood taco joint, and for many, El Jarocho is it. The bare-bones storefront slings memorably flavorful al pastor and nopales-tangled carne asada in tortillas. 1138 S. 13th Street, (215) 463-2020
  • The original authentic South Philly taqueria, Veracruzana has paved the way for countless others with its super-cheap (3 for $6) dishes of simple soft tortilla-wrapped delicacies, such as stewed bistec, grilled shrimp and cheese-stuffed jalapenos. 908 Washington Avenue, (215) 465-1440
  • North of Market Street, Taco Riendo satiates the Mexican-craving masses. The Old Kensington spot boasts a cozy interior, excellent tamales and generously filled tacos such as the cheese-dusted, green- and red-salsa-draped chicken and the onion-flecked lengua. 1301 N. 5th Street, (215) 235-2294
  • At South Philly storefront Los Gallos, colorful flags wave overhead, friendly service beckons and platters heave with generous, exceedingly fresh tacos, available in combinations of grilled and roasted meats, fragrant huitlacoche and spicy beef and chorizo. 951 Wolf Street, (215) 551-1251, losgallosphilly.com
  • The easily overlooked Jose’s Tacos occupies an unassuming corner in Philadelphia’s Callowhill neighborhood (also called the Loft District), but this underdog taqueria doesn’t disappoint, with fillings such as pescado asado, carnitas and spicy chicken tinga. 469 N. 10th Street, (215) 765-2369
  • Tucked away in a grocery store, El Limon serves as Conshohocken’s premier spot for tortillas that are soft enough to sleep on. They’re filled with traditional meats and combinations thereof. 103 Fayette Street, Conshohocken, (610) 567-0120
  • The colorful platters at Kennett Square’s La Peña Mexicana include homemade salsas, radish slices, golden rice and refried beans. Of course, the main event is the tacos. 609 W. Cypress Street, Kennett Square, (610) 925-2651
  • Newer on the scene on Snyder Avenue, the one-table Taqueria Le Mexicanita sates late-night longings for longaniza (long sausage) or cecina (salted beef steak) in its three-fer plates. Bonus: The grill is open until 2:00 a.m. to accommodate post-bar takeaway. 12th Street & Snyder Avenue, (215) 858-4587

Carnitas & Margaritas:

  • With two locations (Passyunk and Northern Liberties) Cantina Los Caballitos and Cantina Dos Segundos have cornered the market on the Mexican gastropub. Expect a full menu of serious tequilas, creative margaritas (blood orange) and a diverse list of taco fillings (mahi mahi, goat and vegan options). 1651 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 755-3550; 931 N. 2nd Street, (215) 629-0500, cantinaloscaballitos.com
  • Stephen Starr set the standard for modern Mex in Philly with his flashy El Vez, where the carnitas are made with pork confit, the mahi mahi is topped with chipotle remoulade and the pineapple canela margaritas go down easy. 121 S. 13th Street, (215) 928-9800, elvezrestaurant.com
  • El Vez’s cross-town cousin, El Rey is set in an old diner and serves up lamb and portobello tacos and chile relleno alongside micheladas (beer, spices and lime). Tacos are also available in the speakeasy Ranstead Room, located in the back. 2013 Chestnut Street, (215) 563-3330, elreyrestaurant.com
  • Both the food and beverage choices are extensive at Center City hang Jose Pistola’s. Among the options are a butter-poached lobster taco with honey guajillo sauce and spicy pork with pineapple and kimchi. 263 S. 15th Street, (215) 545-4101, josepistolas.com
  • Jose Garces’ Distrito offers a glimpse of Mexico City in University City. The high-end tacos feature Kobe beef, adobo-braised lamb or mahi-mahi with avocado; the tequilas are plentiful; and the décor is tastefully kitschy. 3945 Chestnut Street, (215) 222-1657, distritorestaurant.com

Tortillas In Motion:

  • Returning tacos to their street-eat roots, University City truck Tacos Don Memo serves them up in foil-wrapped threes, bursting with saucy flavor, crisp onion and lots of cilantro. 38th Street between Locust & Spruce Streets, (610) 529-2039
  • Think of it as a taqueria on wheels: Taco Loco has it all—the red, white and green motif; jarritos; tortas; and simple but punchy al suadero, tripe and choriqueso tacos. The only difference is that this kitchen comes and goes. Jefferson Square Park, 4th Street & Washington Avenue, (215) 883-9191
  • The Diego Rivera-esque murals on the side of the Tacos El Rodeo truck are a giveaway. This mobile operation isn’t messing around. Of special note are the spit-roasted pork and variety meat tacos served with salsa on the side. 1000 Washington Avenue
  • Not exactly a moving vehicle per se, the Blue Route Taco Truck on the roof of Whole Foods Plymouth Meeting turns out some tasty fish, pork and veggie tacos (when open—hours are seasonal) and offers craft canned beer along with them. 500 W. Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, (610) 832-0010

Visit Philadelphia, formerly known as Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.

Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com make up the most-visited website network out of the 10 biggest U.S. cities. Visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.
 

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