This post is part 5 of 5 in the series Mexico City Travel Guide

Tacos are everywhere in Mexico and we ate more than we can count in the 18 months we spent in the country. But there’s something about the pace (need to grab a quick bite on my way to a meeting?) and the coolness (need a snack before/during/after a night out?) of Mexico City that is uniquely suited to tacos. Result? The town is lousy with taco joints. Here’s our taco taste test of the tacos in Mexico City.

Tacos in Mexico City

Before we get a tidal wave of territorial taco tirades from folks who believe that they (and only they) know where to find the best tacos in Mexico’s capital city let us say one thing: this is not intended to be the last word on Mexico City tacos. Heaven forbid.

This is merely our take on the tastiest tacos we’ve tasted in Mexico City (so far) at places that are not mobile street vendors. Here we’ve focused on another level of tacos with tables and chairs and a permanent location and a cadre of loyal diners. For its combination of value, tastiness and sheer entertainment we prefer Los Paisas, but you be the judge…

al pastor tacos in Mexico City

A stack of el pastor meat on the spit–El Tizoncito in Mexico City claims to have invented this style of taco.

Name: El Tizoncito

Neighborhood: Condesa (though there are outposts across the city and across Mexico)

Vibe: Holier than thou. This place (the original installment of the chain) claims to have invented the ubiquitous tacos al pastor and the unique method of slowly grilling a cone-shaped stack of meat on a vertical rotating spit (like a gyro). This is like opening up a snack shop in Chicago and saying you invented hot dogs.

Strong suit: Um…

Insider tip: The al pastor tacos at El Tizoncito come with a fairly goopy, slightly sweet sauce, something we’ve never seen on any other tacos al pastor and which we do not generally consider a plus.

Price tag: The al pastor tacos at El Tizoncito were, by far, the most expensive we’ve ever had and were really nothing special. In the end, we felt like we were paying for their claim to fame as the inventors.

Taqueria Los Paisas tacos in Mexico City

And this isn’t even a particularly busy day at Taqueria Los Paisas in Mexico City.

Name: Taqueria Los Paisas

Neighborhood: On the edge of the Centro Historico

Vibe: It’s always packed with working men and working women. Though there is a long comunal table with stools, be prepared for standing room only and join the crowd on the sidewalk.

Strong suit: A bar of DIY taco toppings which include grilled cactus, chunky potato salad, and plump beans in addition to the usual salsas and limes. Pile on as much as you want. The handmade tortillas score points too.

Insider tip: The mustachioed grill master loves to practice his English and show off his considerable taco tossing skills. Smile at him and he’ll give you a goofy show.

Price tag: 12 pesos (about US$1.00) for a huge and hearty taco filled with thin slices of beef bursting at the seams with all the toppings you want.  Tacos al pastor and chorizo tacos are even more affordable.

taco master tacos in Mexico City

The goofy grill master at Los Paisas puts on a show as he cooks up your food.

Name: Taqueria El Farolito

Neighborhood: Condesa  (though there are other outposts around the city)

Vibe: Jealous. It’s just not as cool as El Califa (see below) which is right across the street.

Strong suit: They serve their tacos with two tortillas so you can split up the ample fillings and their beef tacos come with the meat conveniently chopped for less-messy eating.

Insider tip: Our friend Crispin, who used to live and work in this neighborhood, swears by the tacos Campechano with special sauce here.

Price tag: At 18 pesos (about US$1.45) for an al pastor taco and 34 pesos (nearly $US2.75) for a beef taco this place is on the pricey side, even for a fancy sit down taco joint in a hip neighborhood.

Taco sign tuxtla Guitierrez Mexico

Okay, this taco stand is NOT in Mexico City (it’s in Tuxtla Guitierrez), but we love the sense of humor in the name.

Name: Taqueria El Califa

Neighborhood: Condesa (though there are other outposts around the city)

Vibe: The model moms, hipster students, and other so-called “Califans” seem to be saying “We’re only here to fuel up on our way to (or from) somewhere even cooler.”

Strong suit: All staff members wear black t-shirts with cool graphic representations of their jobs. The delivery guys’ shirts, for example, have stylized scooters on them. Some of the waiters shirts have a classic waiter’s apron printed along the bottom. Other waiters wear a great t-shirt that says “Gringa” on the top (referencing a popular type of snack) over a picture of a buxom, half-clad American pin-up. Also, El Califa provides a tower of salsas, tasty re-fried beans, and fresh tortilla chips on the table.

Insider tip: They’ll deliver (even to your hotel) until 4 am and the place is a convivial mob scene on Sunday afternoons.

Price tag: Their copyrighted beef Gaona’s tacos are 38 pesos (almost US$3) without cheese but we thought their everyday, non-copyrighted beef tacos were tastier and they were more reasonably priced at 22 pesos (about US$1.70) and their tasty al pastor tacos were just 11 pesos.

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