THE TACO LIST

Roughly North-to-South. Please note this is not a “Best Mexican Food” list. It is STRICTLY taquerias. Scroll to the bottom of this list for a rough outline of my parameters for “Tacos”.

LOS GRULLENSES Salinas  ♦♦♦
TAQUERIA JALISCO Salinas  ♦
RESTAURANTE EL OAXAQUENO Salinas ♦♦♦
TICO’S TACOS Salinas  ◊
TAQUERIA HIDALGO  Chualar   ♦♦
LINDA TAQUERIA  Gonzales   ♦♦
LOS PRIMOS BAKERY  Avenal   ♦♦
EL CATRIN  Paso Robles ◊
4 HERMANOS
 Paso Robles   ◊
JALAPENO CITY  Paso Robles  ♦♦
TAQUERIA JALISCO  Paso Robles  ♦♦
PAPI’S  Paso Robles    ♦
LA REYNA MARKET  Paso Robles   ♦♦♦
LOS ROBLES CAFE*  Paso Robles  ♦
ORALE TAQUERIA   Paso Robles  ♦♦
SENOR SANCHO’S  Paso Robles   ◊◊

MEDUSA’S TAQUERIA Cambria ♦
CAYUCOS GAS MINI MART DELI
 Cayucos   ♦♦

EL COMPADRE Atascadero ♦
DANIELS RESTAURANT Atascadero ♦♦
TAQUERIA DON JOSE Atascadero ♦♦♦
DON PEDRO’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT Atascadero ◊◊
GARCIA’S MEXICAN  Atascadero  ♦♦
LA MEXICANA  Atascadero  ◊
TACO DE MEXICO  Atascadero  ◊
MARINAS COCINA  Atascadero   ◊
ORTEGA’S MEXICAN CUISINE Atascadero  ◊
TIA JUANITA’S  Atascadero   ◊
THE TACO STAND  Atascadero  ♦♦

ARIANA’S MEXICAN MARKET & GRILL Morro Bay ♦
CHAPALA MEXICAN GRILL
 Morro Bay  ◊
TACOS DE MEXICO Morro Bay ◊

TACO TEMPLE  Morro Bay   ◊◊

LOS OSOS MEXICAN MARKET  Los Osos  ♦♦


ARMANDO’S MEXICAN San Luis Obispo  ♦♦
CINCO DE MAYO San Luis Obispo ♦♦
EFREN’S #5
San Luis Obispo (early 2018)
TAQUERIA 805
 San Luis Obispo (truck) ♦
TACOS DE ACAPULCO  San Luis Obispo  ♦

CHILI PEPPERS  San Luis Obispo   ◊
CHRONIC TACOS  San Luis Obispo   ◊
LA DELICIAS  San Luis Obispo   ♦
LUNA RED  San Luis Obispo   ♦
EL MATADOR San Luis Obispo ♦♦
LA PALAPA  San Luis Obispo   ◊◊
PANCHO VILLAS San Luis Obispo ◊
SPENCER MAKENZIE’S  San Luis Obispo   ◊◊
TACOS DE MEXICO  San Luis Obispo  ♦
TACO KING  San Luis Obispo   ◊
TACO RICO  San Luis Obispo  ♦
TAQUERIA SANTA CRUZ  San Luis Obispo   ◊
TONITA’S MEXICAN FOOD San Luis Obispo  ♦♦

GARDENS OF AVILA Avila Beach  ♦
TACO SHACK
  Avila Beach  ◊

EL MIRADOR  Pismo Beach   ♦♦
PAPI’S GRILL  Pismo Beach  ♦♦
VENTANA GRILL  Shell Beach  ◊◊

LOS BERROS MARKET Arroyo Grande  ♦
CORONA’S
 Arroyo Grande   ◊◊
FRUITILAND LA CASA DEL SABOR  Arroyo Grande   ◊◊
LA COSTA GRILL  Arroyo Grande  ◊
VILLA CANTINA  Arroyo Grande  ◊◊

EL TACO DEL MAR  Grover Beach   ◊
EL TACO DE MEXICO  Grover Beach  ♦
TACOS DE ACAPULCO  Grover Beach  ♦♦
TAQUERIA GUERRERO*  Grover Beach   ♦♦♦
JALAPENO’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT Grover Beach ◊◊
LA TAPATIA (13th St) Grover Beach  ♦

CHACHO’S  Oceano  ◊

EFREN’S DELI  Oceano ♦♦
OLD JUAN’S CANTINA  Oceano   ◊◊
LOS TAMALES POBLANOS  Oceano  ♦
LA TAPATIA (HWY 1) Oceano   ♦♦♦
LAS CAZUELAS Nipomo  ◊
LOS CERRITOS  Nipomo   ♦♦
LA PLACITA  Nipomo  ♦♦
ROMO’S MARKET  Guadalupe   ♦♦
ALEBRIJES OAXACAN Santa Maria (N) ♦♦
LAS BRASAS
*  Santa Maria (N)   ♦♦♦
LA CHIQUITA  Santa Maria (N)  ♦♦
LOS COMADRES SALVADOREAN (papusas) ♦♦

TAQUERIA GUERRERO*  Santa Maria (N)   ♦♦
MANA  Santa Maria  (N)  ◊
LE MEJOR DE JALISCO  Santa Maria (N)  ◊
EL OAXAQUENO Santa Maria (N) ♦♦♦
LA PICOSITA  Santa Maria (N)  ◊
LA PRINCESA MARKET Santa Maria (N)  ♦♦
EL PUEBLITO RESTAURANT Santa Maria (N)  ◊
TACO RANCHERO Santa Maria (N) ◊
MERCADO Y CARNICERIA SU MESA Santa Maria (N) ♦♦
TAQUERIA SALSA BRAVA*  Santa Maria (N)  ♦
TACOS EL TIZON*  Santa Maria  (N)   ♦♦♦
TORTILLERIA MEXICO  Santa Maria (N)   ◊
SENOR TACO  Santa Maria  (N)  ♦
EL TORO  Santa Maria (N)    ◊
VALLARTA SUPERMARKET Santa Maria (N)  ♦♦♦

ANGELES DE PUEBLA* Santa Maria (S) ♦♦♦
CASA MANANA
 Santa Maria (S)  ◊◊

TAQUERIA LA COCHINITA  Santa Maria (S)  ♦♦
LA COQUETA  Santa Maria (S)   ♦
SENOR KIM’S  Santa Maria (S)  ◊
EL TORO #2  Santa Maria (S)  ◊
TORTILLERIA MEXICO  Santa Maria (S)  ♦
TACO ROCO EXPRESS Santa Maria (S)  ◊
LA UNICA  Santa Maria (S)   ◊
VALLARTA SUPERMARKET  Santa Maria (S)  ♦♦
MR. TACO  Vandenberg Village    ◊
FLORIANO’S  Lompoc  ♦♦
TACOS EL TIZON*  Lompoc  ♦♦♦
TAQUERIA EL BAJIO   Santa Barbara  ◊
MI FIESTA MARKET 4  Santa Barbara   ♦♦
LILLY’S TACOS  Santa Barbara   ♦♦♦
MONY’S MEXICAN Santa Barbara  ♦♦
EL SITIO  Santa Barbara  ♦♦

LA SUPER-RICA TAQUERIA  Santa Barbara  ♦

I have created this separate TAQUERIA LIST because people constantly ask me to recommend tacos and Central Coast taquerias get somewhat lost in the general list and also ratings comparative to casual or fine dining are not fair for numerous reasons.  First of all, I have ordered ONE ITEM at each of the following restaurants.  “Tacos al Pastor”, “Pastor Tacos”, “Tacos Adobada”, or “Marinated Pork Tacos”, depending on the location and individual Mexican provenance of the proprietors.  I have not had the gringo burritos, the refried beans, the tostadas, the taquitos, the tamales, the side salads, the ceviche, NOTHING ELSE on the menu but Tacos al Pastor.
This is what I eat at a taqueria and it makes the playing field very level.  Frequently, this grouping of taquerias is confused as a “Best Mexican Food” list.  It is NOT a ‘Best Mexican Food’ list.  It is a TACO LIST, period.  Secondly, NOTHING BUT THE FOOD is reflected in the score–this is quite the opposite of my regular restaurant scoring.  Cleanliness, Ambiance, Service, Price, Presentation, Communication, ALL ARE IGNORED in the judging of a taqueria.  I don’t care if cockroaches are falling off the ceiling, has blaring music or TVs or has 10,000 bad YELPs about how rude they are or how sick you got or how there’s nothing vegetarian on the menu.  The only things considered are Marinade, Preparation of Meat, Tortilla Quality, Salsa, and Meat Quality.  Nothing else matters.  I should add there are three basic methods of preparing “Tacos al Pastor” in a restaurant environment, and which method is used will play hard into the rating:

1.  A seasoning salt–typically bright red–is applied to the chopped meat which is
fried upon ordering.  This method is disgraceful and no restaurant serving
tacos prepared this way will ever get over ◊.  HUNDREDS of sit-down
Mexican restaurants frequented by gringos serve it in this fashion.  It is disgraceful and almost ALWAYS miserably grainy and salty.
2.  The meat is chopped and soaked for long periods in a marinade and fried to order.
Many, MANY of the ♦, ♦♦, and even ♦♦♦ taquerias on
this list have meat prepared this way.  There is a significant nuance of pineapple in the better versions of this method.  It is not *perfectly correct* but is realistic
and often tasty.  The meat will be uniformly brown and often remnants of peppers or onions will be visible fried alongside.
3.  The meat is marinated and stacked tightly in slabs on a vertical spit revolving slowly against an infrared burner.  It is sliced off in thin layers as ordered.  Classically,
large pineapple chunks are attached to the spit at the top so the juice flows
down over the meat and typically every taco gets a small chunk of
pineapple included.  The meat is brown top and bottom but still blond in between.
Taquerias preparing al Pastor in this fashion are marked with an *.

Like the ‘General Restaurant List’, this list will be edited as additions or changes are made.  Because of the La, Le, Los El and Taqueria prefixes and the issues involved with alphabetizing, I have sorted by TOWN, North-to-South.  Santa Maria is further divided into (North) and (South) for convenience.  All links are from YELP because these types of places do not have web-sites.  I used yelp for mapping convenience and continuity.  I am not using YELP so you can read the reviews.  Please do not.  Just because some Barbie saw a cockroach is no reason to avoid a taqueria, in fact: go ahead, read the reviews.  I guarantee the WORSE the reviews run, the better the tacos.

◊◊   A complete Gringo dining experience, absolutely NOTHING on the menu resembles or comes close to an authentic taco.  Typically piled high with iceberg lettuce or cabbage, and topped with sour cream and grated cheese, portioned MASSIVELY and always with dry, bland, horrid meat.  To be avoided at all costs.
◊   Unpleasant off-flavors; “dog-food” smell to meat; bad seasoning, large tortillas, *stuff* in the tacos besides Onion, Cilantro, Salsa and Meat.  Will never return.
♦   Mediocre seasoning and preparation, Pico de Gallo or similar faulty salsa, slight “dog-food” smell to meat but completely edible.  These taquerias ‘do in a pinch’.
♦♦   Excellent marinade of correct seasonings.  Good-textured meat with plenty of fat.  Good size, quality tortillas.  Provided salsa or choices of salsa excellent.  This is a taqueria I will return to over and over.
♦♦♦   An outstanding taco and one worth going quite out-of-one’s-way to experience.  When you taste and feel it you know it.

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