As a taco connoisseur, the opportunity to visit Austin, Texas — one of the most taco-obsessed cities in the world — was like hitting the foodie jackpot. I was in town for a speaking engagement at SXSW, and the only thing that could cut through the intense nerves that the opportunity brought was the thought of tacos.
So when I got a surprise assignment to try the best taco spots in Austin (as ranked by Yelp), my body was beyond ready.
First up in my taco journey was the #2 result — Las Trancas.
It is located on 1210 E Cesar Chavez St., and had a 4.5 star rating based on 132 reviews.
I was ridiculously excited to see what the hype was about during the car ride there.
But when we pulled up to the spot, I was surprised to find that it was a food truck tucked inside of a parking lot. You have to keep your eyes peeled for the sign or you'll miss it.
I didn’t read the description or reviews so I could remain as unbiased as possible. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I walked in with the blazing Texas sun shining down on me and was in high spirits when I saw only a handful of patrons in the seating area, and no line.
Not seeing Austin's #2 taco spot brimming with a lunchtime crowd at 1:00 pm was eyebrow-raising.
I was shaken up again when I walked up to the ordering window and asked the sharply-dressed man behind it for his most popular item.
Without hesitation, he answered with barbacoa, lengua, tripa, and al pastor.
I chose the best-selling barbacoa and al pastor, but diverged from the rest of the menu with the chicken and chorizo tacos.
I got them on flour tortillas and had them topped with onions and cilantro. I also got a can of soda to complete my order, which came out to a total of $8.75. What a steal!
A few minutes later I had my full taco spread in front of me with red and green sauce.
Those poor tacos never stood a chance.
I started with the chicken and OMG! The tortillas were piping hot and soft to the touch. But the meat! THE MEAT! I have never come across such tender chunks of chicken in my life.
I am so glad I didn't order them to go and enjoyed them in all of their fresh glory on site among the bumble bees, flies, and birds that are par for the course when you're outdoors.
I went for the sauces, and the green one was the clear winner for me. It was hot, but not too hot.
The red was a no for me, it had a slight sweetness to it, but overall it did nothing for the taco.
Next up was the barbacoa, and holy cow! I was not expecting to be so blown away!
You could really taste all of the glorious spices and they had just the right amount of heat.
The chorizo and al pastor tacos paled in comparison to my first two, because I prefer juicy over dry meat.
Overall I was in heaven and had no idea how the #1 spot would top the chicken, and much less the barbacoa option, at Las Trancas.
Did I mention I heard at least three Selena Quintanilla songs while I was there?
Now it was time to go to Austin Yelp's reigning taco king — T-Loc’s Sonora Hot Dogs.
Yep! A hot dog spot is the king of the search results on Yelp. I was surprised it wasn't Torchy's Tacos — which everyone raves about — or my personal favorite spot, Juan in a Million (you have to get the breakfast tacos). But T-Loc's, which is located on 5000 Burnet Rd. and has an impressive 5-star rating based on 268 reviews, was the winner.
And surprise, surprise — the top spot was also a food truck located in a large parking lot.
It was seriously cute and its chef's friendly attitude just added to its charm.
He explained that the name T-Loc's was a reference to Tucson, Arizona, which shares its border with Sonora, Mexico, where it just so happens that their beautifully thin tortillas are made.
I ordered their popular carne asada tacos, and because this is technically a hot dog stand, I had to get one of those too.
I added a soda to the order and the total came to $15.16, which was a lot loftier than my Las Trancas bill, but I was about to find out that it was so worth it.
The first thing I was served was their bacon-wrapped hot dog — just your average appetizer — that I got with mayonnaise, jalapeño sauce, onions, and tomato.
No beans or mustard for me.
And let me tell you, there was nothing that could have prepared me for how good this hot dog was.
Despite having all of those ingredients, it didn't feel like I was eating anything heavy. The jalapeño sauce didn't burn. It was just perfect!
Now it was time for the main event — the tacos!
10 out of 10 for presentation! Just look at those lovely red onions, crip cabbage, and tomatoes. I was ready to go in!
Look at this beauty! Full of delicious and expertly spiced carne asada held together perfectly by a masterfully crafted tortilla that did not break mid-bite.
Unlike Las Trancas, where only the green sauce really stood out, both sauces at T-Loc's really packed a punch.
The green was still my favorite.
Overall, I found that the food was absolutely heavenly and I really appreciated that the chef came out to check on me several times throughout my short stay.
That is unheard of!
Picking a winner was tough! But I have to say that for tacos alone, Las Trancas was the winner for me. I still can't get that tender barbacoa out of my head. It was unreal!
T-Loc's is still absolutely worth a trip, too, and I can see why it has stellar reviews. But at the end of the day, if you came for the tacos then you're going to stay for the hot dog, which is the main attraction.
Are you an Austin local? Let us know what was your favorite taco spot in the comments or on Facebook.