Tacos are to San Diego what pizza is to New York. There's seemingly a taqueria (or two) on every block, and everybody in the city has an opinion about which one is the best. From soft tortillas to hard, fried fish to stewed beef, there's a taco for even the pickiest eater. And don't get us started on salsa.
The smoked Baja marlin taco is a must-try at this North Park Mexican restaurant, a favorite since it opened in 1997. The marlin is smoked, shredded, and then cooked on the comal (a type of flat griddle) with fragrant garlic, onions, celery, green pepper and tomato before being folded into a tortilla blanked with melted cheese.
Out late? This no-frills taqueria serves its finger-licking-good specimens until 1:30 a.m. every day of the week. But any time is right for La Fachada's freshly made tortillas stuffed with lengua (beef tongue), tripe, carnitas and other savory fillings. Top off your tacos at the salsa bar, and be sure to get a ladle-full of the simmering beans and peppers.
This La Jolla Shores eatery has an upmarket pedigree: It's owned by the team behind George's at the Cove, one of San Diego's best restaurants. Try the grilled avocado taco with corn salad and bean purée or the light and crisp Baja fried fish taco topped with chili lime crema and cabbage. You'll want to eat the super-fresh tortillas on their own — Galaxy Taco grinds its own heirloom masa daily.
There are now multiple locations of City Tacos, which started out in North Park in 2014 and has since expanded all over the city. Choice is king here: The menus list nearly 20 taco varieties, from the borrego (pulled lamb with wild mushrooms) to the surf and turf (steak and garlic shrimp) to four vegetarian options (go for the portobello).
Crisp melted cheese lines the house-made tortillas at this downtown standby (there's also a La Jolla location). Whether you want to go traditional with carnitas or a killer nopales or a bit more upscale with lobster or filet mignon, every option is delicious. Wash it all down with a mango lemon agua fresca or a Puesto Perfect margarita.
A Tijuana native and former pro soccer player opened this hip "fine-casual" spot in 2018, and it immediately found a following in the city. Many of the ingredients — from the rib-eye carne asada to the cauliflower — are cooked on the mesquite wood-fired grill, adding some nice smoke and char to the tacos. Save room for made-to-order churros.
The street-style tacos at this Gaslamp-area Mexican restaurant are the real deal — and you can order them until 2 a.m. An order of three mix-and-match choices (pastor, carne asada, shrimp, and more) comes with rice and beans and will fill you up. Plus, find more than 100 tequilas and delicious cocktails here, so plan on staying a while.