When it comes to street food, few options are more recognizable or popular than the taco. People in the U.S. consume approximately 4.5 billion tacos per year according to global commerce company, Gitnux. That’s just under 14 tacos per American a year.
But not all tacos in the U.S. are created equal. Real Estate Witch did the research, and three cities came out on top from around the country: Austin, San Jose, and Las Vegas. Read on to find out more about what makes these cities stand out from others in America.
Austin: keeping it weird with excellent tacos
People from around the world associate Austin with its live music scene and nearly month-long festivals like SXSW. However, Real Estate Witch’s study also found that Austin is the place to be for taco lovers in the U.S.
Austin is a controversial winner
However, not everyone agrees with Real Estate Witch’s results, this year or in years past. Texas has three cities in the top ten, and for the past seven years, a battle has been brewing between Austin and this year’s no. 4 city: San Antonio. When a New York food writer declared in 2016 that the best breakfast taco in Texas could be had in Austin, San Antonians were rightfully offended.
The public feud intensified, with one Austin reporter calling the river running through San Antonio a moving cesspool. San Antonio returned fire, listing ten reasons to hate Austin. Top on the list? The sheer arrogance of Austin declaring not only to have invented the taco but also to have the best breakfast taco.
Thankfully, most of this is in jest. And it’s entirely possible to head to some of the top-rated Austin spots to make up your own mind. No matter where you live in Texas, you’ll be able to find an excellent taco.
Top tacos in Austin
In 2023, Torchy’s Tacos took the number four spot in a survey of the best fast casual restaurants in the U.S. If chain restaurants aren’t your thing, Austin has plenty of local choices like Palo Seco, Juan in a Million, and El Primo.
7.4% of all restaurants in Austin are listed as taco joints, and their average Yelp rating is 4.31 – 6% higher than the average American city.
San Jose: diversity in the Bay Area
Coming in at number two, San Jose boasts 8.2 taco restaurants for every 100,000 people in the city. That’s 257% more than the average number of taco restaurants per capita in the U.S. Tacos are also more affordable in San Jose than in other parts of the country, despite being located in one of the U.S.’s most expensive states. At $27, the cost of preparing a weekly Taco Tuesday meal is 40% less for San Jose residents than the average American.
The best style of taco in San Jose
Located in the Bay Area of California, San Jose has the luxury of tacos in all different styles from all parts of Mexico. Tacos al vapor, with steamed tortillas and beef head common to Jalisco, are served up alongside other traditional offerings, including tacos filled with chopped cows’ eyes.
Looking for a prime example of taco cuisine that originated in Acaponeta, Nayarit? There are San Jose food trucks serving just one taco from this region: the puerco al horno, an oven-roasted pig taco with a mustard sauce coating crispy, crackling skin that shatters like glass when bitten into.
Las Vegas: more than casinos
Las Vegas has flashing lights, casinos galore, and a staggering number of taco options. In Las Vegas, there are 7.2 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents. That translates to 4.4% of all restaurants being taco joints in Las Vegas.
Tacos and family
While Las Vegas still holds on to the reputation as “Sin City”, the most notable feature of taco restaurants off the Strip is their family vibe. A new taco restaurant – Fusion Tacos — just recently opened in Las Vegas and promises to keep that vibe going. It celebrates the traditions of tacos and Mexican cuisine which center on the union of quality ingredients, proper preparation, and sharing with family and friends. Tacos in Las Vegas are an excellent example of this.
Cleveland: no place for tacos
Last on Real Estate Witch’s list was Cleveland, making it the worst taco city in America. It may be known for its strong rock-n-roll music scene and sports teams, but they have a lot to learn when it comes to tacos. Cleveland has few taco spots to choose from — just one per every 100,000 residents. Want to make tacos at home? Supplies cost $28.